By Alan J. Wax
Guinness has a winner, albeit a pricey one, that’s generated some controversy among beer geeks.
The big international brewer’s late October release, called The 1759, comes in a frosted, black, corked, 750 ml Champagne-style bottle nestled in a velvet-lined box and is priced at $35. Guinness says it produced only 90,000 bottles, largely for the U.S., of what it described as “a luxury beer.”
News of the beer’s release, however, unleashed a stream of largely negative comments in various social media. “Guinness, yuck,” one read. Guinness, some suggested, was a giant evil monster. A marketing gimmick, said others. Few said they would pay the $35. But others, I read, had paid $50 for a bottle of this limited edition brew and, then shared it among friends. A good notion.
No one will ever accuse Guinness of being a craft brewer. Yes, it’s big on marketing as is its parent, drinks giant Diageo. Still, Guinness has been brewing that black elixir known as Guinness Stout for 250 years. It’s a wonderful brew when poured properly on draft at an Irish bar.
I’m sure many naysayers hadn’t tasted The 1759, which Guinness describes as an amber ale brewed with peat-smoked whiskey malt and fermented to 9 percent ABV.
I have, thanks to a sample shipped to me by Guinness’s PR folks. And I can say it’s distinctive, flavorful brew that most drinkers would be happy to sip, albeit at a lower price.
I shared my sample with a group of knowledgeable, advanced homebrewers/BJCP judges, among them the owner of a just-launched commercial brewery.
The group’s reaction was largely positive, although one taster thought it too smoky.
It was an interesting brew, they agreed. In fact, If you didn’t know it was from Guinness, you might think it was a terrific American craft brewed beer. I rated it 4/5 stars.
The 1759 poured a deep brownish copper and offered up a peaty nose that suggested a burning pile of fall leaves. But there are also notes of caramel, butterscotch, roasted malt, and suggestions of bacon. The hops were subdued. Full bodied, almost chewy with a creamy finish, it’s a complex brew that doesn’t hide its 9% ABV alcohol level.
In fact, it’s one of the better beers I’ve had recently. Would I pay $35 for it? Perhaps, once. But if someone chose to gift me with another bottle, I wouldn’t say no.