Strange Times in Stout-land

Island's Edge. No.It seems to be New Megacorporation Stout Season here in Ireland, with Heineken recently releasing Island’s Edge, and Guinness rolling out their new Guinness 0.0. Island’s Edge has been expressly positioned as a stout for people who don’t typically drink stout, and to that end, it includes tea and basil in the recipe to make it, to paraphrase, less bitter and more refreshing, though none of the flavours of tea or basil are noticeable in the resulting beer. So, having had a pint of it recently, I can confirm that it does, indeed, lack those flavours…along with most other elements of flavour. It’s oddly thin, creamy head notwithstanding, and barely registers anything beyond roasty water – it’s less a stout and more the ghost of one. If anything, it put me in mind of some of the recent high-profile non-alcoholic beer launches. While it didn’t simply taste like wort (looking at you, Heineken 0.0), it really did taste like many non-alcoholic beers I’ve tried over the years…only with a surprise dash of alcohol. In short, I won’t be going back to try it again.

Guinness 0.0. Yes!By contrast, I tried a pint of Guinness 0.0, and it was surprisingly good. While it wasn’t quite like the real thing, it was flavourful, still very much a stout, and did not have that insipid character so many non-alcoholic beers seem to have. All told, it was a slightly less ‘chewy’ Guinness. Granted, for people who like to drink a lot of stronger stouts – think Russian Imperial Stout or something more barrel-aged with a high ABV – it may seem, once again, a little thinner, but for the regular Guinness (or other dry stout) fan, it’s very much in the ballpark. In fact, I can see myself opting for this in pubs that have no local craft beer option, or as something to alternate if a long session in the pub is required/allowed in the near future – it would also be fantastic for business lunches, though frankly, I’m still grateful those have not returned, at least for me.

So, while taste is of course subjective, this is an odd one for me – a much-promoted new stout that tastes like a non-alcoholic beer, and a new non-alcoholic stout that tastes like, well, a stout. I know which one I’ll go back for*.

*I did snag a few Island’s Edge beermats on the presumption that it will soon disappear and they will become collectible. Forward planning.