While We’re Away: Guinness in the Archives

We know blogs are ephemeral and that you’re just supposed to let a post disappear once it’s had its moment but we’ve got lots in the archive that we reckon newer readers might have missed. So, while we’re away on holiday, we thought we’d resurface a few bits on Guinness.

First, a big one, and not a blog post: for All About Beer back in June 2016 we pon­dered on how Guin­ness has man­aged to lose its edge, from being the go-to choice for dis­cern­ing drinkers to the sub­ject of scorn. After a lot of pick­ing and dig­ging, we reck­on we man­aged to work it out:

Beers that are around for a long time often come to be per­ceived as Not What They Used to Be (see also Pil­sner Urquell, for exam­ple). Some­times that is down to jad­ed palates, or is the result of a counter-cul­tur­al bias against big brands and big busi­ness. Both of those might apply to Guin­ness but there is also objec­tive evi­dence of a drop in qual­i­ty, or at least of essen­tial changes to the prod­uct.… Guin­ness has tend­ed to be secre­tive about process, recipes and ingre­di­ents but we do know, for exam­ple, that the tem­per­a­ture of draught Guin­ness dropped sig­nif­i­cant­ly from about 1988 onward, falling from a typ­i­cal 12 degrees Cel­sius to a tar­get of 7 degrees. This is one thing that caused those drinkers of tra­di­tion­al cask-con­di­tioned ale who had regard­ed draught Guin­ness as the one tol­er­a­ble keg beer to turn against it.

1970s photograph of two men in horn-rimmed glasses inspecting beer.
Tom­my Mar­ling takes the tem­per­a­ture of draught Guin­ness watched by Mr Bill Steggle, licensee of the Cock at Headley near Epsom.

Here on the blog we also looked into what old in-house mag­a­zines from Guin­ness’s Lon­don brew­ery at Park Roy­al can tell us about the roll-out of the draught Guin­ness we know today:

In 1946 when old-stagers with us now were break­ing in their 32″ bot­tom demob suits our met­al cask depart­ment was formed and man­aged by E.J. Grif­fiths. His assis­tant was Jack Moore now region­al man­ag­er in Leeds. Even in 1946 the hous­es which spe­cialised in draught Guin­ness such as Mooneys and Wards were being sup­plied from Park Roy­al ‘in the wood’. Don’t for­get, we still had a cooper­age and there was no tanker deliv­ery.”

A sardine/sild sandwich.

Beyond beer, Guin­ness also had a huge impact on the birth of ‘pub grub’, as read­ers of 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub will know. Here, from Novem­ber 2016, is our fil­let­ing of Guin­ness’s 1961 recipe book for pub­li­cans, which was pub­lished as part of the brew­ery’s dri­ve to get more food into pubs:

[In] Octo­ber 1962, the new­ly-formed Snack Demon­stra­tion Team hit the road in [a] fab­u­lous Mys­tery-Machine-alike [van]… Four days a week for the lat­ter part of that year, lec­tur­er Jo Shel­lard (an actor turned cater­er) and his assis­tant Clint Antell toured the North West of Eng­land (where pub food was par­tic­u­lar­ly want­i­ng, we assume) speak­ing to groups of pub­li­cans ‘and their wives’.

And there’s lots more, if you want it:

3 thoughts on “While We’re Away: Guinness in the Archives”

  1. I am cer­tain that Guin­ness tastes thin­ner and more bit­ter in an unpleas­ant way than it used to, and I’ve assumed this was due to cost-cut­ting on ingre­di­ents, dis­guised by sell­ing it much cold­er.

  2. When I first start­ed drink­ing in the ear­ly 80s, it was Extra that was the “friend in every pub” – bot­tle-con­di­tioned, com­plex and extreme­ly tasty. Draught Guin­ness was slight­ly exot­ic (odd, con­sid­er­ing it was the only beer in every sin­gle pub in the coun­try, more or less), but it was con­sid­ered more as less bad than any oth­er keg beer of the time rather than any­thing else; it was­n’t as cold and fizzy as all oth­er keg beers, so you could at least taste it. It was the drink of last resort; no cask ale, I would drink bot­tled Guin­ness or White Shield. If they weren’t avail­able then reluc­tant­ly it would be draught Guin­ness. And it real­ly was reluc­tant, because it was gen­er­al­ly quite a bit more expen­sive, too. Guin­ness gen­er­al­ly lost its cachet when oth­er stouts began to become avail­able, either keg Irish ones or cask Eng­lish ones, but also with the deci­sion to axe bot­tle-con­di­tioned Extra. Guin­ness was no longer the drinker’s friend – espe­cial­ly as these events were more or less con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous with board­room mis­be­hav­iour. Guin­ness were now the bad guys; monop­o­lis­tic, unin­ter­est­ed in the beer drinker, and cor­po­rate bad­dies. Guin­ness Extra Cold did­n’t help, nor the fact that the nor­mal draught stuff had got cold­er.

    1. I agree, Nick, about bot­tled Guin­ness, which was my usu­al drink if there was no real ale, or if the real ale was­n’t much cop. As well as stop­ping the pro­duc­tion of the bot­tled-con­di­tioned ver­sion, they have in my opin­ion changed the draught ver­sion for the worse.

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