As I mentioned, I had a particular aim in mind when I went looking for my first pint in England at the weekend, and it was to try the enigma that is Guinness Red. Diageo brew this in St James's Gate but export all of it to Britain where it is currently being trialled, primarily through the O'Neill's chain of franchise Oirish pubs. I was intrigued by the way it was being marketed, as a tweaked version of Guinness stout, utilising "lightly roasted" barley, rather than what it looks like: your standard nitrogenated Irish red, like Diageo's own Kilkenny or Coors's English-made Caffrey's brand.
The verdict? Well, it has a thicker, creamier head than any pint of Guinness I've met. It tastes of almost literally nothing. Guinness is pretty far from being the world's most flavoursome stout, but this dispenses with even the faintest trace of the dry roasted barley which sits shivering at the back of modern draught Guinness. What would happen at this point in an Irish red is the arrival of sweet, biscuit-like crystal malt flavours, with maybe a dusting of summer fruits, but no, there's none of that either. Just more empty space, and maybe just a hint of dryness at the end. A dry Irish red? Whoever thought of that one needs locking up.
Funnily enough, like Guinness Mid-Strength, Red does have all the texture characteristics of ordinary Guinness. If you've had your senses of taste and smell removed then you might even enjoy this one. Though since you probably work in product development for Diageo, you've doubtless already tried it.
Back to the original question, then, and it's not as clear-cut as I thought. The mouthfeel and the nearly-not-there dryness do suggest that this could be classed as a super-light stout, though a dreadful one. Alternatively, a dry take on the traditional Irish red is another valid perspective. I won't be lying awake thinking about it. The knowledge that this tasteless travesty is being shipped out of the country in its entirety will assure restful sleep.
How to classify a beer with no flavour. Have the BJCP thought about this one?
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