It Was a Dark and Fiery Night…

Jim Lundstrom

Guinness:  I’ve written about this unique stout many times, but I don’t think I’ve written about it yet for the Pulse. If I am wrong and I have mentioned it previously, I won’t apologize. That Anheuser-Busch product’s claim aside, Guinness is true royalty among beers and deserves as much attention as it gets.
I had my first taste while in England at the age of 18. I was living at a pub called the White Swan in the village of Bicker, Lincolnshire. The night before I first tasted Guinness, I’d gone out with the pub’s dart team for one of their regular Tuesday night matches at another pub in another village. Lots of glass tipping for everyone but the designated driver, who had nothing but pints of shandy. Next day, I was to paint the ceiling of the pub’s saloon bar, and the owner noticed I seemed to be feeling under the weather. “Have a Guinness. That’ll put lead in your pencil,” she said.
If I remember this correctly, I had quickly learned from the local village fellows my age that dark beers were for old men. Dapper young chaps like us only drank the light-colored lagers and coppery bitters. Leave the dark milds and stouts to the old timers.
But my pencil did feel like it could use some lead in it, so I took a half-pint of Guinness, totally unaware that my life was about to change. That Guinness tasted so far from anything that had ever passed my lips before that I distinctly recall thinking I was sipping the Earth’s blood.
I’ve been a fan ever since, except for a brief time shortly after the turn of the century when suddenly Guinness was everywhere and I suspected they had dumbed down the recipe, but a talk with brewmaster Fergal Murray convinced me otherwise. Even though the demand for Guinness had outgrown the Dublin brewery’s ability to produce enough beer, the Guinness made at the Heineken plant in the Netherlands and the Guinness brewed in Canada for North American consumption is the same recipe as the Dublin-brewed Guinness.
There is, however, a huge difference in taste between the ubiquitous draught Guinness and the bottled Guinness Extra Stout, which is closer to what I remember drinking in English pubs back in the 1970s. The Guinness draught weighs in at about 4.1 percent alcohol and has a smooth, rich mouthfeel with just a hint of dark bite from the roasted barley. Guinness Extra Stout has a much deeper and more complex imbued darkness in the flavor.
I recall the summer of 1976 being one of the hottest on record in England. I could hear the melting asphalt squishing under the tire of my Honda 90 whenever I rode it that summer. Guinness came out with a radical campaign:  Guinness on ice is nice! I never tied it, but I admired the spirit.
Right now, in the grip of this cold spell, there’s really nothing than a roasty-toasty pint of Guinness to get you back on track.

If you know the great Flemish beer Duvel, you can understand where Lucifer Belgian Ale is coming from. It’s an 8 percent blonde bombshell from the Het Anker Brewery of Mechelen, Belgium.
Where Duvel is truly devilish in hiding its 8.5 percent alcohol behind a deceptively mellow-tasting blonde ale of extraordinary character, only to turn out to be a femme fatale in a bottle, waiting to send the unwary to Palookaville, Lucifer doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a strong ale. It lets it all hang out, beginning with a distinct alcohol sharpness that rolls into a veritable cavalcade of flavors that barrels across the palate, finishing with a pleasant spicy backbite that I am guessing is from the Saaz hops, one of three hop varieties used in brewing this beer, also including Magnum and Spalt hops.