Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 24
'Draught' ... straight from the bottle

Feb. 15, 2001

Those folks at Guinness are at it again. Back in the 1980s they told us that "draught" beer didn't have to come from a keg or cask, that it could be poured from a specially fitted can. Now they are introducing the U.S. market to a "Guinness Draught" that you can drink right from the bottle. The product has been available in Ireland for about two years.


First, a bit of history. Guinness began using nitrogen in dispensing draft stout in the 1960s, offering what has become know as a classic Guinness pour that resulted in a beer topped with a creamy white head. Talented bartenders can even draw a shamrock in it if you want ... but that's a different story.

In 1988, the Irish brewery launched Guinness Draught in cans. Each can came with a "widget" inside it. The widget was refined and made its way from the United Kingdom to most of the world, including the United States, in the 1990s. You pop the top on one of these cans, wait a few seconds and then pour out a Guinness that looks much like it would in a proper Irish pub.

This device was so unique that it earned Guinness the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement in 1991. Many other brewers have since put British-style ales in "nitro" cans (and sometimes bottles), including Irish stout producers Murphy's and Beamish. But in every case, you've still got to pour your beer into a glass to get a creamy head.

Or you did until Guinness began offering drinkers a "draught" they are told they should drink right from the bottle. Guinness is rolling out the beer in Illinois and backing the test up with an advertising campaign in print, on the radio and in TV commercials.

The commercials focus on a "rocket widget" that rattles when drinkers shake the bottle. The 2 1/2-inch long plastic, rocket-shaped device floats inside the bottle and is "activated" when the bottle is opened. Each time the bottle tips, a mixture of gases is released, creating the same creamy head Guinness drinkers expect when ordering the beer on tap.

The 11.2-ounce bottles come with the admonition to "Drink it straight from the bottle." It also has a message: "Hear something? That's the new floating draught system deliver you the great taste of Guinness Draught. To really enjoy Guinness Draught, chill for at least 2 hours. Drink straight from the bottle."

The wrapper on the bottle is a dark black where you see beer in other bottles, and a creamy white in the neck area. We guess the idea is to simulate the look of Guinness in a pint glass. If you peel off the wrapper you'll see a couple of inches of billowing head that's renewed each time you tilt the bottle.

The beer is creamy, but you certainly don't get the aroma of Guinness served in a glass. Guinness has done a great job the last five years of dispatching "draft technicians" across the United States to teach publicans how to pour a proper pint and patrons how to appreciate them. One of the first things one of these technicians will tell you after presenting a pint is to dive in below the creamy head and get your mouth and tongue into the beer itself. This happens naturally when you drink from the bottle -- but you won't end up with a creamy mustache in the process.

That Guinness is backing this test with plenty of advertising dollars indicates they expect the new "draught" product to be a hit. We know better than to bet against them. We've already heard reports from Illinois that it makes a great "badge" in bars and at parties.

We do hope, however, that nobody does something silly -- like pretending that the plastic widget is akin to the worm at the bottom of a bottle of tequila. (Don't worry, it is designed so it won't come out. You'd have to break the bottle neck to get to it.)


Brewed in Belgium

Michael Jackson's tasting notes:

Almost iridescent, orange colour; the aroma of rosewater; surprisingly light on the tongue for such a strong beer; a palate that suggests vanilla, cookies and sesame seeds; and a tangerine-like finish.

Brewed by Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland, Maine

Mitch Steele's tasting notes:

This single-hopped brew has an aroma that is largely hop: herbaceous, spicy, and woody, with a hint of graininess. I found the hop aroma to be deeper and more interesting than I would have thought for a single variety. The slightly drying finish makes you want to drink more. If you want to experience the full flavor profile of the classic English Fuggles hop, this is a great beer to try.