Friday, 22 September 2006

Beer O'Clock: Guinness v Liberty Stout

A 'Guinness taste-off' this avo from Real Beer's Stu. Which is better, NZ Guinness or the real thing? Unfortunately, Stu couldn't find the local drop in a convenient take-home form, so he made his own wonderfully-named product ...

BrewNZ has come and gone. It was a hectic week, so much so that I hardly had time to stop and sniff the aromas.

Seeing the Kiwi beers beat out some big name imports at the beer awards, and some comments from PC, had me thinking about the New Zealand beer on the world stage. I had thought of comparing New Zealand origin Guinness to Irish origin Guinness, in an effort to test whether buying Kiwi-made was a worthwhile proposal, but I was unable to find any of the New Zealand product at off-licences (it appears that all cans and bottles are now imported from Ireland and the kegs are brewed here). New Zealand's homegrown commercial stouts tend to be sweeter English-style stouts, so these are hardly worth comparing to the inky Dublin brew.

Instead I decided to settle on one of the largest mass produced stouts versus a home made one. My brewing buddy, Brendon, and I produce 20L of beer every other week or so. We recently brewed an Irish-style stout that I've been wanting to compare to the great one. So here are the results of Stu and Brendon's "Liberty Stout" (from keg, on left in the picture) versus the great "Guinness" (from a widgetised 330ml bottle, and at right).

The Irish drop is a shade darker in the glass with a with a much paler, longer-lasting head. Both beers are full-bodied and smooth, with a nice combination of roast and flaked barley, however on the nose and in the flavour they are quite different: Guinness having a musty touch of lactic sourness and the homebrew having a drier toastiness in the mouth, with a flutter of chocolate on the nose. Both beers have a subdued bitterness throughout, rather than the late bite that many other beers carry. On reflection, I'd say the homebrewed stout is much more like Murphy's version than the Guinness one.

On price there is no comparison: about $1 per litre for homebrew, using the absolute best quality ingredients, and $7.50 per litre for the widgestised Guiness bottle. On availablity there's no comparison either: Guiness is available at every corner store in the world, let alone New Zealand, while Liberty Stout is only available just outside my back door.

All in all it's a tie. Guinness wins for all of you, since you can get one tonight. Liberty Stout wins for myself and any visitors, since it's on tap just a few steps from my sofa.

Guinness is much maligned by some beer snobs for not tasting quite like is used to, for being maore about market hype, or for no longer being Irish (it's now owned by multi-national Diageo). However, when served well and in good condition, it is still a very good drop and very sessional (as is Murphy's Stout). It's not St Patrick's day yet but there's no harm in getting in some practice.

I'd also recommend trying your hand at homebrewing, if you're at all interested in beer. The better quality kits can make some pretty good beer, while brewing like the breweries (with crushed grain and hops) can produce beers every bit as good as your favourite commercial beer at a fraction of the cost (cheers to excise free beer!). The friendly folk on the RealBeer forums can help out with advice to anyone starting up.

Slainte mhath

PS: For those beer lovers amongst you who have not yet heard of SOBA (Society of Beer Advocates), check out soon. We are an independent, newly formed, non-profit consumer organisation whose main aim is promoting a wider availability of better quality beer in more New Zealand establishments. We want to help get better beer in the supermarkets, botttle stores and pubs near you soon. To do this we need members and critical mass, which is where you all come in.

[PPS: If you do want to sample the local Guinness and test it against the imported product, you should be able to find it on tap at your favourite local pub. Do make sure it's properly poured. Ed.]

LINKS: Guinness SOBA Realbeer

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere


  1. Am a guiness lover but find the taste changes depending on how cold it is served.

    Some pubs have it just lightly chilled and it taste great. Others have it so cold that it tast watery and insipid.

    I like mine at room temp (leave the cans sitting in the cupboard with the single malts).

    Does temperature make that much difference in the tast or is it my imagination.

  2. You're spot on, temperature makes a huge difference. Lower temperatures numb the tastebuds. That's why flavourless, sorry - subtle, beers are served so cold.

    Your cupboard method isn't a bad idea. I like leaving them outside on a cool Wellington evening, or bringing them out of the fridge and opening them an hour before I drink them (fizz numbs the palate also, so it's good to vent them).


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