Special edition beers from large breweries tend to be a mixed bag, in terms of quality. They’re often conceived from a standpoint that seems not necessarily rooted in creativity as much as marketability, and it’s no coincidence that these types of brews tend to appear near the holidays. Because really, that’s what the average person is likely seeing when they pick up a bottle of Guinness The 1759 in a store: An easy Christmas gift idea for that weird, craft beer-loving person in their lives.
And in this case, it turns out to be not a bad gift at all. The 1759 is the first entry in an upcoming “Guinness Signature” series, which will offer “a range of limited edition luxury beers,” according to the brewery itself. The first offering is something fairly unexpected, but with a sensible historical story to back it up. As the label reads, the beer is inspired by the strong amber ales that the St. James Gate brewer once produced in the years before it became famous for its classic dry stout. In this case, that beer has been beefed up into a 9% ABV imperial amber of sorts, with a portion of peat-smoked malt as a nod to classic whiskey malts of the Irish and Scottish isles.
The beer pours a very dark, brick red that might very well be closer to brown. The aroma is interesting: Big malt, with a winey, vinous character of dark fruit such as raisin. There’s caramel and toffee sweetness, but not the smoke or spice note that I was immediately expecting, given the marketing copy. In short, the aroma is similar to what one would expect from a high-gravity amber beer.
In terms of flavor, however, the smoke comes out to play, as does a hint of peaty spice, but nothing over the top. As it warms, the smoke flavors become stronger. Everything about this would be described as “warm,” from the chewy malt to the campfire smoke. It’s not all that sweet (stock Guinness being bone dry, after all), which means it’s hiding its 9% ABV pretty darn well. What you’re left with is a mildly roasty, fruity, smoky ale. It’s actually unique enough a profile that it makes a good case for being a limited edition release, because it would presumably appeal to a very specific segment of drinkers. As for who those people are: Scotch fans, perhaps?
What I’m left wondering is what the following releases in the Guinness Signature series will be. How many more spin-offs do they have up their sleeves? At least one of them has to be a stout, right?
Brewery: Guinness Ltd.
City: Dublin, Ireland
Style: Imperial smoked amber ale
Availability: Limited, 90,000 bottles produced