We've been hearing a lot about Guinness' new release, a shift into the realm of black lagers (historically known as German schwarzbier) that have been the microbrew buzz recently for their light body (like a lager) yet full-on dark stout flavor. But when we stopped by Wine Expo to pick up a bottle for a taste, resident beer and tequila expert Erik Moreno had some more interesting bottles on the shelves.
"This is what you're not hearing as much about with Guinness," he says, pointing us to a 4-pack of "Foreign Extra" Stout. "They released it five or so months ago more quietly, they're not really pushing it. This is the real deal. The stout is brewed in Ireland, not Canada like most of the Guinness here. My distributor kept telling me about the Black Lager, but I kept asking him about this -- he finally got it for me."
Many Guinness purists will tell you that the stout brewed in Ireland tastes better (Obama agrees). The real deal will say "Foreign Extra" on the label rather than the typical "Extra Stout." You're going to have to pony up the pennies for it. We paid nearly $10 for a 4-pack of the Foreign Extra Stout, about a dollar less for a 6-pack of "regular" Guinness in bottles (and yeah, unfortunately for our wallet, it was noticeably better).
But what got Moreno really excited, perhaps somewhat surprisingly in light of his craft beer obsession, is Corona's "Familiar" bottling. "This is the Corona I grew up on when I visited my family in Mexico," he says, pulling out a chubby brown 1-quart glass bottle. "My aunts would hand over a bottle just like this one. The flavor is authentic, so much better than the Coronas you usually see in a [clear] glass bottle here because it keeps the light out. You'd drink it and then return the bottle. If you didn't bring back your bottle, you got your beer in a Ziploc baggie with a straw. "
Ziploc baggies and a straw? Now that sounds like Saturday afternoon beer fun. But what about the flavor? We often hear that light affects dark beers or those with complex flavors, but does sunlight really affect the flavor in such a light commercial beer? "I absolutely think flavor, even here, has a lot to do with the bottle. The regular Corona you find tastes skunky, almost musty. This one has an entirely different flavor." [Squid Ink Tasting Note: We wouldn't exactly say "entirely different," as it still tastes like a Corona -- although definitely a much better, full-flavored Corona.]
"We've been seeing more of this with beer, bringing back the old bottles and formulas," continues Moreno. "It's like the Coke you can get from Mexico now in the old bottles that's made with sugar. Pacifico has also brought back its old bottle. But what I'm really excited about is Victoria, another old brewery from Mexico, that's bringing its [original] bottles here in a few months." [Victoria debuted in Chicago and Texas last year; In the past few months it's been making the rounds in California.] Time to stock up on Ziploc baggies.