Friday 23 November 2012

The Guinness FES test

Dubious as I am about over priced craft beer I think carefully before parting with my hard earned cash for something over the odds. But as a beer nerd there are some beers I can't resist trying, provided the price isn't too excessive, but once I've tried them will I buy them again?

For strong stouts I usually apply The Guinness FES test. 

As I can buy Guinness Foreign Export Stout in my local supermarket at supermarket prices I ask myself is it worth forking out craft beer prices for this strong stout? It's not often I find a strong stout I don't like but is it that much better I'm prepared to fork out that much more?

Many fine beers have failed this test, beers from Fullers and Kernel amongst them. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout passes, and strangely enough so does Guinness Special Export. Brewed in (or for?) Belgium I can't get it in Sainsbury's so have to pay more for it, but I think it's worth it.

Does anyone else have any benchmark beers?


  1. If it's the Past Masters double stout you passed by, you missed a good 'un.

    Strong stouts are an interesting one. Any half-decent strong stout has great, enveloping, unfolding depths of flavour - if you'd only ever drunk pale bitter, a taste of Saint Petersburg would blow your mind and send you babbling to RateBeer. (There is another theory that this has already happened.) But a taste of any strong stout would do as well - they all hit a target that most bitters never will.

    So "better than Guinness FES" is a question of fine-tuning - a marginal improvement - in a way that "better than Newky Brown" isn't. I do think the Fuller's Double Stout is, though.

    No benchmark bottles that I can think of. When I'm out I have got a benchmark called "cask", and another one called "Wetherspoons", both of which do the job you describe (is it that much better I'm prepared to fork out that much more?), but I'm not sure that was what you meant.

  2. Yes, it was the Past Masters I was referring to. I liked it, but not enough to fork out craft beer prices for it again. Though I must admit when it appeared in Sainsbury's I did buy a couple more bottles.

    I like the "cask" and "Wetherspoons" benchmarks .

  3. I normally mentally compare all modern pale ales to Punk IPA. Its the reference point my friends and I use when discussing beer:

    what's that beer like? oh its like punk, but more x or less y.

    Other "reference point" beers might be Landlord, Old Peculiar, White Shield, Pilsner Urquell, Erdinger, Schlenkera, Leffe, Hoegaarden. They're not necessarily the best, but they're both well known enough examples that people will likely have had them and they're distinctive enough that they will probably remember what they tasted like.

  4. Special Export is brewed for , but as far as I know not in Belguim. Its far better than FES in my opinion but both are great and are bargains. Shame the Draught is so poor.

    1. Here in the Far East our FES is brewed in Malaysia and is only 6.8% abv. It's good, but not as good as the stronger versions. We also sometimes see the Mackeson XXX from the West Indies, which makes for an interesting mix ("black and black") with FES - really brings the chocolate malt out.

  5. A benchmark beer sounds like a good idea, but with so many styles of beer available, one would need to choose a benchmark for each one.

  6. For lagers, Pilsner Urquell. (Except there the craft beers rarely exceed the benchmark!).

    For APA, this is not a benchmark in the sense you meant I think, but Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, due to its wide distribution, may come at a lesser cost than other APAs and it is still just about the best one - IMO again.

    FES made in Ireland is very good. (I don't think SE is nearly as good though as 20 years ago). However, I like Martyn's mix, since it could use some extra maltiness arguably. I'd mix FES also with any good Impy stout from America, say 2:1. This would often add rich malt and hops, and possibly a brettish note which is all to the good. (Brett, not Brit). Rogue's Imperial Stout would be ideal. True, the latter are expensive as imports but would go a long way, just cork them well and keep cool, it will be fine even over a couple of months.


  7. I'm really thinking of cost benchmarks not something for calibrating taste. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a good call, a great beer available in supermarkets which certainly makes me less inclined to pay for craftier APAs.