Okay so let’s get one thing out of the way from the off – Guinness is pretty lame out of a can despite the clever widget thing inside that gives you an approximation of a pulled pint head on your beer. But I’ve yet to find a bar in my locale that serves draught Guinness 0.0, and it will never happen, so I had to get the cans from my local supermarket so I could write this post.
Let’s put comparisons to draught Guinness to one side for a moment (and don’t get me started on the difference between Guinness served in Dublin and everywhere else in the world)…
When poured into pint glasses, both versions of the beer appear the same so dark ruby brown as to appear black, like my soul. The inch or so head I was able to produce with my well-practiced beer can pouring technique (it’s all in the wrist) was pretty identical – perhaps a few more bubbles in 0.0 version and a creamier finish to the normal 4.1% stuff. When the beers are cold from the fridge, the taste is very similar, with less bitterness in the 0.0 version which is also sweeter (surprise surprise) than it’s stablemate. If you like Guinness, the Marmite of beer, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the 0.0 version. Temperature does have an effect on the flavour of both beers and the difference I think becomes more apparent over time as a kind of coffee vibe comes through.
Brewed in Dublin just like the original 0.0’s ingredients are listed as water, malted barley, barley, roast barley, fructose, natural flavouring, nitrogen and hops. There’s that mysterious natural flavouring again. Guinness is famously created using four ‘simple’ ingredients roasted barley, malted barley, hops, yeast and water. Neither can is marked with any vegan or vegetarian labelling, so it’s anyone’s guess what ‘natural flavouring’ actually is. And then there’s nitrogen.
While many other beers are brewed using carbon dioxide, Guinness uses nitrogen. The smaller bubbles formed by nitrogen create a smoother, subtler fizz, making it taste thick and velvety. Apparently. it’s actually in normal Guinness too, but there’s no actual ingredients on the can, unless I was too drunk to read it. As far calories we’re looking at 154 kcal in the normal can and 75 kcal in the 0.0 version, so it’s not that impactful on your waistline as other zero-alcohol beers.
From what I can learn elsewhere, Guinness 0.0 uses a cold filtration method to remove the alcohol from a full-strength brew and like other non-alcoholic beers there’s also some blending of different batches involved. I’ve also read that fructose is involved and so could likely be the ‘natural flavouring’ rather than lactose.
All in all, while there’s less body in the 0.0 version, the base flavours are pretty much identical at optimal drinking temperature (no warm beer in this household thank you very much) and I think if you were expecting the ‘full fat’ version and were given a glass of 0.0 round someone’s gaff you’d probably not notice you weren’t getting the real McCoy. It’s clever stuff.