Drinking with Will Gordon: Guinness Generous Ale Is a Pleasant Winter Diversion

Drinking with Will Gordon

Pull up a stool next to your drinking buddy Will.


We did it, guys. We made it through all 50 days of January. The worst is over. We endured a full miserable month of cold and darkness* and we have emerged onto the glorious other side where groundhogs promise sunshine and Beyonce sings during Sunday supper. It's not dark out at 4:00 in the afternoon anymore, and baseball sort of starts sort of soon. All is right with the world.

*Unless you live someplace warm, in which case congratulations and screw you.


There is one lingering little disappointment to deal with: The above blessings notwithstanding, it is still winter. Icy, salty, slushy, shitty winter. The calendar says we've got another 6 weeks till spring shows up. I'm not one to be bossed around by astronomy, so I'm inclined to declare winter dead a little earlier, say when the clocks finally get their act back together on March 10. But even if you're an easy grader like me, that leaves you with another month until spring. There's room for minor disagreement over just how deep into winter we've gotten ourselves, but all rational northern hempisherians accept that it isn't spring yet.

Of course, the world's stuffed full of irrationalists, those who deny science and seasons and mustard's condimentary superiority and all manner of plain facts, and beer marketers fall into this category. Not only do they expect us to believe in things like "cold filtering," "ice brewing," and "beechwood aging," now they also try to convince us that the seasons shift every three weeks or so to coincide with the launch of another limited-edition brew.

I'm not one of the hard-line equinox truthers who spend all summer complaining about pumpkin beer, but I am sympathetic to their cause. Samuel Adams sent me their new Spring Thaw mix pack several weeks ago, and I'm holding off on my review for as long as I can without seeming irrelevant. I'd like to cover it in April, but I fear that by then I'll be at least one full season behind everyone blogging about the new Summer Sweat offerings.

So I'm not looking to deny seasonal drinkers their outrage, but I also wouldn't ask brewers to march to a more conventional calendar. To each his own. I remain mostly on the sidelines of this fight, though I do register my mild opinion through delaying seasonal reviews for as long as seems feasible, which is why I'm just now getting around to discussing Generous Ale, Guinness's new winter offering.

This is what the brewery has to say about it: "Inspired by Arthur [Guinness]'s philanthropic legacy and devotion to generous, full-flavored beers, Guinness Generous Ale is special edition holiday beer that was developed in a traditional winter ale style, but with more body and the distinct roast for which Guinness Draught is known. With a rich amber appearance, the vanilla notes accent Guinness Generous Ale's silky, yet vibrant taste."

I think it's a pretty good amber ale that is distinctly Guinness-y but also a surprisingly successful departure from the style that made kindly old Arthur so rich.

The beer categorizers call Guinness Generous Ale an "English dark mild ale." It's a deep chestnut amber with a strong nose of roasted malt punctuated by an undercurrent of dried fruit and spice. The alcohol could be better integrated—it's 5.6 percent, but I'd have believed as high as 7—but it's still an easy-drinking, light-bodied ale that opens with sweet caramel before giving way to a surprisingly stern metallic middle and an abrupt, slightly grassy finish. This is an objectively interesting beer that's worth trying for its own merits, never mind its fairly compelling origin myth.