Few breweries are as iconic as Guinness. With 261 years of experience under their belt, the stout specialists are practically synonymous with Irish beer—and though the explosion of craft brews has made dark beers easier to find, taking a bit of wind out of Guinness sails, the global brand’s decisions still carry weight. So consider this a giant leap for non-alcohol beers: The brewer has announced the launch of Guinness 0.0.
Billed as offering “the same beautifully smooth taste, perfectly balanced flavor and unique dark color of Guinness, without the alcohol,” this new non-alcoholic stout will initially be rolled out in retail shops in Great Britain and Ireland this month before receiving a more global expansion next year.
“Guinness has always had an unwavering commitment to quality and our entire brewing team is hugely proud of the care and effort that has been put into the four year development process for Guinness 0.0,” Aisling Ryan, innovation brewer at Guinness’s St James’s Gate brewery, said in the announcement. “We have created a taste experience that we believe is truly unrivalled in the world of non-alcoholic beer and we can’t wait for people to finally be able to try it!”
Non-alcoholic beers can be made in different ways, and interestingly, Guinness explains that their efforts were focused entirely on the back end of production. “Brewers start by brewing Guinness exactly as they always have, using the same natural ingredients; water, barley, hops and yeast; before gently removing the alcohol through a cold filtration method,” the company writes. “The cold filtration process allows the alcohol to be filtered out without presenting thermal stress to the beer, protecting the integrity of its taste and character. The brewers then carefully blend and balance the flavors to ensure the distinctive flavor profile and taste characteristics of Guinness.”
That said, alcohol itself does contribute to flavor, and despite not personally having tried Guinness 0.0, I’ve never had an N/A beer that taste identical to the original, regardless of how “good” the N/A beer tastes in its own right. Along those lines, Guinness explains that members of an independent tasting panel described Guinness 0.0 as having “exceeded expectations.” As such, drinkers’ opinions of the final product will likely depend on their own expectations.
Meanwhile, Guinness has dabbled in N/A beers before. In 2018, the brewery launched a non-alcoholic lager called Pure Brew. And the British newspaper The Times points out that, five years ago, Guinness released Guinness Zero exclusively in Asia as a reaction to a crackdown on alcohol by the Indonesian government. That slapdash effort was apparently not well received.
This story originally appeared on Food & Wine.
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