Even if beer is a foreign concept to you, you’ve probably heard of Guinness. The internationally renowned Irish outfit, launched by Arthur Guinness in 1757, is responsible for some of the most popular beer on the planet.
Since its founding more than two centuries ago, Guinness has grown to exceptional fame. The brewery is especially known for its stout, available just about everywhere and extra lauded each St. Patrick’s Day. Two of the most popular dark beers the brewery creates are the Extra Stout and the Draught, which begs the question: Guinness Extra Stout vs. Draught — which is superior?
We had a little head-to-head competition between the two iconic beers to see which is in better form these days. Here’s what we found out.
Guinness Extra Stout
The stately elder of the two, Guinness Extra Stout, is based on a recipe from 1821. This flagship Guinness beer remains what pretty much every other release is based on. It’s a classic, and generous on the nose with pronounced malted milkshake notes. The flavors are pleasantly even, made up of cacao, nutty notes, cola, molasses, and even a pinch of fruity esters.
The beer finishes elegantly, like a sip of coffee after a nibble of chocolate chip cookie. What’s perhaps most remarkable about it is that it boasts all of this while showing a fair deal of restraint. It’s a stout for every day of the year, whether it’s brisk outside or you’re camped out next to the air conditioner.
Guinness Draught, while a newer creation (concocted back in the mid-20th century), probably has the bigger following. This is the beer you’ve likely seen the ads for or tried yourself, served in the distinctive can (or draft handle) and lauded for its pillowy texture. This nitro-style beer sacrifices carbonation for silky texture. The foamy head is a thing to behold, full of micro bubbles that never seem to subside.
The aromatics are mild, showing a bit of baking chocolate and espresso. On the palate, it’s a creamy, albeit linear profile, that finishes bitter, like black coffee. All told, it’s an easy sipper but rather a one-dimensional experience. Granted, I’ve never fallen in love with a nitro beer, but still, this seems like more of a beer you would have after a nice sip of bourbon or amari than a standalone pint.
While there’s no denying the mouthfeel that Guinness Draught affords, the Extra Stout boasts more complexity. Hats off to the Draught for popularizing the nitro approach. It’s a versatile beer that’s easy to enjoy on its own and even fun to cook or mix with (try it with a shot of espresso or a scoop of gelato). Yet, that makeup is both the beer’s blessing and its curse.
The Extra Stout simply is what it is; a crisp and bittersweet stout does not take shelter under a veil of creaminess. Instead, it’s just a well-made stout, where the grain bill really comes through and there’s balance throughout. While a stout, and built for the dreary Irish winters, Guinness Extra Stout is not overly driven by its grain bill. The malt and barley shine, but the beer remains refreshing, which is a far cry from, say, an imperial stout and still pleasant during a summer evening.
It’s hard to go wrong with either of these wildly popular beers from Guinness. But after a taste test, we’re reminded that while the Draught is unique, it’s as much (if not more about) the sensation of the beer on the palate as the substance. The Extra Stout is a bona fide classic and offers more in the way of character. Tastes change, this much we know, but right now, we prefer the Guinness Extra Stout to the Guinness Draught.