My goodness, my Guinness flavoured sauce

Sat, Mar 19, 2011, 00:00

HP sauce and Guinness, together in a plastic bottle? Can this union of celebrity brands work, or is it a recipe doomed to failure?

THE MIXTURE of HP sauce and Guinness is a bit like a celebrity marriage, with two famous brands getting together. Only a bit, though, because unlike certain celebrity marriages the sauce is apparently going to be around indefinitely.

When a friend saw my bottles of the new sauce she pleaded for one, partly out of loyalty to her roots in Birmingham, where HP was once made. Later, on studying the label, I found it said, “Made in the Netherlands.”

I’m fond of a pint of Guinness, but not in a millennium could I imagine adding anything to it, let alone a savoury brown sauce. I once went to a Christmas brunch where the host had mixed the stout with champagne to make black velvets, so rendering undrinkable, in my view, two of my favourite drinks. That was the only time anyone has meddled with my stout.

But now I’m being asked to sample Guinness-flavoured sauce. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the makers, Heinz and Diageo, missed a trick in the packaging. Although the sauce is brown, the wrapper black and the lid white, in trademark Guinness style, the squeezable bottle stands upside down, so the white-top look is reversed.

“Delicious with beef and pork,” promises the label. “Combining the strong and smooth taste of Guinness with the distinctive flavour of HP. Mouth-watering served with grilled or BBQ meats. Try with steak, beefburgers and pork sausages.” The label also says the sauce is suitable for vegetarians, but it doesn’t suggest any non-meat options to try it with.

Does Guinness have a smell? The question hadn’t occurred to me until I got my first whiff of HP Guinness sauce, which smells of fruity spices and something else. I study the label again: it lists Guinness as an ingredient but doesn’t give a percentage. The smell could be Guinness, but then again it could be glucose-fructose syrup, modified cornflour, onion powder, spirit vinegar, “colour” or any of the 11 other ingredients.

Into the pan went a sausage and a rasher, then on to the plate with them went the new sauce. I dipped. I ate. It tasted like fruity, mildly spiced brown sauce. (Tamarind is the spice used in HP.) Does it taste of Guinness? No, that’s not the dominant taste, or even aftertaste.

But I do know one thing. It tastes better than the last Guinness-and-something-else combination I’d tried: the aberrant combination of the drinks that go into a black velvet.