Weaker stout designed to pull Guinness out of a slump


Nearly three decades ago, the makers of Guinness tried (and failed) to convince Irish drinkers to try a "light" version of the famed black stout. This weekend, they are trying it again, unveiling a new mid-strength Guinness in two Dublin pubs.

The new Guinness has a third less alcohol than its regular-strength cousin, with 2.8 per cent alcohol per pint rather than 4.2 per cent.

According to Diageo spokeswoman Rhonda Evans, the new brew was produced in response to the recommendations of the Government's Strategic Taskforce on Alcohol. She said the lower-strength brew was aimed at regular Guinness drinkers who would like more options at the pub. "It allows consumers to make a health and lifestyle choice," she said. "They could have one or two pints and enjoy the taste of Guinness and still be able to go to work the next day."

Unlike the ill-fated Guinness Light, which was made with a different formula altogether, the mid-strength brew is created through the same process as the original and then drained of some of its alcohol.

And while drinking a pint of the lower-strength version - which Guinness representatives say tastes just like the original - might make the next morning a bit less fuzzy, some medical professionals worry that drinkers may consume a higher number of mid-strength pints and undermine any potential benefits.

"It's a 33 per cent reduction, so if you drink three pints of the new version instead of three pints of the regular-strength, it would be good," said Prof Joe Barry, head of the department of public health and primary care at Trinity College Dublin.

"But if people normally drink two pints and now they drink three, their alcohol intake won't change."

Diageo is waiting to see how the new Guinness sells in Dublin before making it available elsewhere. High sales would be a boost to the Guinness brand, which has faced slumping sales in the recent past. In the last six months of 2006, Guinness sales across Europe dropped 7 per cent.

Company representatives said earlier test runs of the new product, conducted during the past year in Limerick pubs, had garnered successful reviews. More than 55,000 pints have been sold there since February 2006.

But a day after it appeared at Dublin's Doheny & Nesbitt's, at least one loyal Guinness drinker there gave the mid-strength stout mixed reviews.

"It's a bit weak, like it's been watered down," said Monty Harris, who tried the new version alongside a regular pint. "But if I had a few pints of the regular Guinness in me, I guess I wouldn't know the difference."

Guinness mid-strength is already being poured at Gibney's in Malahide and will be available in the next few weeks at Harry Byrne's on Howth Road, the Graduate in Killiney, the Galloping Green on Stillorgan Road, Myos in Castleknock, the Dropping Well in Milltown and the Aer Lingus Social and Athletics Club.