A glass and can of Guinness with the caption ' Guinness Taste Test'

Although Guinness started its life as a porter, nowadays, it is a traditional Irish stout beer, drunk all over the world. Though Guinness’ color might make you think this is a very heavy and strong beer, it is actually quite sweet. In a nutshell, this is what the beer tastes like;

Guinness is a smooth, well-balanced beer with flavor notes of caramel, coffee, and dark chocolate. The aroma is very similar to the taste, although you might also find some hints of red fruits. The beer is dark in color and has a creamy mouthfeel. 

There’s much more to know about this classic, though. Continue reading for an extensive review, based on flavor, mouthfeel, aroma, and appearance. We’ll also discuss how Guinness achieves this distinct flavor, as well as what other beer lovers think about it.

Guinness draught stout in hand with other beers in background
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Guinness is a dry stout that is more bitter and less sweet than milk stouts, the other variety. It tastes of roasted malt and has some bitterness as the result of the hops. The roasted malt makes this beer is also described as toasty, or caramelly. Other flavor notes you could expect are dark chocolate and coffee. Sometimes, you might even be able to discern the flavor of red fruits.  

Although dry stouts, also known as Irish stouts are generally quite bitter, Guinness has a nice balance.  It doesn’t have an overwhelmingly bitter aftertaste but doesn’t have a lingering sweetness either. Even if it warms slightly, Guinness is quite good at holding on to that balance. 

The color of this beer might throw you off a little, as this dark beer looks like it is going to be quite heavy. But actually, Guinness is surprisingly light; it doesn’t have any added cream or sugars, and only has only 125 calories per 12 fl. oz serving (fewer than Budweiser!). It’s relatively low alcohol content (4.2%) makes it go down smoothly, too. 


When you ask any beer drinker what makes Guinness so special, most will instantly start talking about the creaminess of this beer. It has a silky mouthfeel and produces a thick, foamy head that is tan-colored.

Now, as mentioned, Guinness doesn’t add any milk to its brew, so what makes it so thick and creamy? It’s the use of a mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to carbonate this beer. Instead of the fizziness, you would get with a standard American lager, this mix provides a creamy mouthfeel, making it feel like it isn’t carbonated, or at least not as much as other beers.

However, keep in mind that you need to pour Guinness the right way in order to get the full experience. If done wrong, this beer will feel flat, watery, and thin. After all, stouts are low in carbonation. 

For the correct way to pour a Guinness, either on draught or from a can, have a look further down this post. 


In terms of its smell, Guinness is exactly what you would expect from an Irish stout. It is slightly sweet, with hints of the malts coming through. The roasted barley makes this beer smell slightly of bitter caramel, roast coffee, and chocolate. You might even be reminded of toast, or breadiness, too. 


Guinness is also known as “the black stuff” which is a direct reference to the color of this beer. Although it might look black and opaque when poured, it isn’t actually black at all. It’s not even brown. Instead, it’s a dark, ruby red color. 

The best way to see this is by holding the glass up to the light; you’ll see the red hue on the edges. This color is caused by the roasted barley. 

If you’re looking for an exact number of how dark this beer is; the SRM ranges between 25-40. With the scale going up to 80, Guinness isn’t even close to the darkest beer on the market. 

Why Does Guinness Taste Like This? 

Guinness gets its flavor from the ingredients that they use, but perhaps more important is the way in which they are prepared. The brewers use four simple ingredients; barley, hops, yeast and water. They also use a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to carbonate their beer, which is different from most other beers. 

Below we’ll go into more details about these ingredients and how they are used to create Guinness’ distinguishable flavor profile. 


Let’s start with the barley. When brewing beer, a sugar source is needed for the yeast to convert to alcohol and carbonation. You’ll find most breweries use barley to do this. But instead of just adding barley into the mix, there are different ways they can treat the grain, in order to get a different flavor. Apart from just unmalted barley, Guinness uses malted and roasted barley. 

Unmalted barley in beer making is mostly used to help create a better mouthfeel. However, the downside of this, is that unmalted barley is much more difficult to convert into sugars. As mentioned, these sugars are necessary for the yeast, making it vital to the process.

For the malted barley, the grain is left to soak in water until it is germinated, after which it is dried with hot air. This process breaks down the cell walls, making it easier for the starches to be fermented. Apart from adding a necessary source of sugar, it also provides a creamy and doughy flavor. 

Lastly, roasted barley is mostly what gives Guinness it’s caramelly, coffee flavor. 

After the malting, the barley is roasted at 232 degrees Celsius. This causes the sugars to caramelize, which means it no longer becomes sweet but has a stronger bitterness instead. The caramelization also causes the outside of the barley to turn black, whilst the inside becomes a dark brown. This is what ends up giving Guinness, and other stouts, its distinct dark color. 


Hops are used in beer to give it bitterness, as well as some additional flavor notes, such as floral or citrus. They are necessary to balance the taste of beer, which will otherwise be just sweet because of the sugars used.

For Guinness, the general public does not know what kind of hops they use. Ryan Wagner, Interim Marketing Manager at Guinness Open Gate Brewery, mentioned in an interview that they simply just choose the hops with the highest quality, and the right alpha acid content. They want this to be on the higher side, to provide the correct amount of bitterness. 


The way a beer is carbonated drastically changes the mouthfeel and drinking experience. Generally, beer on draught is carbonated using CO2, which creates relatively large bubbles and a fizzy brew. Guinness, along with many other stouts, uses nitrogen to create smaller bubbles. Guinness chose to go for a mixture of 75% nitrogen and 25% CO2. This creates a creamier and smoother mouthfeel, as well as the ‘surge and settle’ effect.

This effect describes the way Guinness behaves when it is poured. First, it produces many bubbles that, surprisingly, travel down instead of up; the surge. They then recommend waiting a while for the beer to settle. 

In order to recreate the effect of pouring a pint of draught Guinness at home, the brewery introduced the widget; a small, nitrogen-filled ball that is placed inside the can. When you open a bottle of Guinness, the ball releases the nitrogen and provides you with a similar experience as a pint of draught Guinness. 

Guinness Essence

This particular ingredient is added only to Guinness brewed outside of James’s Gate. This essence is a pre-made beer brewed in the Dublin location, without alcohol. The essence is added to internationally brewed Guinness to make sure every batch still has a “touch of Dublin” wherever they are brewed. 

What Is The Best Way To Enjoy Guinness? 

Whether you choose to enjoy Guinness at home or at a bar, there is a strict way of pouring. 

When you’re at home, you could go for the ‘classic’ or ‘hard’ pour. 

The classic is what you would do with most other beers; grab a clean pint glass and hold it an a 45-degree angle. Slowly pour it off the side of the glass and slowly tilt it back upwards until it is entirely vertical. Make sure to let it settle for about 2 minutes before drinking! 

If you’re going for the hard pour, this is what you should do; open the can and place a dry pint glass on top. Make sure to act quickly, and turn both upside down, so the glass is now on the bottom. Take the can out slowly, until all the beer is poured. Let this settle before drinking, too. 

When you’re pouring from a keg there are 6 steps you should take for the perfect pint, according to Guinness: 

  1. Use a cool, dry glass
  2. Place it under the tap at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Pull the handle until it’s entirely horizontal and fill the glass up until ¾ full. Make sure to never put the spout into the beer.
  4. Leave to settle for about 2 minutes (Guinness recommends 119,5 seconds exactly)
  5. Top up the glass. Never let it overflow and do not use a spatula to level. 
  6. Hand it to the consumer, making sure it doesn’t overspill. 

What Do People Think Of Guinness? 

Guinness has been around for hundreds of years, giving them enough time to gather a large following. You’ll find most beer drinkers will appreciate this stout, whether they are seasoned beer drinkers, or have only just entered the beer world.  Below, we will examine what people who have had Guinness Draught think of it, as shown by the ratings on the following beer review platforms.

Average Score8

Clearly, Guinness is a well-loved beer across the board. Whether you’re a seasoned beer drinker or have only just discovered Guinness, it seems you can’t go wrong with a pint of Guinness.