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Having learnt what Guinness Foreign Extra Stout really is, our columnist compares it with the draught version of the brew.

WHAT is the difference between Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (FES) and Guinness Draught?”

“Why does Guinness Draught taste so different from Guinness FES?”

“If Guinness FES is a stout, then is Guinness Draught also a stout?”

These are just some of the questions I get asked about Guinness all the time. Having already dissected what Guinness FES is, I decided to dedicate this week’s column to answering some of those questions.

Let’s start with the names.

“Foreign Extra” is the name given to all Guinness brewed outside Ireland with the term “Foreign Extra” on the labels, while Guinness Draught refers to, well, the Guinness that is available on draught.

In Malaysia, Guinness FES is only available in bottle and canned form, while Guinness Draught is only available on tap.

In some other countries, you can also get Guinness Draught in bottles and cans (which have a special nitrogen “widget” that produces the famous creamy head of foam).

At 6.8% ABV (and up to 8% ABV in other countries, Guinness FES also contains more alcohol than Guinness Draught (which has between 4.1 and 4.3% ABV).

Now, let’s get technical. As mentioned in the last column, Guinness is a traditional Irish stout beer made from roasted barley, hops, yeast, and water.

According to GAB Professional Solutions manager Keith Nair, technically the two beers are both stouts, as the initial brewing process for both beers are actually the same.

“In terms of brewing procedure, they are both the same. However, the main difference between the two is the gas, the amount of hops, and Guinness flavour extract that is used,” he explained, adding that FES uses a lot more hops, which are measured in bitterness units (BU).

“The hop concentration of FES is much higher, about one third more than the Draught. Lagers tend to have 16 to17 BU – FES has 47 BU, and Draught has about 32 BU. FES also has slightly more yeast, so it produces more alcohol.”

Another major difference between the two is the gas that is used in the beers.

Guinness Draught contains 60% nitrogen (N2) and 40% carbon dioxide (CO2), while FES contains only CO2.

According to Nair, the gases used really make a difference in the flavours. The use of N2 in Draught allows it to be put under high pressure, and causes the very fine bubbles that form the beer’s iconic creamy head of foam. With its lower level of CO2, the beer also seems creamier and refreshing.

“Nitrogen tends to make it creamier, but flavour-wise, you would lose a lot of bite,” he said.

“FES is slightly more acidic, but in terms of flavour intensity, the FES has much more of it – the bitterness units are higher, the hops are much more intense, and the alcohol content is higher.”

To illustrate his point, we did a blind tasting of the FES and Draught side by side. Visually, it was easy to see which was which – the Draught had a creamy, white head of foam, while the FES has a slightly brownish head, with much larger bubbles.

There is definitely a distinct difference in taste between the two – at the same temperature, Guinness Draught was lighter and easier to drink whereas the FES was richer, slightly more bitter and robust in nature, and the sweet aftertaste hits you much faster. The differences between the two were more pronounced after we let them warm up a little.

Unchilled, the Draught tasted pretty much the same but it wasn’t as appealing as it was before, but the flavour profile FES on the other hand changed completely.

When chilled, the flavours of the FES still came through but were still slightly muted by the coldness of the liquid, but given time to warm up a little, the intensity and richness of the malt and hops started coming through even more.

By the time it hit room temperature, the FES had a sweet, malty, syrupy texture and the malt and hops were really hitting the spot, whereas I just wasn’t interested in drinking the Draught warm.

“I like to drink my FES warm! More flavours come out when it is warm, and the added yeast makes it taste a lot sweeter. FES has heavy aromas, and goes well with desserts because of the hops and sweetness, whereas Draught is good for food pairings and is more versatile,” Nair said, adding that Draught also makes it easier for beginners to start drinking Guinness.

“After we introduced it, we were surprised to see that it was converting a lot of women drinkers to the brand!”

All the same, he reckons that the original Guinness is still the FES.

“Moving from Draught to FES is like a graduation – everything goes up a notch! Everything is ‘more’ with FES – it has more hops, yeast, and CO2; it is richer, more robust and intense in taste, and it’s also stronger in terms of alcohol! If you are really into the original Guinness flavours, then the FES is the one for you,” he concluded.

> Michael Cheang likes to think he has “graduated” to FES, but still likes a Guinness Draught every now and then. Reader response can be directed to

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