The Battle of the Black Stuff: Has Beamish Set its Sights on Guinness Domination?

Posted 1 month ago in Food & Drink Features

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In the realm of dark brews, Guinness has long reigned supreme. Its rich history, distinctive flavour, and iconic status have made it not just a beer but a cultural touchstone, particularly in Ireland and increasingly in the UK. However, as the saying goes, every king has its challengers, and this year, Beamish is poised to challenge the Guinness throne, at least in Ireland.

For years, Guinness has soared in popularity, becoming not just the go-to pint in Ireland but also claiming the title of Britain’s most popular beer. With one in nine pints sold in the UK being Guinness, its presence is undeniable, especially in London, where it accounts for one in six pints consumed. The rise of Guinness has been attributed to various factors, from nostalgia to hipster appeal, but with popularity comes scrutiny, and critics have not been shy in pointing out the pitfalls of poorly poured pints.  The popular social media account shitlondonguinness tracks the worst examples of the pint you can find in London.

But whenever something catches fire like that, there is always a backlash among the culture from which it originally came. Yes, we will always be home to the best Guinness in the world despite Nigeria having three times the amount of breweries, but are we married to it?

Redditors think not. If Reddit is one thing it’s an eerily accurate harbinger of trends to come, much like the Simpsons. Some on the r/Dublin SubReddit have been turning away from the OG Black stuff, with one avid poster saying they recently came ‘to the conclusion that both Beamish and Murphy’s are nicer than Guinness’. This shift in consumer preference signals a potential turning of the tide in the stout wars.

So here comes Beamish, the dark horse of the stout world. While Guinness may have the lion’s share of the market, Beamish is steadily gaining ground, particularly in the heartland of Ireland. After we collectively banded together, somewhat independently, to make Island’s Edge flop, Heineken has realised their error and seems now to be pumping money into Beamish and Murphy’s. One only has to go to any working man’s bar and see Beamish getting a €3 pint push these days. Now I’m talking actual working man’s pub, not ‘The Workmans’. Hit up your local GAA bar and see if I’m not wrong. It’s also been creeping up on special in more millennial-focused spots such as Juno for only a fiver.

But what sets Beamish apart from its formidable competitors? Some argue it’s the authenticity of its Cork roots, with Beamish being brewed in County Cork since 1792. Others praise its smoother, less bitter taste, making it a more palatable option for those looking to switch up their stout game. Less romantically, by under-pricing Guinness, they may get a lot of stout devotees to switch teams from Diageo. Is this the year we, as a city, embrace the rebel stout?

As Beamish continues to gain traction, it presents a unique opportunity for drinkers to embrace the rebel stout, challenging the status quo and redefining what it means to enjoy a pint of dark beer. Whether Beamish will dethrone Guinness remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the battle of the black is heating up, and stout enthusiasts are in for an exciting ride.

Words: Shamim De Brún


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