Billed as a “beer of distinction,” The 1759 from Guinness was introduced in October 2014 as the first offering in the brewery’s Signature Series. Said to be brewed with rare and highly sought-after ingredients, this new line of “limited edition luxury beers” is intended to bring “a new level of elegance and artistry to the beer category.” That’s all well and good, but the ultimate test of this beer is whether or not it’s worthy of the eye-popping MSRP of $34.99.
Ad-speak aside, something Guinness has a reputation for as well,1 the brewery is known almost exclusively for their iconic and ubiquitous stout, so the idea of them brewing an amber ale represents something of a departure. That’s not to say they haven’t explored other styles before, Guinness Blonde Lager was introduced late last year, but The 1759 may be the first time they’ve strictly targeted the high-end craft beer crowd.
As for the beer itself, why not start with the fact that this beer isn’t anything like an amber at all. The coloring is one thing, it being an almost opaque dark reddish brown, while the flavor profile is another. Sure, the beer is malty with an underlying caramel malt character, but if you’re going to compare this beer to any sort of style guideline, the similarities stop there. This is all fine, by the way, because the point I hope to make is that labeling this “beer of distinction” with an ordinary “amber ale” tag sells it short.
In terms of complexity, the beer has notes of sweet molasses, a layer of rich dark fruit and an earthy smokiness attributed to the use of peated whiskey malt. There’s even a hint of butterscotch in both the flavor and aroma which adds a hint of candy quality without overloading the palate with sweetness. In fact, the overall presentation is fairly well-balanced considering the mix of sweet and smoky elements, both of which can easily overpower a beer. What I don’t get is much of a hop presence, apparently intentional, which leaves the overall balancing act to the warming alcohol evident in the finish.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I re-read the above I don’t start thinking amber ale, and neither does anybody else that I can tell. Popular online rating sites categorize this as a “strong ale” in one way or another, which is much more befitting the beer that ends up in the glass. At the same time, though, given such a classification I would like a little more heft in this beer when it comes to body, and perhaps for the flavors to linger a bit more into the aftertaste, but those are really my only complaints here. Well, that and the price, but we’ll get to that in the rather appropriately named “bottom line” section below.