Stout lovers have lots of great reasons to visit the Caribbean. From Grand Bahama Island to Barbados, Grand Cayman and Jamaica to Trinidad, our home region offers a surprising selection of dark and hearty roasted brews worthy of a trip or three. Most Caribbean stouts aren’t all that well-known, or available outside the region, making their discoveries all the more special, if you ask me.
Then there’s the uncommon case of the West Indian version of the most famous name in dark beer – Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.
Yes, it’s a Guinness through and through, bearing the same celebrated Irish heritage the world has loved since 1759, but this West Indian edition is not exactly like the Guinness Draught or Extra Stout you might’ve enjoyed elsewhere.
Our Guinness is stronger in alcohol content and flavor, as much a product of the practicality surrounding its initial introduction as the market for whom it was originally developed.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout debuted in 1801 expressly aimed at Irish immigrant laborers working in the Caribbean. West India Porter, as it was known at the time, was produced in Ireland and shipped across the seas, a little wrinkle that necessitated extra hops and a higher alcohol content to keep the beer fresh.
Though Foreign Extra Stout is now produced in the region (here, for instance), the tradition of strength and distinctive flavor remains. So much so, in fact, that many Guinness-loving West Indian friends I’ve known over the years absolutely refuse the brand’s U.S. and European iterations.
For them, these are the imitations, each of them summed up simply in two words:
Alcohol content in the Caribbean Guinness tops 7%, versus the 4.3 in a Guinness Draught. The flavor is bolder, more bitter and robust as well – a real masculine brew that those early immigrant workers would likely still recognize and love today.