Bison vs. Guinness Stout Day Challenge

In honor of International Stout Day, Bison Brewing decided to recruit six lucky bloggers to take the “Bison vs. Guinness #StoutDay Challenge.” I am honored to say that I am one of those lucky bloggers. From the print-out Bison included with my beer mail:

Stylistically, our Chocolate Stout falls into the Dry Stout, or Irish Dry Stout category. As far as stouts go, the dry stout falls on the lowest end of the alcohol spectrum. These beers are very dark, roasty, bitter, medium-bodied and dry. The most famous example of this style is the Guinness Draught stout.

The rules were simple: taste, review, and rate both samples blind, and then post my personal results before November 3rd.  While it was pretty obvious from the beginning which beer was which, I cleared my palate and left my senses open to every possibility in the name of fairness.  So, to celebrate the first International Stout Day, here are my results!  (More comparison pictures at the end)

Beer #1 Appearance:  The first beer was extremely dark, an ebony black too thick to allow even the faintest hints of ruby highlights to shine through in the light like many other dark beers.  It was visibly thicker than Beer #2.  It built a frothy fawn colored head just over two-fingers thick that fell slowly into a thin quilt that covered the liquid for the duration of the drink.

Beer #2 Appearance: The second beer was a rich coffee brown with mahogany highlights. Minuscule layers of tiny bubbles were visible along the inside of the glass, and it was visibly thinner than Beer #1. Initially, it began with a half-finger-thick head that built upon itself in cascading layers, eventually reaching just over a finger thick. The beige-colored foam was extremely soft and creamy, leaving thick trails of lacing along the glass and retaining a good amount of thickness throughout the drink.

Beer #1 Smell: The first beer carried a lovely, robust nose that didn’t overpower, but hinted at the thickness within. It began with rich, bittersweet chocolate, quite a bit of roasted ground coffee akin to espresso, toasted grains and smoked malts, with notes of toffee, brown sugar, and the smallest hint of something dark and fruity, perhaps dates or figs.

Beer #2 Smell:  The second beer held a very thin, weak nose, that seemed almost tinny in execution.  There was a little bit of coffee and some toasted malts hidden in a wet, nutty oatmeal right up front, with a very subtle sweetness mixed into light chocolate notes in the background and a faint cover of mild damp earthy hops.

Beer #1 Taste:  The first beer  presented immediate flavors of roasted coffee and toasted grains with a good intermingling of smooth chocolate that made the earliest sips extremely enjoyable.  It was only slightly bitter and modestly sweet, keeping a good balance between the two strongest components.  There were quite a bit of roasted dark malts that held their presence throughout the drink as well.  Hints of a dark fruit reminiscent of what was in the nose were almost imperceptible in the background.  Beer #1 was lightly acidic and dry at the end with a trace of more powdery chocolate.  While it begain with a full bodied, medium mouthfeel with more chocolate than smoke and coffee, it seemed to thin out as  it warmed, causing the chocolate to disperse itself and allowing the roasted notes to come forward.  A much heartier stout compared to Beer #2.

Beer #2 Taste:  The second beer tasted exactly like it smelled, with little variance in flavors.  Somewhat evocative of day old coffee, the thin, watery mouthfeel brought with it suggestions of used, burnt coffee grounds, toasted malts, and faint musty grains.  There is virtually no chocolate to be found in the profile.  Beer #2 left my mouth feeling slightly slick and ended with a somewhat bitter aftertaste that lingered just a little too long for what the beer offered mouth-wise.  Overall, a very weak stout compared to Beer #1.

From the picture and descriptions, can you discern which beer was which?  Having had both of these beers at least once previously, I was able to tell them apart simply by appearance, but I didn’t let that sway my opinion.  Even blindfolded I would have been able to pick each one apart and proclaim which was my favorite without any problem.

So, for my final results, the winner of  the International Stout Day challenge is:

Thank you for this awesome opportunity to try both of these beers back to back, and thank you for reconfirming my faith in small craft breweries.  Sorry Guinness, your beer just doesn’t do it for me.

(click images to enlarge in another tab)



5 thoughts on “Bison vs. Guinness Stout Day Challenge

  1. Yo Lys!

    Once again, yet another well executed review. While I still enjoy a Guinness from time to time (particularly when served as a Blacksmith, i.e. Half Guinness/Half Smithwicks), I will admit that it pales when compared to other Stouts that have come onto the market in recent years. Be sure to watch your back when walking past or drinking in an Irish Pub. 😉


  2. Lys,

    Thanks so much for voluntarily subjecting yourself to our little experiment! Yes, Bison Chocolate Stout and Guinness are very different beers. Yet, they are the same style. Personally, I think that nitrogen plays a large factor in Guinness’s reputation. Nitrogen gives beer a creamy texture and smooth mouthfeel, yet does affect the aroma and flavor (decreases the perceived complexities of the malt character).

    The differences in the two beers are a great example of differences between macro and micro beers. Guinness is a good beer, don’t get me wrong. But it is produced and packaged for the masses. Bison Chocolate Stout, like most craft beers, has more character and just a little bit more pizazz and TLC than the macros.

    Thanks again!


    (Director of Awesomeness, Bison Brewing)

  3. Pingback: Bison Rises to the Top in Friendly #StoutDay Challenge |

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