All posts by Martyn Cornell

Beer educator, beer consultant, author, journalist and beer historian. Winner at the British Guild of Beer Writers' annual awards five years running, 2011-15

FES three different ways

The arrival of increasing numbers of African immigrants to the UK in the 1990s meant that demand sprang up for Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, the strong (7.5 per cent ABV) version of Dublin’s black brew, which is made in breweries across Africa, and is one of the biggest selling beer brands on the continent. Guinness had never sold FES in the UK (or Ireland), except briefly (under the name XXX) in the 1970s, but by the mid-1990s it was available in Britain, where it competed with “grey” imports of FES from Nigeria for the immigrant trade.

One of the unique aspects of FES is that it is brewed using a special roast barley, malt and hops concentrate, deeply black and amazingly bitter, invented in the early 1960s by Guinness scientists, and originally called Concentrated Mature Beer. Now, under the name Guinness Flavour Extract, it is sent out from Ireland to the 50 or so breweries around the world that brew FES, where it is added at the rate of two per cent GFE to 98 per cent pale locally brewed beer. The boom in Guinness FES sales around the world meant that in 2003 Guinness decided it could not make enough GFE in Dublin, and refitted the former Cherry’s brewery in Mary Street, Waterford to make six million litres of GFE a year, using 9,000 tonnes of barley.

Today, while FES is still imported from Dublin, the Nigerian version is now legitimately available here via proper import channels – with the result that you can find the Dublin version in Sainsbury’s, while Tesco has versions brewed in Nigeria. I say “versions”, because a study of the back labels shows there appear to be two different sorts of Nigerian FES. Both use sorghum, a traditional African grain (used to make traditional African beers), at the insistence of the Nigerian government, which wanted locally-grown produce in locally brewed and sold beer: you can’t grow barley in Nigeria. However, alongside the sorghum, some bottles of Nigerian FES in Tesco say they also contain wheat, while others say they contain maize.

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Mission statement

This is the first entry on the Zythophile blog, and thus the place to explain what this blog is meant to be

The idea is to present one beer drinker’s life of beer with a few side trips, diversions and so on along the way. A zythophile is a lover of beer, a word formed from zythos (pronounced ZEE-thos, with the th sound as in thus), an old Greek word for beer, and philos, the old Greek word for loving or fond of. Zythophilia is thus the love of beer (you won’t find the word in any dictionary yet, but it would be the final entry in most), and zythography is writing about beer. I trust this blog will appeals to fellow zythophiliacs and zythographers. Themes that will crop up, I hope, should include beer history, beer styles, beer with food, pubs, tastings and beer in the news. Friendly and constructive comments are welcome. Unfriendly ones will be tolerated.