THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 8th December (7%-8%): Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

I have been a fan of Guinness pretty much since I’ve been drinking. In the mid ’80s it had yet to achieve the kind of dominance it has now, and it was quite a treat to find that black pump-head on a bar. Even now, a pint of Guinness is often my choice when I find myself in a pub with nothing else I consider drinkable. It’s hard to wreck.

Probably my favourite way to drink Guinness is out of the bottle. This may be that I’ve had a disdain for the keg techniques of the draught stuff beaten into me by one too many Camra leaflets, but I like how smooth it is from the bottle, and I like the slightly manky-looking brown bubbles on the top, much more pleasant than the nasty uniform styrofoam I’m used to in the pub. Plus, nobody’s going to be drawing any daft, lopsided shamrocks in the top of my drink.

One of the tiny culture shocks I felt when I first moved to Peckham (non-afficionados should note that there is a large African population round my way) was the existence of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. It was my own fault: I picked up a bottle of Guinness for home drinking purposes without really looking at the bottle. It was the Nigerian stuff.

It’s like the Guinness I’m used to swilling, but much more so. It’s sweeter and stickier and thicker and headier and much stronger (7.5% against 4.3%). I like it a very great deal, although I can’t imagine drinking it regularly. I think of it as an occasional treat, and I also can’t help but think of it as a winter drink: it reminds me a little of the kind of Chocolate beers and Christmas Pudding ales which begin to stink up our bar tops at this time of year. I’m not sure why I approve of Nigerian ‘ Irish stout but am so wary of novelty English ale, but that’s the way it is.

Anyway, here comes my thought for the day, almost certainly borne from gross cultural ignorance on my part, for which I apologise. On the rare occasions it’s really hot, I don’t generally feel like indulging in sweet, sticky things. So how come people in hot countries seem to like so many things which are so sweet?