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Guinness and Murphy's have launched fast-pour fonts but for drinkers blessed with patience, stout and porter have a lot more to offer. By Ben...

Guinness and Murphy's have launched fast-pour fonts but for drinkers blessed with patience, stout and porter have a lot more to offer. By Ben McFarland.

First the wheel, then sliced bread and now a dispense system that can provide a pint of stout in less than 30 seconds - wonders never cease.

Guinness and Murphy's have simultaneously launched fast-flowing fancy fonts in an attempt to accelerate growth in a stout market struggling to perform in young persons venues where drinkers have more disposable income than time.

It is hoped that the new dispense systems, called FastPour and FastFlow respectively, will win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers unwilling to wait two minutes for a pint.

Interbrew has pledged to convert all its fonts to the new FastFlow as part of a £9m relaunch of Murphy's and the new concept is due to be rolled out next month.

Guinness, however, is taking a less bold approach by confining its FastPour brand to its Guinness Draught Extra Cold (GDEC) variant in only 35 Six Continents outlets.

Not surprisingly, many have drawn attention to the fact that, until recently, the traditional two-part pour had been at the centre of the Guinness marketing.

In the past, surfing white horses, an ageing Italian swimmer and a stout-drinking squirrel have all been used to persuade publicans and drinkers alike that the drink was worth the wait as part of the brand's "Good things come to those who wait" campaign.

However, earlier this year Diageo lost patience with the long-running campaign and switched to its new "Believe" advertising which features a heroic hurler and, more recently, a man prepared to walk across hot coals to get his hands on a pint.

Fans of traditional Irish stout, however, are unlikely to welcome the latest developments let alone burn their toes to a crisp on smouldering cinders.

For Iain Loe of the Campaign for Real Ale, the move to the nippy version (in both senses of the word) was the last straw.

"They've finally thrown out the last bit of credibility they had in the UK," he said. "It all started when they did away with the unpasteurised version and then introduced Guinness Extra Cold. This has totally destroyed its authenticity and it's a very silly thing to do."

Not for the first time, the marketing people would beg to differ. Stout and porters currently represent less than six per cent of the beer market and the entire category, including bottled, keg and cask versions, is declining at around three per cent.

The vast majority of sales can be attributed to either Guinness and to a lesser extent Murphy's, but for those drinkers who have got time to wait for a pint of stout, there are several different styles and lesser known brands of which publicans and drinkers are, unfortunately, blissfully unaware.

"I would advise any publicans to check out the range of excellent stouts available from regional and family brewers," said Iain.

The Porterhouse in London's Covent Garden, an English outpost of an Irish-led operation, has proudly never stocked a Guinness or a Murphy's, choosing instead to import its own black stuff from its microbrewery headquarters in Dublin.

The venue manages to continuously sustain a triumvirate of draught unpasteurised brands at a price of more than £2.80 a pint.

The Plain Porter, which boasts the closest kinship to Guinness, Wrasslers 4X Stout, apparently drunk by republican leader Michael Collins, and Oyster Stout brewed with - would you believe it - oysters have all gained a following according to assistant manager Mark Barratt.

"If I had a pound for every time someone ordered a Guinness I'd be a millionaire, but when we recommend the Plain Porter, they're always pleasantly surprised."

Mark confirmed that the two-part pour will remain an important feature at the Porterhouse.

"When it's busy it can be a bit of a hassle but it's not a problem if customers order at the beginning of the round - and if you know your stouts then you should automatically ask for it first."

As with cask ale, the limited shelf life of cask stout is regarded as a stumbling block for some licensees. If draught is not a viable option, then there are a number of bottled conditioned brands available.

Liz Guilmant, brand manager for wholesaler The Beer Seller, said: "For draught stout, quality and throughput are big issues and bottled stouts are where it's at.

"However, the retail price is often upwards of £3 so it's a difficult choice for the consumer. But pubs which boast a reputation for good quality cask ale may be able to carry it off."

There are many stouts and porters available as seasonal beers, too numerous to mention here, but a few whose names have cropped up during the course of research appear below.

For a more comprehensive list get in contact with the Beer Seller on 01963 31990.

Stouts to check out

  • O'Hanlon's Port Stout (01404 822412)

For the O'Hanlon's brewery based in Devon, stout is for life not just for Christmas.

The microbrewery boasts two stouts, a Dry Stout (4.2 per cent) and a Port Stout, the latter inspired by the Irish "corpse reviver" tradition of adding a splash of port to one's stout as a morning-after remedy.

Since its launch in 1996, it has gained a permanent listing at Safeways, has won a silver medal at the prestigious World Beer Cup and was the first beer to be served at the Savoy for 150 years.

Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout (01432 342546)

Produced by the Wye Valley brewery in Hereford, this stout boasts an ABV of 4.6 per cent and is described in the Good Beer Guide 2002 as "a smooth and satisfying stout with a bitter edge to its roast flavours".

St Peter's (01968 782322)

The Suffolk brewery with the funky looking bottles includes three stouts and porters in its portfolio all of which are worth a try. Choose from an Old Style Porter (5.1 per cent ABV), a Honey Porter (5.1 per cent) or a Cream Stout (6.5 per cent).

Ventnor Oyster Stout (01983 856161)

It's from an island, but not the green emerald one. The Ventnor Brewery on the Isle of Wight is one of a few breweries to still use real oysters in the brew. Be warned, not suitable for vegetarians.

Black Wych (01993 702574)

Wychwood's Black Wych, 4.5 per cent, available in bottles, has won the gold award in the dark beer category at the Brewing Industry's International Awards.

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout (01937 832225)

Imperial stouts date back to the days when Britain exported dark beers to the Baltic states. Imperial Stout is to beer what port is to wine.

Available only in bottle, Sam Smith's is one of the few imperial stouts still readily available albeit at a slightly less potent ABV of seven per cent.

Anchor Porter (001415-863-8350)

This porter from San Francisco is a favourite of rotund Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles and touted by Jeff and Stephen Pickthall, beer aficionados and joint owners of the Microbar in London, as a "fantasy Guinness".

Available from Beer Seller and James Clay.

Organic Stout (01463 811871)

From the Black Isle brewery in Scotland, this live, bottle-conditioned organic stout is also available in cask conditioned or kegged with mixed gas.

Details of an organic porter can be found at

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