Monday, 21 September 2009

Innis & Gunn

Innis & Gunn was one of the first beers I found myself drinking regularly when I made the switch from lager to ale. Since then I’ve found that it’s been the beer which has continually been able to convert others. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s because it looks a bit fancy? Maybe it’s just because it tastes so different to cans of lager. Maybe it’s the creamy sweetness that does it. Who knows.

In my early drinking days I got all excited about every new Innis & Gunn in its lovely box. I think I’ve had eight different I&Gs, including an IPA, Blonde, the Rum Cask, the Triple Matured, Canadian Oak and a couple of ‘vintages’. My favourite was always the Cask Strength version which was 7.7% and came in a red box. I served it with a vanilla crème brulee once and that was simply perfect.

But I hadn’t had an Original for ages and my taste has changed a lot since then. It also seems that my memory has warped and turned the beer from wonderful to weird, something I used to like but not anymore. But I couldn’t remember so I bought a bottle to find out for definite.

It had probably been two years since I had my last bottle of Original I&G and I expected to be taken straight back to my first taste of it but instead it just tasted alien. It wasn’t as sweet as I remembered but it was everything else I expected - oaky yet smooth, slightly buttery and toasty with a definite citrusy finish to it – yet it just didn’t taste right. A few years ago this was such a familiar flavour but I didn’t really enjoy drinking it this time around (maybe I just didn’t like it, maybe it was because it didn’t taste how I wanted it to, maybe I was expecting not to like it...).

It seems that I&G is a polarising beer in a love/hate kind of way (I think it’s the buttery sweetness that gets the thumbs up or down). I love it for getting me started on other beers but the taste just didn’t live up to the memory that I had of it. I’ve got another bottle in the cupboard so maybe I’ll give it one more try before I completely write it off. But the question is: Innis & Gunn, yes or no?

And here’s some bonus material: a video I shot in July of the Canadian Oak I&G (sent to me by R&R). I remember enjoying this one a lot more than the Original.


  1. It's a yes from me - I was too introduced to I&G by R&R and for me the buttery sweetness is it's key selling point - very reminiscent of Scottish tablet but with a slightly tart citrussy finish that stops it being over sweet. I'm a big fan of the blonde too but the original for me wins hands down

  2. Its a big yes from me. I love to have a few when I'm having a meal - it's replaced wine on the dining room table even for the wife! Love the Rum Cask too

  3. No idea, Mark, but from what my former colleagues in Ireland have said, I wasn't exactly seeking the stuff out :)

  4. It's a gimmick - pure rubbish

  5. I feel the same as you Mark four or five years ago when i was still new to brewing and the world of beer, I would drink it all the time I loved it. Then for some reason I moved on to other beers for a while, one day a bottle of I&G caught my eye and remembered the taste, I wanted one but I didn't like it at all and really struggled to finish the bottle. that was 18 months ago and won't be buying it again. so that a NO.
    i would like to try some of the others though, one day I'll get into mail ordering and see what all the fus is about.

  6. For me it's always been a yes too. I particularly enjoyed the IPA when it came out a couple of years ago. It really was like nothing I've had before or since. The rum-infused version was a quirky change from the norm too and I managed to source a few more bottles of that from Sainsbury's recently (I haven't cracked any of them open yet).

    Like many others on here I haven't had the 'ordinary' for a number of years and judging by the reaction, I won't be rushing back to it! Perhaps it's the explosion of big hoppy US-influenced beers? Our hop-accustomed palates no longer appreciate the dessert-like sweetness of I&G.

  7. For me it is a no, I only had it once and I did not enjoy it. I forced myself to keep drinking but eventually it went down the drain.
    I still am unsure if that is because I do not like it or because due to the clear bottle it got skunked from light.

  8. Big no. Sweden is probably one of Innis & Gunn´s biggest markets outside the UK, but I can´t stand the butter and the sweetness thing.

    It just proves that you can sell almost anything with good marketing and get away with it. ;)

  9. Mmm, interesting and mixed results so far!

    Anon, good to hear it's made the dinner table - like the 75ml bottles for that reason!

    Dubbel, I think you're right about our hop-accustomed palates - I&G is just so different to that. I've got a rum cask at home so I'll have to give that another go.

    Jonte, it seems they do pretty well out of it all!

  10. Definitely a no from me. I think it's one where the memory cheats-you probably remember it better than it was. That buttery taste is quite awful and I have to agree that it's all down to clever marketing.

  11. "one where the memory cheats-you probably remember it better than it was"

    A bit like Highlander and Thundercats so?

  12. My experience in the restaurant is that it is the best 'go-to' beer - but mostly for those who usually drink mainstream stuff. You get them an I&G (we only get the original in Australia)and it blows them away. Next time they visit they ask for "that one from the whisky barrels" straight up.

    So maybe it is a unique beer? If you stop drinking it, it stops tasting good?

    Prof. Pilsner

  13. I'm afraid it's a no from us. Looks beautiful, smells great but tastes... of not much. It's all mouth and no trousers and, sadly, is being sold hard and so taking up valuable shelf space in shops and restaurants that could be given over to really interesting beers.

  14. I think we're more in the No column than Yes now. Interesting that I got a PR release today about the Rum Cask I&G getting a permanent listing in Sainsburys and Waitrose (I saw a boxed bottle in Waitrose for £1.50 earlier).

    I still want to try and I&G stout - I've been saying for years how the next one 'must be' a stout, dammit!!

  15. yes from me, id love to try an I and G stout, had the rum, blonde, canadian, normal and one that came in a blue box, i nearly always have some in the cupboard.

    love steak soaked in it too.

  16. Canadian cask - yes (but it's only available in Canada). Rum cask - no (a bit too sweet with not enough bite). If I was forced to chooise then I'd say I preferred the Blonde to the Original. But not enough to buy it on a regular basis.