Ireland: Diageo is working on a non-alcoholic version of Guinness

Diageo is working on a non-alcoholic version of its signature Guinness brand, Diageo’s global head of innovation, Michael Ward, has admitted at a media event focusing on Diageo’s ongoing innovation this Tuesday. "You would certainly expect that we would. [But] it needs to be a no-compromise proposition," he said when asked about it.

While other breweries have already launched for many years a non-alcoholic version of their lead brand, Diageo is still reluctant to do so.

After two years of experimentation, Diageo created last year a “full flavoured, non-alcoholic lager” dubbed Pure Brew at Guinness’ experimental St. James’s Gate site. While most non-alcoholic beers are created by evaporating the alcohol off at the end of the process, which impacts the taste, Guinness was pioneering a new method at the Open Gate Brewery that fully brews an ultra low alcohol beer at 0.5% ABV in the same way as other beers.

Diageo’s Global Head of Beer, Mark Sandys said at that time, “The greatest challenge for a brewer is to produce a great-tasting beer that doesn’t have any alcohol because most of the non-alcoholic beers on the market are a compromise in terms of taste because of the way they are made. We’ve gone about things differently and the result is a great-tasting lager that stands shoulder to shoulder with our other beers.”

Pure Brew was tested in 250 pubs across Ireland but will not be taken to mass market, according to Michael Ward. The beer is helping the company "learn our way in to the non-alcoholic beer market… from a consumer, technical and production standpoint" and there would be "more to come."

However, Guinness is already selling a non-alcoholic version of its Guinness brand. Guinness Zero was launched in 2014 in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country where alcohol can hardly be found outside of major cities and tourist resorts.

“When the opportunity arose to create a zero-alcohol beer to suit the Indonesian palate, we were quick to seize it,” Guinness states on its website. “The result is unmistakably Guinness; a beer Made of More™, not less. With none of the alcohol but all of the taste, it boasts the distinctive aroma of roasted barley, followed by deep malty flavours and a smooth, bittersweet finish. It’s Guinness in all ways but one… alcohol free, but no less impactful for it.”

Since the product has not been launched in other markets yet, it seems that Guinness Zero is not yet up to international standards or to put it in the words of Michael Ward is not yet “a no-compromise proposition”…

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