Late last week I reported on the release of the new Guinness Nitro IPA, with extreme skepticism I might add. Upon first glance, it seemed as though Guinness was trying to hop on the bandwagon and compete with US craft beer, especially with the falling sales of macrobreweries. Since the release of that article, a series of random but fortunate events was thrust upon me, causing me to reevaluate the way I see Guinness.
Ironically, after joking about the fact that Guinness did not meet with the Tap Trail for an exclusive article, I was invited to an exclusive press dinner and tasting of the Nitro IPA with representatives from Guinness, including one of the brewers from the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. Even writing out that sentence I can’t help but chuckle at how crazy that sounds. According to their marketing representative, this was their first intimate press dinner in Seattle in the history of Guinness. That being said, I still have no clue why they invited little ole me from little ole Bellingham, but I’m beyond thankful they did.
A Nitro IPA really isn’t anything too new, however a Nitro IPA from Guinness is definitely something worth a double take. While it may sound exotic for the Irish brewery to produce, once you taste the IPA, it’s “unmistakable Guinness,” as they would put it. It has an incredibly creamy head, much like their traditional stout, and is wonderfully smooth. That being said, if someone were to have given me a taste without telling me the style of beer, I would have never guessed it was an IPA. The Guinness Nitro IPA is not as hop-forward as my northwestern blood would tell me an IPA should be. Plus, it’s incredibly drinkable (trust me; I had about five in one night).
However, the most impressive aspect of the evening was the passion Guinness had for their beer and their accomplishments. While many have tried to mimic nitrogen infusion into their beer, Guinness is confident that no one can do it quite as well as they can. I spoke to Jonathon Urch who works in marketing for Guinness about his feelings on Left Hand Brewing and their Nitro Milk Stout, “…the first American and the first craft brewery to master the science of bottling a Nitrogen beer without a widget,” as their website states. Jonathon simply laughed and said that while he enjoys it, “it’s not as balanced as a Guinness.” The widget Left Hand refers to is a little ping pong shaped ball that diffuses nitrogen into Guinness beer. This widget, as Jonathon explained, was so revolutionary that when a town in Ireland was polled on what the greatest invention in history was, the response was overwhelmingly the widget while the internet came second.
The biggest question I had for Guinness going into this evening was, “Why an IPA?” Since beginning the Brewer’s Project, Guinness have been working on creating a variety of different styles to expand their market. They didn’t simply wake up one day and decide to put out an IPA. In fact, brewing and perfecting their version of the Nitro IPA has been a three year process, with about nine attempts before finalization. Along with the IPA, Guinness is experimenting and finalizing several other beers to be released. While he couldn’t share details, Jonathon did inform me that we can expect a new beer from Guinness hopefully in the next few months. He also didn’t hesitate to put me in my place by reminding me that while the northwest is famous for their IPAs, his homeland of England has been brewing them far longer. Touché.
While it’s been several days since the dinner, I still am in shock that I was able to have to this opportunity. Not only because it was cool as all hell, but it honestly did change my perspective on Guinness. I truly enjoyed their Nitro IPA, and I’m not just saying that because they bribed me with steak. I genuinely look forward to drinking it again, and recommend giving it a try.