Guinness is rolling out a new product in the U.S., Nitro IPA, in nitrogenated cans and on tap at select bars. The beer is a part of Guinness' The Brewers Project in which six brewers are exploring new beers at a pilot brewery at Dublin's St. James's Gate.
At a preview dinner last night two Guinness employees talked about the beer, noting that the company values balance in their beers. While the beer is brewed with five hop varieties - Admiral to start, Topaz and Celia in the whirlpool, followed by Challenger, Cascade and more Topaz for dry-hopping - they were clear that this is an Irish IPA, not an American IPA. This is a particularly important distinction for hop heads like myself that are used to a strong hop punch from their IPAs. The combination of being an Irish IPA, being served on nitro - which tends to mellow the hop bite of any beer - and being brewed with the same proprietary, 100+ year old yeast strain used in Guinness stouts makes for a beer that one might be more pleased with were it called a Pale Ale instead. It's a simple fact that there are expectations based on style and when a beer doesn't meet that expectation the overall impression may be less than stellar no matter how well made the beer is.
When asked about who the brewers hoped to reach with this beer, they said it wasn't developed with a particular segment of drinkers in mind. I'm certain they're hoping to tap into both the pool of IPA fans they hadn't reached in the past as well as those who are classic Guinness stout fans. Whether each pool will be hooked will be interesting to see as it likely won't be hoppy enough for most IPA fans and perhaps too hoppy for stout fans. Either way, one cannot dispute the visual appeal and silky mouthfeel the nitrogen widget, developed by Guinness in 1988, produces. And at the suggested retail price of $8.99 for a six pack of 11.2oz cans, it is an approachable price point.
Seeing that it was a "dinner" you might be wondering how the beer pairs with food. My overall impression was that it is a good "with food" beer. By that I mean that while the beer didn't pop or make any of the dishes pop, it also didn't distract from, clash with or overpower any of the dishes either. Even the dessert, Guinness Pot Au Creme, which I hoped would be served with stout, remained delicious with the IPA. A sessionable - 5.8% ABV - beer, it is one that could easily consume a few pints of during the course of dinner, or an evening.