This past Wednesday, a blind dinner date was arranged for me with Guinness’ new Nitro IPA.
Through proxies and middlemen, it was arranged behind the scenes. I was to meet my date at downtown Portland’s Swank Restaurant for four courses and some PDA between the Irish brewery’s newest release and my tastebuds. Could I bring my wife along, I asked? After some hesitation and an awkward silence, I was assured that would be okay.
My date was dressed in a shiny, classy aluminum can with seductive calligraphy tattooed over her body and a Nitro widget hidden where my fingers couldn’t reach. After an almost interminable wait mitigated only by a series of excellent appetizers — everything from seared ahi tuna to roasted pork belly with cheddar grits and poached eggs — I was told that I could finally share some tongue time with my date.
Is there any greater sound in the world than a widget exploding and releasing Nitrogen? Is there any greater sight than the cascading creaminess of a nitrogenated beer settling?
A grassy, spicy, floral aroma greets the nose, trapped in its billowing cloud of creamy head atop a filled glass. Warning: Northwest drinkers accustomed to dank, piney flavors or tropical citrus notes may experience temporary perplexity; this is undoubtedly an English-style IPA with hops — Admiral, Celeia, Challenger, Topaz, and Cascade, to be precise– that evoke herbs and meadows rather than forests or fruit stands.
Body-wise, the beer is predictably creamy and soft, as any good nitrogenated beer should be. Some toasted and even roasted flavors provide a needed counterpoint edge against the creamy bubbles and the hops punctuate with occasional bursts of bite and mild bitterness. On the finish, Guinness’ house yeast announces itself with its classic, slightly tangy flavor. Hoppy aftertaste is relatively low for palates accustomed to 100 IBUS or bust, but a resiny pucker builds on the tongue with successive sips.
In other words, Guinness IPA tastes like Guinness Stout, albeit with substantially less roasted malts and a good bit more hop character– but again, that’s English hop character. Clocking in at a mellow 5.8% ABV and IBUs in the shallow 40s, this shares little in common with what most American craft beer drinkers think of when they imagine “IPA.”
Guinness Nitro IPA vs classic Stout
Which sort of begs the question: who is the target audience for this beer?
Hopheads will likely balk at it for being too malty and eschewing more popular hop varieties. The majority of other craft drinkers will be disappointed by its lack of standout flavors to distinguish it from the pack. And for regular Guinness drinkers, it will likely prove too bitter.
On the other hand, it might find a favorable audience with fans of mellower English-style ales like milds, bitters and pales and might do rather well in England, Scotland, or Ireland were it being released there, but alas this brew is exclusive to the good ol’ US of A.
Our Guinness IPAs were paired with a four course dinner courtesy of Swank Restaurant and inspired by the changing of the seasons. After a series of sumptuous appetizers, we cleansed our palates with a basic green salad. That was followed by an option of entree; I chose Oregon salmon cooked medium rare atop a bed of black “forbidden” rice and squash. Finally, a dessert of pot au creme with short bread and vanilla cream wrapped up a savory, satisfying meal.
With each course, I tried my beer in the context of every new plate. While nothing clashed, the pairing was a bit of a letdown. Guinness IPA neither distracted nor detracted from the dining experience, but it didn’t necessarily heighten it either. It was simply there, a charming dinner companion prone to meaningless small talk and a good attitude, but not necessarily memorable; alas, not the kind of beer you’re likely to ask out again for some passionate, intimate romance.
Maybe we can just be casual acquaintances.
Guinness™ Nitro IPA Factsheet
What It Is:Guinness™ Nitro IPAis a hop-forward India Pale Ale with familiar Guinness traits like a creamy mouthfeel and thick head. Strong flavor coming from five different hop varieties is balanced and rounded out nicely by the nitrogenation of the beer. The nitrogenation also creates the signature surge and settle made famous by Guinness™ Draught. A rich, golden honey color comes from the roasting of premium barley.
The beer is brewed in Dublin at St. James’s Gate’s Brewhouse No. 4 (only the fourth brewhouse in the 256 year history of Guinness) and was developed by The Brewers Project – a small group of Guinness brewers charged with exploring, inventing and perfecting new beers. Guinness™ Nitro IPA will be available in the U.S. nationwide this fall.
Appearance: Golden honey color derived from the roasting of premium grade barley is revealed after the trademark Guinness surge and settle effect
- Malt: Premium roasted barley & golden ale Malt
- Yeast: The same yeast famously used in Guinness™ Draught
- Bittering Hops: Admiral hops are added in the kettle to give it a subtle bitterness
- Topaz and Celeia hops in the whirlpool enrich the hoppy aroma
- Challenger, Cascade and Topaz hops are dry hopped late in the process to elevate the hoppy, citrus aromas
ABV/Bitterness/Color: 5.8% ABV; IBU 44; EBC 25
Format: Six-pack of 11.2 oz. cans, 13.2G keg
Calories: 154 calories per 11.2 fl oz. can
Serve: Best enjoyed straight from the can or served from the tap in a Guinness Gravity glass
- Can: Straight pour into a Guinness Gravity Glass
- Draft: Traditional two-part pour using a Guinness Gravity Glass
Availability: Guinness™ Nitro IPA is available on shelves nationwide beginning in September 2015 and on tap in select bars across the U.S.
Suggested Retail Price: $8.99, 11.2 oz., 6 count packs