St. Patrick’s Day 2016 – Guinness Nitro…IPA?

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What fresh hell is this?! Guinness, simultaneous purveyors of great stout, and renowned keepers of world records, have chosen to dabble in not one but two new angles of departure from the expected on this beer offering. The nitro thing has been cruising along, gaining momentum in recent years, and I can see why. Nitro beers are exactly as the ad-men say, smooth, somehow creamy in texture (not in a gross way), and they come with a great sense of novelty because you know, it’s different. Addressing the other curveball (for Guinness), it goes without saying that IPA-mania, while still going strong, has likely already reached its zenith. We’re now seeing small breweries becoming more adventurous, and offering up more than just hop-forward choices that taste the way weed smells, so the introduction of another IPA to the market now is odd. The lingering thought I still can’t wrap my head around is the “why” on this product. I mean, maybe if they were looking to diversify their beer portfolio beyond what’s already there, Guinness could have created a sub-label or something, but no, this is GUINNESS Nitro IPA. Premium brand, unexpected variety. I would like to have been in the room for that pitch. I imagine a dozen Irish folks dressed like characters from Boardwalk Empire yelling at each other, because in my mind, that’s the way the things would be done at the ol’ Guinness factory. Old timey fancy clothes, thick accents, and yelling, lots of yelling. Kind of like human-adult sized leprechauns.

Inspection of the sixer reveals instructions for the user, really goofy instructions to pour at a 45 degree angle. If you need to be told not to dump your beer into a glass at a 90 degree angle, you should probably go somewhere else, because truly, there is nothing here for you. Go, now….

How to pour a beer, because we're all idiots apparently.
How to pour a beer, because we’re all idiots apparently.

Ok, now that we’ve rid ourselves of that guy, lets open a can. Upon opening one up, you’ll hear the little widget starting kicking out its precious nitrogen to give the beer its “creamy” texture. While pouring your beer within the limits of the aforementioned guidelines you’ll notice it does a really cool settling thing (just like it was draught!) I know this isn’t anything new, and widget cans have been around a long time, but I still think they’re neat. Need a quick explanation of how they work? Here’s a diagram I stole:

Secret tip: the air ball is filled with leprechaun farts. Leprechauns fart nitrogen.
Secret tip: the air ball is filled with leprechaun farts. Leprechauns fart nitrogen.

The important part is not the packaging, marketing, or any of that, but really whether or not this beer is worth drinking. So I cautiously raised my glass, took in a mild hoppy aroma and took a swig. Through the thick Guinness-esque head came EXACTLY what was marketed, a smooth nitro IPA. This may be one of the few times a product has been spot on perfect to its marketing description, and you know what, it’s a good beer! It’s not scorchingly hopped, but the IPA flavor is definitely there, almost citrus and floral like with a dry finish. It’s not particularly heavy, so it doesn’t leave you feeling like you can’t have a few. The nitro element is definitely at the forefront of the experience, with the expected creamy smoothness. The only real drawback is that for a few bucks more than the price ($9 a six pack), I can get plenty of mixed twelve pack options and explore a bit more.

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Look ma! Just like on TV!
Look ma! Just like on TV!

If I had to guess, I would say this is likely a limited time release. I doubt that the Guinness Nitro IPA will be around a few years from now, and I doubt I’ll revisit it more than once or twice due to the cost (there’s really just better values out there), but I have to admit that at the end of this beer, I’m going for another.

Join me Friday when I discuss my favorite cheap bourbon!

Your host,

Charlie Mewshaw