Guinness is at it again. Following up on last September’s kickoff, hitting Irish outlets in October, a new beer has been released as part of the Brewers Project. The new beer’s a departure from the porter and stout category. They’ve even leaped outside completely.
Hop House 13 is a lager. I have heard plenty of chatter on how the brewer doesn’t like such beers but persevered for the sake of making a decent but different take on the style. At 4.1%, the folk in St. James’ Gate are attempting to compete in the lager category against old and new offerings by other macro breweries and even those they brew under licence. It’s certainly priced that way. If it eats into craft beer sales (if being sold in the same pub), I’m sure they’ll take that too.
To cover all bases, not only is this aimed at the lager drinker it also is trying to cash in on the “cool” drinker. The one who may want to appear fashionable because he or she has heard of something called “hop”. To make it even easier and perhaps a more attractive proposition Guinness has gone and put it smack bang into the name of the beer. This is the “Fr Trendy” of beers.
Hop House 13 pours a clear golden colour. So a big tick for that. Little perceptible hop aroma. There’s citrus and apricot in tasting so I’m told. I got the subtle citrus flavours but it had more of a red berry than apricot taste for me. However, I tried this after judging a beer competition and my palate was fairly shot.
I have tried this beer on two separate occasions. It could prove popular as the weather gets better. Already countless “sure there’s a grand stretch in the evening” comments can be heard. It could pass muster for fans of summer ale as there’s a teaspoon of bitterness in the beer. It’s a little thin and watery but overall not a bad attempt.
The “crafty” Brewers Project appears to be picking up momentum. Hop House 13 will be featuring in bars across the island but not in all of them. It’ll be a similar rollout to Dublin Porter. The Brewers Project is clearly becoming a brand, label (or call it what you will) in its own right.
I’m just waiting for the day when I might overhear a drinker remark that “13” refers to the types of hops in the beer. For the record, there’s only three: mosaic, topaz and galaxy.
You could have worse beers than this but you could certainly have better. This is where it fits in. Could be better, could be worse.
There are few things in life that are impervious to fashion trends and beer isn’t one of them. We’re seeing more and more trends emerge beyond merely hopping beers to the nth degree and seasonal brews. This year for instance we were promised more single hop beers and wet/green hop beers on the market, as well as more Belgian-inspired beers from the US. Let us not forget the increasing range of beers that have been aged in whiskey, wine, cognac and virgin-oak barrels. However, one trend has been emanating from England and that has to be collaboration brews with musicians. Not content with brewing beers conceived by a myriad of writers and reviewers ranging from Roger Protz to Pete Brown and many more in between, breweries have latched on to this idea to reach out to new audiences as well as trying to achieve some sort of “coolness” factor.
Robinsons in Stockport has really kicked off this new trend (while there were a few music-inspired brews before hand) by rolling out across the UK a beer produced alongside Elbow, which was released in bottles and cask. The followed this up with the May release of Trooper, a beer produced by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson (I don’t think Fuller’s will be too pleased as Bruce lives around the corner from their Chiswick brewery!). I wish I could tell you more about the bands themselves but I am terrible when it comes to music. All I can tell you about either is that growing up I thought Iron Maiden had the coolest stage show due to the presence of Eddie and their plane is cool. My musical knowledge thankfully is still being passed on by my older brother.
One of my all time favourite bands, Madness have also brought out Gladness, a beer produced by Essex’s Growler Brewery. In May 2013, Hanson released their excellently titled Mmmhops. Enter Shikari have also brought out one. Although I have to take it on good advice that they are actually a band because I have never heard of them and apparently they’ve little in common with Shakira. Madness’ brew is a golden ale produced to resemble a lager and perhaps there is no more fitting beer to sum up a London band that made it big in the 1980s. However, if you ask northerners like my Mancunian cousins, they would think it just sums up the softer inhabitants of southern England.
A recent musically inspired brew available in Dublin is Reverend and the Makers from Thornbridge. This is a fantastic summer ale that carries a fantastic aroma from a combination of potpourri strength aromatic hops of Amarillo, Galaxy and Cascade with Fuggles performing as the support act. The beer has a crisp and slight bitter finish. The recent warm spell of weather (long may it continue) of course helped as did the fact that I had this on draft in Probus Wines & Spirits. At 4.8% it is a pleasant session tipple and rumour has it that Reverened and the Makers are a band that I might like. I do like things from Sheffield such as Pulp and Sheffield Wednesday and I think the innovative brews from Thornbridge as some of the finest out there, especially in d’Engerland.
The number of music-inspired collaborative brews seems to be increasing by the day. Indeed as I was putting this piece together it was announced that Mumford and Sons have teamed up with Sussex brewery Harvey’s to produce Lewes Stopover Brew, a 4% “soft” golden ale made with Fuggle and Golding hops. While it is being brewed specially for the Lewes music festival (Idea for the Electric Picnic?), I wouldn’t imagine it will be too long until it is put into more regular production.
These beers can a bit of fun and do attract a lot of attention. Trooper has become Robinsons’ fastest selling beer of all time and reached a million pints within 6 weeks of its launch and six months ahead of target. Perhaps this will inspire some of Irish brewers to follow suit. I can say is that I can’t wait for is a beer developed by the Saw Doctors (with Galway Hooker per chance?), the breweries down in Cork can look to the Frank and Walters or Sultans of Ping FC (or even Crystal Swing) and Trouble Brewing could link up with Bell X1, Damien Rice or even Christy Moore and Five Lamps and the Porterhouse have a number to choose from. I don’t think we will be seeing either Kinnegar or Donegal Brewing Company bringing out one with Daniel O’Donnell (maybe of it is brewed with a nice cup of tea or horlicks?), although maybe one of the Brennan’s might be keen.