It's not every day that Guinness release a new beer and when they do, they tend to be a stout of some description. There was the Guinness black lager which is a headache I'm sure they would sooner forget in the Irish market, though I believe it does better abroad. There are other beers available in other markets such as Guinness Blonde in the USA but I believe this is a different beer.
Recent new launches from Guinness were Dublin porter and West Indies Porter at 3.8% and 6% respectively. I like them both, especially the West Indies porter but I much prefer Foreign Extra, their 7.5% monster. The only reason for me to buy West Indies instead is that it comes in a 500ml bottle and is a little easier to drink due to the lower ABV.
So where does Hop House 13 come in to all this? Well, it's a pale lager. There's Harp and now there's this. I imagine people will shorten the name to Hop House at the bar and I suspect that's intentional. The only problem is, the beer isn't a hop house by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually named after a random hop storage building from the 1900's.
I didn't make the launch at the brewery but they sent me a bottle to try. I should note that this is draught only at the moment so don't go looking for bottles just yet. There's a very real feel that this is marketed at the craft beer drinker. We are proudly informed they use hops from Australia (Galaxy, Topaz) and the USA in the form of Mosaic. That means nothing to your average beer drinker but a craft beer drinker knows that these are the hops used in some of the juiciest IPAs in the world. And that right there is the problem. You might drink this beer with a certain expectation. An IPA/Lager hybrid. Massively hopped as per the name and of course complex due to the types of hops used. Unfortunately that's not the case. It's not all boo urns though.
The beer itself is rather nice. It's completely and utterly inoffensive to anyone that is likely to drink it. As a lager, it's unlike anything in your average Irish pub. You couldn't mistake Hop House 13 for any other pale lager. While the new world hops don't assault you with fun aromas and flavours, they do tease you with subtlety. The most striking thing about the beer is the carbonation. Most pale lagers are super fizzy and can leave you quite bloated if you are that way inclined. What we have here is a softer carbonation. The body is a little different too. It's less watery and more of a medium bodied lager, sort of Vienna style in some ways. There's quite a subtle fruity nose with a little citrus orange and blackcurrant with some tropical mango or passion fruit. It doesn't taste of much, you really have to search for it but what's there is very pleasant. There's almost no bitterness at all, something inconceivable to a craft brewer or even homebrewer using the same hops. I should point out that I had this at cellar temperature in a bottle but when served in a pub, it will likely be served as cold as any lager so the lovely fruitiness might be lost entirely.
All in all, it's a pleasantly fruity, inoffensive lager. I actually think that many women will prefer this to other lagers as it tastes of a lot more than most and is less gassy. Women are typically better at tasting than men. Craft Beer drinkers of any sex will not be so impressed but then, Nick Curtis-Davis (Head of Innovation) said: "We believe Hop House 13 will appeal to mainstream lager drinkers who are looking for beer with more taste and more character but without compromising on the refreshing taste that lager offers".
There's a very clear target audience here and I applaud Guinness for trying to break the foothold that foreign* lagers have in Irish pubs.You could almost call it craft beer for people who don't like craft beer. Either way, it's great to see some real innovation from Guinness as this is very far outside of their comfort zone of pale malt, roast barley and boring hops.
* I use that term even while considering that there's very little difference between Hop House 13 brewed in Dublin and Heineken brewed in Cork.