Dear Guinness: Here’s How Not to Debut Your Crappy New Guinness Nitro IPA

Dear Guinness,

On Tuesday around noon, I received an invitation “to be among the first people in Philadelphia to try out Guinness Nitro IPA” at the recently reinvented Vesper. I thought it a bit odd that I would get an invitation about six hours before the event was to begin, but since I am a fan of your iconic flagship beer (and since I had never been to the Vesper), I figured why not? And I invited my friend Fergus “Fergie” Carey, otherwise known as Philadelphia’s most beloved Irish barman, to join me.

I arrived precisely on time (Fergie was a few minutes behind), and a friendly hostess on the entry level of the restaurant told me to pick up a phone nearby and use the passcode “Guinness Nitro IPA” to get to a “secret” basement lounge where I would find the Guinness party. (The Vesper’s whole password thing is, perhaps, the stupidest gimmick that I’ve encountered in a restaurant in Philadelphia, but others have already opined on that, and my issue here is not with the Vesper but with the people running your party, so I won’t digress.)

I picked up the phone, some guy picked up the other end and said “Office,” I sheepishly replied “Guinness Nitro IPA” as instructed, and then a door opened — I think the hostess actually opened it, as opposed to it having been all spy-like and automatic — and my descent began.

As I walked into the secret basement lounge, there were a few people milling about and a bartender behind the bar, so I planted myself squarely in front of him. This being a beer event, I expected to have a beer or some type of mind-altering beverage in my hand upon arrival, but that was not the case at your event.

Moments later, Fergie arrived, said hello to a couple of people in the room (he’s of the type that seems to know someone no matter where he goes, which I guess is a byproduct of being a super nice guy and a Philly bar owner for more than 20 years) and then he sat down next to me.

We chatted about the pope’s visit (as an avid biker, Fergie loved the city’s carless streets; as a man who owns several bars in the city, he, like most in the industry, took a hit). We compared notes about the just-passed 2015 Philadelphia FringeArts Festival (he couldn’t stop raving about Suite n˚2). And at the end of all that, the beer event now underway for a bit and with a crowd gathering, we still didn’t have, you know, a drink.

So we asked the bartender for something to wet our whistles. He asked us if we’d like to try the Guinness Nitro IPA, and since that was a good part of the reason why we were there, we said, “Sure!” He opened two cans and poured the beer into commemorative Guinness Nitro IPA glassware and slid them in front of us.

We sipped the beer. We compared notes on the beer. We sipped the beer again. We talked about Ireland. And as we were about to take another sip, the bartender came over to us and said, “I’m sorry, but they’re telling me that I can’t let anyone have the beer yet.” Fergie pushed his glass away, and the bartender took my glass out of my hand. I don’t fault him for this, mind you, because he was clearly following orders — the orders of someone very stupid.

Fergie asked the bartender for a different type of beer. I think I asked if I could order a Manhattan. (Mind you, we were happy to pay for any of this.) But the bartender informed us that he had just been instructed to serve only water or soda. Why? “Because they don’t want you to ruin your palate,” he said, with a bit of an eye roll.

I looked at Fergie. Fergie looked back at me. And we smiled and walked up and out of the secret basement lounge, through the stupid phone door, out of the restaurant, and around the corner to Good Dog, where they were only too happy to give us whatever the hell we wanted.

As for your beer, Guinness, we both thought it absolutely sucked, and it didn’t even taste like an IPA. In a country so bent on its IPAs, we’d like to think that you are going to have a very difficult time convincing anyone that Guinness Nitro IPA is anything other than crap. But then again, Whipped Cream Vodka exists, so who knows?

To sum it up for you Guinness, we thought we would provide this handy guide for future Guinness Nitro IPA beer dinners:

1: Give your guests a drink upon arrival.
2: Never take a drink out of a guest’s hand.
3: Don’t make shitty beer.

It’s really not that difficult.

Philadelphia’s Best Craft Beers [In case you’re looking for something good to drink]

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