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Mar 13, 2009 09:41 AM

"New" Harp?

What's the deal with Harp? Now comes in green packaging rather than blue, and the label says something about an original Irish recipe.

I don't like the sound of this. For those that have tasted both, can anyone comment on the taste difference?

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  1. I haven't, but it sounds like the same crap McSorely's just did...not to mention the new price tag!

    4 Replies
    1. re: triggs73

      I just wanted to clarify to you that all Guinness Draught ( tap ) is brewed in St. James' Gate , Dublin for the North American market. Only Guinness Extra Stout ( Bottles ) is from Canada. When you ask Diageo about where " Guinness" is brewed, it is implied you are referring to draught not Extra stout. This is probably why they mentioned Ireland first then corrected themselves when you elaborated and said "Extra Stout" Besides draught Guinness is amazing, don't waste your time with Canadian Guinness in a bottle!!!
      In regards to the hiring of a German Brewmaster to make a " newfangled untraditional lager, you are absolutely correct!! But it begs the question of the nationality of all American "traditional" brews. All German too I believe...

      1. re: limerickid

        Nope...I did not say anything of the sorts.

        1. re: triggs73

          "Nope...I did not say anything of the sorts."

          But I did... <g>

          "When you ask Diageo about where " Guinness" is brewed, it is implied you are referring to draught not Extra stout. "

          Oh, baloney. Diageo likes to sell the myth of "Ireland" in the US. Their website's FAQ (Last question) in the US plainly and inaccurately claims:

          "All the GUINNESS® sold in the UK, Ireland and North America is brewed in Ireland at the historic St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin."

          Not simply "DRAUGHT GUINNESS ®" (as they put it elsewhere on the site)- "ALL".

          The funny thing is that at the same time they boast of the fact that "GUINNESS® beer is available in well over 100 countries worldwide and is brewed in almost 50." (FAQ # 8) Well, which is it? Irish or multi-national? Seems kinda schizophrenic to me (not the only international brewing conglomerate with those sorts of contradictory ad campaigns, I will note.)

          Guinness built it's worldwide reputation on their stouts like Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Extra Stout and tho' the latter is considerably "dumbed down" (and decidedly "untraditional" in brewing methods), it is still better respected and "truer" to the originals than the nitro-served Guinness Draught (keg, can or bottle) which, again, dates only from the 1960's.

          "But it begs the question of the nationality of all American "traditional" brews. All German too I believe..."

          Well aware that the vast majority of pre-craft era breweries in the US were begun by Germans. (Indeed, they all continue to note that fact a century and more after not much "German" influence is left save the names).

          The point is questioning the concept of a beer from the 1960's designed by a non-Irish brewer as a response to the rise in popularity of "International Light Lager" beer at the expense of true "traditional" local styles, being considered a "Traditional Irish Recipe".

          1. re: JessKidden

   your comment to the intended person. I made no mention of Guinness.

    2. Just a new label according to Diageo's Toll Free number tho' you have to drag it out of 'em and then drag out that it's still brewed under license in Canada by Moosehead- even tho' it plainly states on the label "Product of Canada" they'll still tell you it's "Imported from Ireland" on the phone. (They do the same thing on their website and on the phone if you ask where Guinness is brewed. "Ireland." Mention that it says "Product of Canada" on the Extra Stout label and only then will they correct themselves.)

      I'm a little surprised that a label change is getting this much reaction in the "beer corner" of the internet (but, then, I don't think I've had a Harp in 30 years). The rear label always stated "traditional Irish recipe" but I guess putting it on the front is now getting some attention- which is sort of funny since the "recipe" dates from the 1960's when a few Irish breweries hired a German brewmaster to brew some of this newfangled "Lager" stuff that was sweeping the British Isles. Not much of a "tradition".

      To "triggs73":

      So what did McSorley's "just" do? Are you talking about the NYC bar or the Pabst-marketed beer brand?

      Back when McSorley's Ale was a product of Rheingold > Ortlieb > Schmidt it was a very nice, hoppy US style "golden ale". Seems it went "wrong" once Heileman bought Schmidt's (late 1980's) and they went heavy on the Irish "Malarkey" PR but the beer was dumbed down. I'd pop for a six of the old Rheingold era recipe stuff.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JessKidden

        McSorely's just changed their label on their six pack of beers. Price also went up. This is of course in CT so I can't speak for the rest of the country. McS went from they're B&T to a Black Lager and ale became "Irish Pale Ale".

        1. re: triggs73

          According to Southampton brewer Phil Markowski (who also works with Pabst, via the Southampton-Pabst distribution agreement), he revamped the beers and the McSorley's Irish Pale Ale is now an "English style best bitter" and the "Irish Black Lager" is a schwarzbier, and both are now all-malt.

          (Info from the Editorial of the current issue [April-May] of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News),

        2. re: JessKidden

          A big AMEN on the old Rheingold brewed McSorley' was quite good.

          A side trip to McSorley's, the bar:
          I still stop into the ol' place now and again for a few short beers and a cheap but decent lunch, and the funky atmosphere which is usually quiet during the day. About 15 years ago, I was there to meet a few friends on a Friday just as the place was beginning to get really busy, as is always the case on the weekends. Not having been there in a while, and instantly noticing a change in the beer, I asked the bartenter, "So...who is making the beer these days?" He just laughed heartily, looked me in the eye, and pointed at the now dense crowd packing the place, and in a very thick brogue he said (and I quote): "Laddy, it don't f---ing matter who makes the beer. We could pipe it in from the urinals and these s---heads would still buy it." A classic New York moment, by way of Ireland.
          I guess he was the customer service department.

          1. re: The Professor

            Yeah, the folks behind the bar at McSorley's have had a variety of answers over the years when asked by "beer people", "So, who's brewing your beers for you these days?" Sometimes they're refreshingly honest, other times vague- i.e., "a brewery in Pennsylvania...". Besides the aforementioned 3 brewers, Fidelio (pre-Rheingold), F. X. Matt and The Lion have all been said to brew one or both of the beers served at the bar itself at times.

            I notice that the current McSorley's website isn't very accurate as far at the history of the bottled (and briefly canned) product. Skipping Ortlieb and claiming that the move to Philadelphia meant "... the first time that the Ale was made without New York's legendary water" when, of course, Rheingold brewed in Orange, NJ for a few years after they closed the Brooklyn brewery.

            They've also skipped the Heileman decade or so which came between the closing of Schmidt's and Stroh purchasing the Heileman line (I suppose they brewed it Baltimore- their closest brewery) . The Pabst-marketed bottled beers are brewed at The Lion (Wilkes-Barre, PA) last I looked- don't know if they also supply the draught to the bar, but it would seem logical and convenient.

            I wonder what exactly the deal is between the bar and the brewer. Is it just a deal made long ago for the rights to the name? Does McSorley's have any choice in the matter of who brews the bottled product and how, or did they simply sell the name years (and owners) ago? When Rheingold resurrected the brand as a bottled product (mid-1970's) there was very little promotion of the beer related to the bar or it's history- that came with the heavy "Irish" theme that Heileman went with.

        3. Is it because of St Patty's Day and it's "holiday" packaging? Or is this something that you been noticing for awhile?

          5 Replies
          1. re: viperlush

            I remember, vividly, going to McSorley's 30 years ago with my older brother......back when the restrooms were unisex............lots of atmosphere......particularly for a teenager.......the beer was still crappy back then...

            1. re: Saddleoflamb

              "Crappy"? Hmmm... Michael Jackson didn't think so. In 1980, he made a point of noting that Schmidt's, Ortlieb and Rheingold went to "some pains to ensure that it is endowed with character"- noting it was brewed with imported Hallertaus, dry hopped AND then finished with hop oils. He also gave it 3 stars - equal to the rating of the early craft brews like the pale ales from Sierra-Nevada, River City, De Bakker, New Albion and even Anchor Porter.

              The US-style hoppy, golden ale was once the primary domestic choice of the proto-beer geeks and the "premature hop-heads" of the pre-craft era (with some porters and other dark beers thrown in there as well). I miss the style (under 6%abv, light bodied- yeah, including adjuncts- I don't mind a bit of corn or rice- beautiful hoppy nose and aftertaste) and wish some craft brewer would resurrect the style. McSorley's was a great one, along with the oft-mentioned Ballantine XXX Ale and a few others that survived into the 1970's - Croft, Pickwick, Red Cap, Lord Chesterfield, the various Black Horse ales, etc.

              1. re: JessKidden

                I confess to not drinking the golden ales on offer these days. I expect they would generally not have the hop character you cite.

                Those times you mention were interesting. The US was just becoming aware of these beers; the GABF had a couple dozen beers. I would read about these great new breweries in Boulder, Portland, Chico, ... , and I'd go around finding stuff here in the east like Prior Double Dark, Ballantine IPA, etc., to scratch my itch.

                1. re: JessKidden

                  Had some Lord Chesterfield it me, or has that undergone a bit of a thinning on the hop character recently? Doesn't seem o have the "nose" that it once had.
                  Or are my old taste buds finally burning out?

                  1. re: The Professor

                    Nah, I agree with you. That is one of the "last" of the old pre-craft era golden ales left but I've been pretty disappointed with it the few times I've tried it in past 4 or 5 years. (I've given up on the imitation Bally Ale Pabst markets- I hear the same complaints about the last West Coast ale, Rainier, too).

                    They started kegging the Chesterfield again recently but I haven't seen or heard of any on tap in NJ- I'd be interested in trying it, but the cans and throw-away bottles are just dull compared to what I remember 20 years ago. I especially miss the refillable/returnable bottles (tho' that's most psychological, but they were at least better protected from the light than the six packs are)- for a short time there in the early '80's, they were putting the LCA in brown deposits (I guess the greenies were getting hard to come by).

                    I mean, it *could* be from building up a "hop tolerance" I suppose (I write as I sit here drinking a S-N Torpedo...).

            2. Prior Double Dark was available in Colorado when Christian Schmidt was the brewer. Thought it was ahead of it's time both in flavor/style and in packaging. I'd like to have one right about now.

              1. I created an account just to re: to this. I WAS a Harp fan. (One of the few beers you could keep warm and was still tasty.)

                IMHO they've reformulated, and really screwed it up.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Paulie201

                  Could be that they've reformulated, or just the fact that it is now brewed in Canada (or a combination of both).

                  1. re: The Professor

                    The "old" label design Harp was also brewed in Canada (and also claimed to be the "original Irish recipe" despite the implication of the OP)

                    It is an interesting thing that so many Harp drinkers are finding it "changed" despite Diageo's claim that it's simply a new label design. (Not that one can always trust Diageo's Toll Free Operators, as I noted above). I'd guess the marketing team has to weight how much a new design will make current drinkers suspicious vs. how it might attract new customers.

                    I've noted that a number of bars in my area, perhaps only coincidentally, have recently replaced Diageo's Smithwick taps with Harp taps. I think most of them kept Bass on tap after the introduction of Smithwicks- so it could be an indication that bars and customers still consider Guinness & Bass *the* "Black and Tan", despite Diageo's hope to switch it to their Smithwick. (Before InBev bought Bass, both Bass & Guinness were imported into the US by Guinness USA).

                    A-B-Inbev's been giving away plastic "brollys" for B&T mixing, and selling nicer metal ones on their US Bass website so they certainly want to maintain that tradition (I guess 1/2 of a sale is better than nothing).

                  2. re: Paulie201

                    I've had the old and the new side by side probably about a year ago. And there is a definite difference. Out of three of us, all three tasted the difference. Two, including myself, enjoyed the "older" version more than the newer one while one enjoyed the newer over the older.

                    The new, green version says "Premium" between Harp and Lager so I always thought it was a different brew that paralleled the original, but didn't replace it. Recently, I was disappointed to see that I could not find the "normal" version and only the "premium" one in stores. Unfortunately, it turns out (based on this site) that what I thought was premium is just the new version.