New Guinness Black Lager Hits Store Shelves

Looking to capitalize on the average American's thirst for lager, Guinness, the largest brewer of stout in the world, released its new Black Lager nationwide yesterday.

The goal behind Guinness Black Lager, says Master Brewer Fergal Murray, was to recreate the distinctive flavor profile of Guinness Stout, but in a crisper, more refreshing beer style. Black Lager, for the most part, succeeds at this, as it delivers a roasted malt character that is similar to the Stout's signature taste. Compared to other mass-produced lagers, the flavor is truly unique.

"We want drinkers who know Guinness Stout but may not embrace it to know that there's an alternative out there," said Murray. "The challenge was getting that roast just right so it wouldn't overwhelm, or underwhelm, the Guinness taste in the lager style."

Brewed specifically for the United States, Murray says Black Lager is cold brewed (in typical lager fashion) in the company's Dundalk facility while the barley is roasted at the famous St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin. Saaz and Cascade hops are used to balance the roasted barley.

The move to produce a Guinness lager may seem a bit odd to consumers and, perhaps, even blasphemous to hardcore Guinness followers. However, except on St. Patrick's Day, stout has never been a big seller in the U.S., like it is in other parts of the world. The beer market here is dominated by mass-produced lagers. In fact, in a recent interview with Shanken News Daily, Peter McDonough, chief marketing and innovation officer at Diageo North America, which owns Guinness, said that the U.S. is only the world's fourth-largest market for Guinness.

So will Guinness' foray into the world of lager succeed? Time will have to be the judge. Guinness, though, believes it has created a strong product, citing the positive feedback it received from a six- to eight-month testing period in the San Diego and Chicago areas as proof.

One thing is certain, Black Lager's unique roasted taste and low-alcohol content makes for a highly quaffable session beer. And just in time for football season.

Guinness Black Lager ($8.49 for a six-pack, 4.2 percent alcohol by volume)

APPEARANCE: The liquid pours obsidian and a faint ruby hue shows through when held up to light. An attractive, one-inch head forms, but it soon withdraws to a thin layer of foam that offers decent lacing throughout the life of the beer.

AROMA: Roasted barley and a faint hop smell, with a trace of anise or cough drop.

PALATE: Toasty malt flavors hit the front of the tongue and hitch a ride with the vivacious liquid through a dry biscuit mid-palate, racing to a crisp, but somewhat sober finish.

"This is a great bottle of Lager! My favorite beer to date at least for the last 3 years or so has been he Sam Adam Boston Lager. Sam's has a bit of a bite, which of course is why I like it. But this Guinness is right there with it as far as I'm concerned. They both stand up pretty well to my cigar of choice." —October 24, 2011 15:09 PM
"Had some for the first time last week, and have some left in the bike garage fridge. Very good, indeed!" —October 3, 2011 11:33 AM
"Just had some last night. The stuff is great. Not as heavy as original so you can drink more with out that full feeling. Pairs well with cigars." —September 18, 2011 21:18 PM
"Mmmmh, black lagers are interesting brews! I will give it a try and report back!" —September 6, 2011 16:46 PM