I’ve had the Guinness Black Lager. FINALLY. So I can finally have an opinion when people ask about it, rather than having to sit back as everyone else tells me “it’s good” or “it’s kinda disappointing” or “ick” or whatever else. As for the disappointment (and there has been some), I have some theories on that, but those can wait until I’ve covered the actual beer.
Name: Black Lager
Style: Dark/Black Lager
IBU: haven’t seen posted anywhere, but it’s a lager, so it won’t be high
I drank this: while absently half-watching the Pitt/Notre Dame game yesterday. ND won, for those who care.
Here’s the pic. I like the label:
As you can see in the pic, this stuff is massively carbonated – nearly soda/pop/Coke-level carbonated. Like, I couldn’t taste around the carbonation at first. I had to let it settle for a few minutes before trying again. That said, I don’t drink soda/pop/Coke and haven’t for more than a decade, so I’m not used to that much carbonation anymore.
The scent is, like most lagers, pretty understated - it falls into the “this smells like beer” category that most lagers (especially Oktoberfests) smell like, mostly malts with a hint of something slightly bitter on top.
The beer itself is sharp and fairly thin, largely (I think) an effect of the carbonation level and the hops, which do that tongue-bitey thing more than they give any sort of bitterness. Plus, you know, it’s a lager, and lagers are typically light-bodied.* The flavor is mostly roasted malts shot through with cola, chocolate, a hint of smoke and something slightly earthy, like the way dried leaves smell in the fall. It has a slightly sour aftertaste, in the fashion of most lagers. It isn’t *bad* sour, mind you, just kind of drying and slightly milk chocolately and slightly, well, sour. I’m glad I tried the beer at the beginning of Autumn, because with the hints of smoke and dried leaves it strikes me as an Autumnal sort of beer. It’s also totally sessionable once the carbonation settles down. I think it would be kickass with a plate of smoked cheddar and some wheat crackers.
As to whether I *like* it, I’m undecided, which means I probably need to have another one. It’s not *bad* - for a Black Lager (a style I don’t particularly like), it’s actually pretty good. It’d be fun to compare it to a Sam Adams Black Lager – I may do that soon and post results.
Most people I’ve talked to tell me they’re disappointed, and I can kind of see that as well. It’s expectations. The thing isn’t that it’s a bad beer, it’s that it’s an okay-to-fairly good beer that happens to come from Guinness. The Guinness name, however, brings with it a level of expectation which knocks “okay” to “mediocre” or even “bad.” And then there’s the style problem: this is a lager, not an ale, but everyone who’s been disappointed seems to be expecting an ale. Like, lagers are generally light-bodied. The Black Lager is no exception to this rule. However, when most people see Guinness on the label and see a dark beer, they’re looking for something rounder, something more full-bodied (like an ale). So despite the fact that this is absolutely what it’s supposed to be style-wise, it’s not the standard Guinness mouthfeel and body and everything else. BECAUSE IT ISN’T AN ALE.
To sum up: to everyone who’s trying this beer and saying “this isn’t Guinness”: you’re right. It’s not Guinness. It’s a beer *by* Guinness, but it isn’t *Guinness*. Try it for what it is and see what you think. Don’t go into it expecting lager yeast to make something that tastes like an ale: it’s not going to happen.
*I know I spend too much time in this review harping on the fact that this is a lager rather than an ale (for those who don’t know, a stout is a type of ale), and I’m sorry for that. It’s just that every complaint I’ve heard about the beer can be summed up with “I was expecting a stout and found myself drinking a lager.” If you want a Guinness, drink a Guinness. If you want to see what Guinness does with a Black Lager, then try this beer. Fin.