With much trepidation, I went and purchased a six pack of Guinness' new addition to their product line, Guinness Black Lager. My hesitation stemmed from the fact that Guinness is so iconic in its look and taste. It's more than a drink, it's an experience. I kept thinking to myself, "If I want a Guinness it's for a specific reason: I love the taste, look and feel of a Guinness". As I drove to the store, I couldn't shake one simple question from my mind. Given a choice, why would I order the Black Lager?
The look and taste of a Guinness Stout is like no other taste in the beverage world. Those who drink it know what I mean and those who don't, well, you don't love Guinness and are excused from this discussion. It's creamy and smooth with a beautiful brown coloring that I would liken to brown velvet. The head is distinguishable from any other type of beer. The khaki brown, smooth, creamy belt that sits at the top is it's signature and trademark, it's DNA. It's like seeing the face of Jack Nicholson. You know it when you see it and there's nothing else like it. I believe Guinness should only come from a tap, but the draught bottles and cans with the CO2 gadget inside have made drinking a Guinness at home a reasonable facsimile of drinking one at the bar. Prior to that gadget, I wouldn't drink Guinness out of a bottle or can because it wasn't even close to the same experience. Plus, the CO2 bottles and cans have a distinct look to them and are aesthetically pleasing.
I'm not one of those people who has a sensitive palette and can describe 30 different flavors in a drink, but without a doubt a swig of Guinness will give you hints of chocolate and coffee and many other wonderful, heavy flavors. There's no deception in the name, its not for the faint of heart, it's a stout. I find I like it best in the winter months, but will quaff a Guinness anytime, anywhere.
When I first picked up the six pack, I noticed a distinct difference in the look of the bottle. The label was silver, and the bottle had the indistinguishable shape of any domestic beer. The bottom of the label made me throw up a little in my mouth. "Cold Brewed" it said. That's what the bland and tasteless leading domestic brands say. I shed a quick tear, quickly wiped it away and looked around to see if anybody noticed. They hadn't.
I got home and poured myself a glass to see if this might be a case where the first impression is a wrong one. Maybe the packaging needed to be improved, but the product was spot on. The first thing I noticed is that the head was frothy and ugly. It looked like the head you get from a cola pour, not my beloved Guinness. I know, it's a lager, not a stout, I should expect differences. But I don't want differences. When I see the word "Guinness", it evokes a very specific image in my mind. It's brand recognition at its best.
The more I poured, the uglier it got. The end result was this mop-topped layer of unruly head that looked like an ugly cousin of Guinness. It looked like root beer had invaded the party and wasn't about to leave.
After I got past the ugliness of it I eventually got around to tasting it, but my spirit had already been broken. Much like its appearance, the taste of the black lager was dissapointing. I could taste the heavy flavors, but less so, and they didn't linger as long. It seemed to be a watered down version of the stout, a worse version of itself.
At the end of this tasting experiment I still couldn't shake the question I started with. Given a choice, why would I order this beer? Except now, the question had an answer. I wouldn't.