OR WILL THEY?
by Rob Ulrich
When it comes to shifting trends and the latest offerings in the beer business, few things make me stop in my tracks and do a double take. But there was definitely an exception when I first laid eyes on Guinness Blonde American Lager because I found the idea of this product so reprehensible that I stood and stared dumfounded at the endcap display of six-packs until a Good Samaritan finally asked if I might need some assistance from a nurse. My knee-jerk reaction to this beer is that no matter which angle I approach the idea; it ends up feeling just flat out wrong and makes no sense. Even at its base level- an attempt for a big brewery conglomerate to steal market share back from the craft brewers- the strategy is ill advised. Which leads me to ask- what in the world were these people at Guinness thinking when they hatched this idea and have they sobered up yet?
Before we actually fill our mugs and taste this stuff, let’s try and wrap our other mugs around this concept for a moment. Guinness introduced this new sensation in a soft launch in the fall of 2014. For the uninitiated, a soft launch is something companies do when they’re unsure of the viability of their new product.
And-how, Spanky! Memo to Guinness; sometimes your instincts are correct.
So therefore, the geniuses in charge of this new product tell us we have a so-called “American Lager brewed in the Irish tradition.” Guinness of course is the world-renowned brand synonymous with exceptional Irish stout.
Let me repeat that equation: Guinness equals “Irish” and “Stout.” And now we have an American lager under the Guinness banner. “Irish and stout” and “American and lager” are completely incongruous to each other. As Denzel Washington might say; “Somebody explain this to me like I’m a five-year-old.”
Tabasco has been owned and made by the same McIlhenny family since 1868. And they do it on their own Louisiana island, for crawdad’s sake! Tradition, great taste... and their own bloody island! Is this the best company in the world or what?! So when I saw the green, milder version, I rolled my eyes and asked The Lord to forgive the McIlhennys for dumbing down their brand. And The Lord opened his window, leaned out and said; “Go thou and tryeth, you may liketh,” or words to that effect. And to my surprise, I found Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce to be delicious and distinct from the original. It’s more complex and I use it on foods where I want a little taste of heat and not the spicy bite that I get from the red version. Tabasco Green is excellent and- at least for me- deserving to sit alongside its big brother, Red.
What’s so “traditional” about Guinness Blonde American Lager, brewed in Latrobe, PA of all places? Latrobe is (or was) of course, the home to the legendary Rolling Rock Extra Pale Lager.
And just like I’m still scratching my head over what that damn “33” means on the back of their green bottles, I imagine most locals in this fine Western Pennsylvania outpost probably wonder if the Irish harp logo depicted on the
It seems to me that Guinness is trying to win favor with drinkers keen on craft brew (hence the listing of hop varieties) while trying to wean the hardcore, America-first drinkers- who’ve been gung-ho-happy with Budweiser or Miller and who would never go near something like Stella Artois- over to the thought of drinking non-American fare. Obviously Guinness believes the American consumer to be so gullible that it won’t make a direct connection with Guinness’ Irish heritage and will get hooked on the “American Lager.” Then their heart will fall to Guinness Blonde and later, Guinness Extra Stout and the rest of Diageo's stash. Such a fiendish plot! Careful, Billy Bob. Just like marijuana, Guinness Blonde could be a deceptive “gateway beer” which leads to the harder “foreign” stuff.
Of course most, if not all, of this diatribe will be rendered mute if Guinness Blonde American Lager actually tastes great or is at least somewhat on par with the standard I have for Guinness Extra Stout. So let’s find out...
THE ROB ULRICH BREWS REVIEW
BEER: Guinness Blonde American Lager
SOURCE: 12 oz bottle.
TEMPERATURE: Very cold to room temperature.
POUR: The pour is steady and easy with a consistent flow in the pint glass. It has a small head that never threatens to overtake the rim.
AROMA: The nose is of a lightly sour note, reminiscent of stale Bud. Not as bad, but close.
APPEARANCE: The initial 1⁄2-inch head quickly dissipates, leaving nothing more than a parade of fine, white bubbles- rising fast and disappearing on the surface. The color is a nice medium gold but there’s virtually no lacing on the glass.
TASTE: The sour aroma follows through from the nose to the back of the palate and throat. Mildly hopped bitterness ends in a somewhat metallic, malty sensation leading to an unpleasant aftertaste. This all tends to subside slightly after the beer warms more to room temperature. More of the hop and malt complexities emerges as the beer warms up but there’s still an unpleasant sour aftertaste.
TEXTURE: There’s a somewhat harsh texture due to the carbonation. But that improves after the beer sits and warms up a little. Still, it’s a rough go.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This is a disappointment. While I wouldn’t say it was a complete bust, it’s certainly nothing special. I couldn’t see making this my drinking choice for any occasion and would not recommend it. Bottom line; the world doesn’t need another beer like this.
WOULD I BUY IT AGAIN?: No. But I would like to see if there’s any difference in how it tastes fresh, on tap. I doubt there is.