Can new Guinness lager live up to the legendary name?
It's Guinness — but not as you know it. The Irish brewing giant has launched an ambitious new product which is being trialled in Northern Ireland — Guinness Black Lager.
Even the Chancellor’s announcement of a 2% rise above inflation on beer duty was not enough to put me off sampling a bottle (or two) of the new brew.
The bottle is packaged in the trademark dark brown which is synonymous with Guinness. The lager keeps the black colour of stout and has a white head when poured.
It is during the brewing process that the Guinness roasted barley and hops are added to the mix to give it a distinctive flavour.
I reluctantly had my arm twisted and tried the lager.
Apart from the initial distinctive taste of a pale beer, what is very evident is an overwhelmingly familiar taste of Guinness, though it lacks the thick creaminess that you'll get with a pint of the draught stout.
Because it isn't as thick, it doesn't really go down as smoothly as the stout itself, though it has to be said that it's a lot more refreshing.
The beer definitely tasted better than I'd expected. People who drink both Guinness and lager will probably enjoy it, as well as those who wish to enjoy the flavour of stout without the thickness of a stout.
It's also an appealing alternative to stout as the afternoons and evenings begin to warm up. On hot days, Guinness can sometimes be overlooked in favour of pale beers or cider.
Also, as you would expect with a bottle of lager, it's notably fizzier than draught Guinness. In light
of this, it's easy to draw comparison with the off-the-shelf, or ‘fizzy' bottles of Guinness you'll find in the older pubs in Belfast city centre.
It doesn't lack in the strength department either. Its alcohol volume is 4.5% — or 1.5 UK units.
It's hard to predict at this early stage whether or not Black Lager will actually catch on.
In the past, convincing die-hard Guinness drinkers to switch has proven difficult — witness the introduction of Guinness Coldflow, and its rebranding as Guinness Extra Cold.
Over the years, Guinness has launched many variations of its famous original brew. And now the company is hoping that its latest creation will be as successful as the ‘black stuff' itself.
The new lager is currently available in 330ml bottles and costs £4.99 for a four pack at your local off-licence.