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Black Lager

Guinness Black Lager

Guinness Black Lager
© Iain Sinclair

Black Lager beer is dark in colour, like stout. The dark colour comes from darkly-roasted grains.

There are different kinds of Black Lagers from different brewers. All brands seem to use bottom-fermenting lager yeast, but beyond that ingredients and brewing methods differ.

In Germany, there are two types of dark beers generally mentioned when discussing Black Lagers: "Dunkels" and "Schwarzbiers."

Dunkel in German means "dark." These dark beers will be amber to dark reddish brown, with a smooth, malty taste, and be 4.5% to 6% alcohol by volume.

Schwarzbiers (meaning "black beers") are the truly dark ones, being almost black. They have a flavour similar to stout, though they are bottom-fermented lagers (stouts and porters use top-fermenting ale yeasts), with an alcohol content of 4.8% – 5%. Schwarzbiers are milder and less bitter than stouts or porters. They are made with dark malts, some of which can be made from dehusked barley (cf. Weyermann® Carafa®.) For Schwarzbier, the trick in making the malted grain is that you want the darkness, without the roasted flavour.

Schwarzbiers are traditionally made in the Saxony and Thuringia regions of Germany. Braunschweiger Mumme and Köstritzer are two of the oldest still made. Samuel Adams Black Lager made in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is a Schwarzbier recipe.

Doppelbock is a dark Bavarian beer; Budweiser Budvar Dark is from the Czech Republic.

Guinness Black Lager

Guinness Black Lager.
© Iain Sinclair

Guinness Black Lager

Guinness Black Lager is a lager, made with lager yeast, and dark roasted barley, which is also used in stouts.

It is 4.5 % alcohol, and is less fizzy than regular lager. It is sold in 11 1/2 Imperial oz (330ml) bottles. (Guinness designed this beer partly for people who want to drink beer straight from a bottle rather than pint glasses.)

When poured into a pint glass, it may look at first like a regular Guinness, but the head is less creamy and coarser, and the taste, of course, is decidedly different.

It is meant to be served cold, even over ice cubes, if desired.

The lager was test marketed starting in spring 2010 in Northern Ireland, rather than in the Republic, because alcohol sales in the Republic were falling at the time (21 % since 2001; 9.6 percent since the year before, 2009, alone.) They trialled it at a premium price of 2/3 more than regular bottled lager.

In 2010, the market for Black Lagers was still new and small in the UK: Black Lagers had sales of £2.5m total, compared to £1bn for Guinness stout alone. The American launch of the Guinness Black Lager happened in late August 2011.

Cooking Tips

Schwarzbier is good with dark breads and cheese or meat dishes such as Sauerbraten.

History Notes

Lighter coloured beers weren't really common until the mid 1850s, when advances in production methods made them easier to make.


BBC News. It's Guinness, but not as we know it. 23 March 2010. Retrieved August 2010 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/8582071.stm

Gayle, Damien. Pint of the black stuff ... on ice: Guinness bids to conquer crowded U.S. beer market with new 'black lager'. London: Daily Mail. 25 August 2011.

Hayward, Stephen. Guinness gets a rival as sales of black lager go through the roof. London: Daily Mirror. 14 March 2010.

Heatley, Colm. Diageo Gets Belfast’s Guinness Black Lager Verdict: Cut Price. New York: Business Week Magazine. 26 April 2010.

Ó Caollaí, Éanna. Guinness launches 'black lager'. Dublin: Irish Times. 23 March 2010.


Black Lager; Bock Beer; Lager

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Oulton, Randal. "Black Lager." CooksInfo.com. Published 28 July 2010; revised 27 August 2011. Web. Accessed 06/24/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/black-lager>.

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