Everyone knows Guinness.
With a lineage that dates back to the 1770s, Guinness is probably one of few virtually universally known beers—mention dark beer to the uninitiated and they’ll likely say “Like a Guinness?”—and its longevity is owed in no small part to the fact that it’s a profoundly drinkable beer. It has never been so strange as to scare off mainstream beer drinkers, and has always seemed to have a ubiquitous presence in the types of bars where fans of real beer might be forced to order it because it is the thing on tap that sucks the least.
Which is really a weird and roundabout way of saying Guinness is good.
Sadly, in an increasingly marketing-dominated industry, even Guinness, with the international powerhouse marketing dollars of Diageo behind it, has begun to experience declining sales numbers. Indeed, aside from a slight rise in sales in Ireland between 2009 and 2013 thanks to a huge marketing push that even included inventing a holiday, Guinness sales are sinking. According to the Economist
in 2014 Diageo lost eight times as many sales of Guinness in Britain as it gained in Ireland (see chart). Americans are also downing far fewer pints of Guinness, though the drop is at a slower pace than across the Atlantic.
And so seemingly in an attempt to stem the tide of sinking numbers on this side of the pond, Guinness has just launched Guinness Blonde American Lager here in Canada (it has already been available in the US for a couple years).
I was invited to the Toronto launch of the brand and was provided with some cans to sample and, ultimately, the whole thing has just made me a little sad.
I’m sad Guinness felt the need to make this beer, you know?
It’s sad that this storied brand, that has hung around for so long largely because its flagship stout is a not-at-all-bad-beer, feels the need to make something with broader appeal. You’re Guinness, man. Make Guinness.
But sure, I guess I can appreciate the need to diversify in an increasingly innovative marketplace. Innovate or die, as they say. I get that. What I don’t get is that, now that Guinness suddenly feels the need diversify their product lineup to attract new beer drinkers, why have they opted to do so in such a shitty and ill-informed way?
That is, it is sad to me that somehow, somewhere, someone decided that the best bet for Guinness to open new doors for the brand was to market a lager—the beer category that has arguably been the most saturated since roughly the middle of this century. Really? You need to compete with changing tastes so you market…a lager?
And you haven’t even really marketed it all that well!
I mean, if you’re going to be a lager, be a fucking lager. Miller Lite is currently dominating ad spaces with a juggernaut of a campaign that has seen them pop up during all manner of sporting event including every Monday Night Football game, all the post-season baseball games, and even in blatant product placements in dude shows like FX’s The League. In other words, Miller Lite’s marketing team clearly understands what Miller Lite is and are going after the dude-bros right where they live: This is an easy to drink, light lager. Smash some with your bros while you watch sports. #fistbump
Good on ‘em.
Sure, it’s water, but it’s water that’s being marketed to an appropriate target audience.
On the other hand, there’s the marketing for Guinness Blonde (which isn’t really a blonde, but presumably blonde sounds more…I don’t know…exotic?), which seems to be trying to have it both ways. The campaign is clearly directed at people who drink craft beer and the press release even name-drops the Mosaic, Willamette, and Mount Hood hops made to brew it (“in the famed American brewing city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania” no less). There’s even this telling snippet from the press release I received: “Guinness® Blonde™ American Lager brings the taste, colour and character of great American beers and fuses them with the heritage and artistry of the Guinness tradition begun in 1759 by Arthur Guinness.”
First of all, it doesn’t actually do that (because what the fuck does it even mean to fuse heritage, artistry, colour and taste?), and second of all, even attempting such a fusion is a pointless exercise. People who like the taste, colour, and character of American lagers aren’t typically interested in beers with heritage and artistry and tradition. This is a clear attempt at trying to appeal to two vastly disparate markets and failing to reach both. It’s like trying to make a lynx breed with a shark just because they’re both cool. And like the blood bath that would surely result in an attempt at the world’s first shynx, this too has failed miserably.
The aroma of the beer is all fruity esters with a suggestion of damp asshole and the taste is slightly malty fruit with some astringency and maybe a touch of straw. There’s nothing to write home about here. I mean it isn’t a terrible beer, but it isn’t good. Which is just one of the reasons I imagine it won’t last long. People who want an American lager aren’t going to pick up a $2.55 tall can of Guinness on their way to Sully’s house to watch the Dolphins’ game and craft beer fans are savvy enough not to be fooled by marketing simply because it uses the word “artistry” and confesses to having used actual hops in the making of said beer. In the unlikely event that either of them does pick one up by chance, the taste isn’t going to be enough to bring either group back for more.
15 thoughts on “Guinness Blonde American Lager makes me sad”
Sad indeed, Ben.
I have to agree – I picked up a 6 pack of bottles when I was tailgating in Buffalo and I wanted to try this out as I’m a big Guinness fan. This beer is such a disappointment that I offered it to the guys next to me. The marketing behind it makes you believe they have unearthed a secret craft beer recipe from Arthur Guinness himself.
The problem is that folks who used to regularly drink Guinness 10 or even 5 years ago are now drinking craft beer regularly instead. They are chasing a market they do not understand
“And like the blood bath that would surely result in an attempt at the world’s first shynx, this too has failed miserably.” Damn. I wish I’d said that
Should have gone with Guinness Imperial Stout. Stick to their strengths…
I saw a billboard for this but have not tried it. It stinks of the usual ‘feel sorry for us because our sales are down.’ I don’t. I won’t.
Blah, this product doest appeal to me at all. Would have preferred if Guinness hadn’t of diluted their brand with this.. they should work to emphasize their history.
Don’t know how, but hey – if Alexander Keith’s can be at cask days…
‘with a suggestion of damp asshole’…now I want to try it…for posterity, like. Laughing and crying simultaneously. Thanks for that.
Oh Ben! You seem to have quite the opinion on this one! Although, I do agree with you completely, it’s your contrived description and pompous tolerance I take issue with.
Tonight I tried Guinness Lager first time with disappointment in mind and it did not fail that. It is a sad beer with poor marketing indeed. I feel that with the money, research and advertising that backs it we should expect more from Guinness? I mean come on guys you all know what’s been going on in the beer word no?
Having said that I expectd more from you [Ben]. This is an abismal review not worth your time. I come to your blog to discover new and interesting beers worth trying, not a rant on an obvious suspect. You may as well have rated Coors light or Budweiser for that matter.
I’m sorry to hate on your review, but I had hoped for more.
Just (finally) got around to sampling this beer, and although I failed to detect the “suggestion of damp asshole,” I generally agree with your assessment. The final line of my review: “I think they could have named this ‘Guinness Abbey-Style Blonde’ and been closer to the mark.”
I am not in the least bit interested in ordering Guinness Lager when I’m out or picking it up at the LCBO. I used to be a fan of their stout but the dirty little secret is, there are some very tasty Canadian stouts on tap in the GTA and I’m much more inclined to order local.
Considering Diageo has the marketing spend to do the research but instead signalled their laziness by putting this lager on the market.
Guinness are at this every few years. I’m Irish and and they use to try all kinds of stuff on us in student bars. The only one I remember was Breo, which was out around 2000. Didn’t last. There was the recent Black lager as well which can go away.
They are explicitly trying out the craft angle, including new stouts. I had the West Indies Porter when I was home in October. Untappd tells me I liked it.
Worst tasteing Guinness I’ve ever tasted…correction, worst testing beer period!!!…if you’ve ever smelt nillodor concentrated airfressoiner, this beer tasted like that!…it tasted and smells like someone dumped a 50 gallon drum of consontrated airfressoiner into a vat of beer…I’ve never thrown out beer before, but this Guinness blond made me throw it out because it was undrinkable!!!
I’m in New Zealand but was watching something rediculous on ESPN and saw an ad for Guinness Blonde. WTF???? All American beer is water. Budweiser has to be the most pathetic beer on this planet. You need to drink about 40 to get a mild glow on. Why I the fuck are Guinness trying to compete in this gaylord market. Americans do not understand beer. Don’t create a faggot version of Guinness for them. Give them an old “juice box” and they’ll Thi k it’s beer.
Faggots. America cans are faggots. Canadians are ok but unfortunately for them they Ltd be too clos my to American faggots. Come through New Zealand. Try and keep up with a kiwi bloke.
Shit English bro but totally agree. Americans are faggots.