Last Fall Guinness launched a new offering, known as Guinness Blonde: American Lager. At first, this product was a real head-scratcher. Why would Guinness, known for its rich, dark Irish stout try to wedge another blonde lager into an already over-saturated American market, especially at the risk of watering down their traditional product line. The answer turns out to be everything that is wrong with the American beer market.
The first problem is that the American palate is terrible, so in the end we only have ourselves to blame. The international beer community certainly mocks us behind our backs, and now they are doing it with their products. Guinness, which is an Irish company that makes the best-selling stout in the United States (and maybe the world, for all I know) realizes that Joe Sixpack doesn’t have the palate to enjoy stout on a regular basis (if at all), so they need to give him something more to his taste. They aren’t the first company to do this. In 2014 Strongbow Cider (owned by Heineken) discontinued their traditional dry cider in the U.S. and replaced it with 2 sweeter variants. Yep, that’s right, a cider recipe that has worked in the rest of the world since 1962 was too dry for the American palate, so we are now the only ones that can’t get it. Instead we get two bastardized versions (Gold Apple and Honey) that are just glorified juice mixes from concentrate that happen to be alcoholic. For the record, original Strongbow dry cider is quite good.
The next reason for the existence of Guinness Blonde is street cred. If you’re Guinness, even though you’re making a blonde lager that should be more palatable to American drinkers, how do you get them to choose it over the many other options? Well, amongst the mainstream, pedestrian, Macrobeer drinking community, drinking Guinness is often seen as a badge of honor. In a group of friends drinking Bud Light, the one friend that drinks Guinness gets a certain recognition from the pack. You hear comments like, “Wow, you can really drink that stuff?!” and “That beer is so heavy it’s like drinking pancake batter, I don’t know how you do it!”. The dirty little secret is a lot of Macrobeer drinkers secretly wish they enjoyed “better” beer, and they’re a little jealous of the friend that drinks Guinness. That’s the guy that now drinks Guinness Blonde, because when someone asks him what he drinks he can puff out his chest and say “I’m a Guinness drinker”. He thinks this gives him the same type of street cred you get from having a barbed wire tattoo around your bicep or finishing an entire order of atomic hot chicken wings. In reality it’s more like the guy that brags about driving a vintage hot rod, but in reality he just has a pimped-out 1988 Buick Century.
The other odd thing about Guinness Blonde is that Guinness already makes and selss a golden lager in the U.S., it’s called Harp! It’s been around since 1960. Which makes you wonder if Guinness Blonde isn’t just a marketing ploy or some type of rebranding, rather than an actual attempt to create a decent new beer. The main difference between Harp and Guinness Blonde is that Harp is an “Irish Lager” and Guinness Blonde is an “American Lager”. These distinctions come from the fact that Guinness actually makes Guinness Blonde in the United States, not Ireland (they’re probably too embarrassed to let it show its face over there). It’s brewed right in Latrobe, PA, the same place they make Rolling Rock. So is Guinness Blonde just Harp Lager that’s been given the “Rolling Rock treatment” and is now being sold to Macrobeer-drinking beer snob wannabes? Go taste it and decide for yourself.
**DISCLAIMER: This article is not a reflection on Original Guinness Stout, which is a quality beer and often serves as a gateway beer for many people that evolve from Macrobeer drinkers to craft beer drinkers, but that’s another article for another day.