New Belgium Brewing Company

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Lager - European Dark
Ranked #13
Ranked #22,590
3.84 | pDev: 11.98%
New Belgium Brewing Company
Colorado, United States
Very Good
Notes: With a surprisingly bright taste and dry, chocolatey finish, it's not a porter, not a stout—it's 1554.

1554 defies the style guidelines of modern beer. Although dark in color, 1554 is not a porter, stout, schwarzbier or bock. Rather, it is a rebirth of a lost beer style called zwert (Flemish for black), which uses gruit for bittering. The oldest reference to zwert beer comes from 1285. However, our brewing inspiration came from a book published in 1554, which was the height of popularity for zwertbeer. First released in 1998, our whimsical improvisation includes a variety of specialty dark malts, a dash of licorice root, and a European lager yeast that's fermented at ale temperatures.

21 IBU
Reviews: 1,445 | Ratings: 4,294 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by KevinL:
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KevinL from Michigan

3.75/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Mar 22, 2020
More User Reviews:
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digitalflood from New York

3.89/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Nov 28, 2019
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Squire from Mississippi

4.06/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark mahogany brown with gold highlights around the edges. Good tan cap and decent lacing.

Herbal, spicy, slightly coffeeish, toffeeish aroma with something like dark figs in the background. Not really catching any hops but these heavy flavors usually cover that up anyway.

Taste on entry is dark toffee quickly followed by the herbal element. Don't know exactly what that element is, perhaps a lager yeast at warmer temperature fermentation has created that but it's in there and it taste good. Mid palate I'm getting more of the plummy, ripe fig influence which is just adding layers to the first impression flavors. Spicy, clove like threads weave in by the finish and linger in the aftertaste along with a touch of coffee but no roast bitterness.

Full texture with balancing carbonation.

Sometimes a dark brew based on roasted malt can throw off some bitterness along with the rich flavors. Not here, the elements I'm describing work together nicely. I don't quite know what kind of animal this is, an ale influenced lager or a lagered ale, but the jammy, figgy, roasty, toasty, clove stuff shout Belgian while it drinks like a strong lager and a good one at that. Complex yet restrained, flavorful yet sophisticated, a whole lotta shakin going on.

Mar 21, 2017
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hopphead31415 from Virginia

4.17/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I love New Belgium and I was excited to pick up this slightly more rare breed known as a Black Lager. This variety has a cool 5.6% ABV and promises to be the crazy uncle to a porter. Let’s take a gulp!

Look-It pours an almost opaque dark color, but you can pierce through this cola-tuxedo hybrid with a strong back light. The hues come out with a reddish copper color. The head is thick, but dissipates quickly into a thin film. The head has a slightly off white color. The lacing is watery and delicate often drooping down and merging with the layers below.

Smell-I get pumpernickel bread and dark chocolate aromas as well as a subtle spiciness that is composed of nutmeg and coriander, I think.

Taste-It has an immediate cola characteristic lending to the chalky and high carbonation content. The taste is definitely malt-forward with less dark chocolate than the smell indicated. It has a noble hop, toasted grain, toffee, a tinge of caramel, a touch of cocoa, and the lightest hoppy dry finish composed of dark roast coffee beans. It is absolutely brilliant!

Mouthfeel-The feel was quite light for such a dark beer and was very similar to a cola with large carbonation bubbles dominating the mouthfeel. The malts produce a very silky smooth and drinkable feel that makes this beer go down very quickly. It doesn’t have a thick syrupy feel that you might expect from something this dark which only adds to the mystery of the brew. It finishes moist and slightly dry with a pleasant coating on the tongue.

Overall-I found this beer to be much more refreshing than I thought. With such a dark variety, I was dreading an overwhelming and thick sweetness that overpowers anything that the beer could offer. Instead I was treated to a moist, accessible, cola-like brew with more smoky and dark fruit flavors that one might expect. And lastly, the rather low alcohol content is a non-issue here, because of all the flavors and also the carbonation gives it a little bite at the end that is almost indistinguishable from alcohol. You must try this beer for yourself! New Belgium never ceases to amaze me!

Jul 25, 2015
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Caveworm from Ohio

4.25/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

1554 Black Lager - New Belgium Brewing, as part of the Folly pack. Poured from the bottle into a pint glass, its got a two finger thick light than head with web like lacing, and a black translucent body.

Smells like more savory of malts, perhaps a spot of caramel from the roasting process.

I can taste roasted, nearly chocolate-y malts, and that bit of caramel I'd mentioned above. Nothing really going on with the hops, but this is a very well balanced brew. Its not as if all of the elements I've described are the only taste you'll get with this beverage, but they are the most prevalent tasting notes I personally am picking up.

The mouthfeel here is clean and smooth. This beer doesn't linger whatsoever, surprisingly.

Overall, I'll give 1554 Black Lager - New Belgium Brewing a 4.25. If it were just a hair more savory, I would have rated this higher. It could certainly have a little more to it; then this would be phenomenal. I may or may not pick this brew up again. It was part of the Folly variety pack recently released around here (Stark County, OH) , so I honestly don't know if its available for individual sale.

Feb 17, 2015
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Pnotuner from Texas

3.87/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Brewmaster should be fired.
I loved this black ale last year. It was dark, mild, malty and a touch sweet.
I just found the new batch at my local grocery. Why did the brew mon feel the need to use hops and ruin it?
The concept and the name of the brew is that it is derived from a recipe that goes back to the monks in 1554. I doubt that it included Hops. But the apparent perception is that everybody loves the taste of some exotic tasting hops.

Apr 01, 2017
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BigDaddyWarbuxx from Iowa

3.93/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A great roast flavor. Obviously it's not as full as you'd find in a stout, but it makes it a more laid-back and drinkable beer. For a black lager this is pretty solid.

Jun 14, 2015
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RoyBrentJr from California

5/5  rDev +30.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

For some reason, I arranged this to follow the Ranger IPA. Needless to say, I took my time—and a large glass of water. xD

Literally everything that Negra Modelo is not, this poured with a two-finger head that hung around for several minutes before virtually disappearing. The color is a deep reddish-brown. The smell may have proven that my nose is wonky; I got black coffee, amaretto and jalapeño, which changed as it warmed to coffee, fudge and roses. Seriously. Taste is black coffee and Kahlua with a finish that's predominantly licorice dipped in saccharine—which is WAY better than it sounds. Creamy, rich mouthfeel. This may be the most complex beer I've ever had and, though I've yet to try a lot of black lagers, this is thus far the gold standard.

(Edit: paired rather unintentionally with what was left of a chili burger; I don't think I'll ever try that again. It was like two comedians at a roast fighting over who gets to tell the darkest joke.)

Sep 19, 2015
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EricLiverpool from England

4.7/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

If you're looking for something a bit different, give 1554 a shot. It's like a stout and a lager had the perfect baby. It has a roasty taste and smell, with a great dark taste and high drinkability.

Nov 14, 2015
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beerinchapelhill from North Carolina

4.5/5  rDev +17.2%

This is the same 1554 beer that New Belgium was labeling as a ale. It was always a lager yeast, it was just illegal to sell lagers above 5% abv in Texas until recently. Now that Texas law has caught up the the rest of the USA, New Belguim is labeling 1554 as a lager.

I love this stuff. The dark roast of the malt makes me imagine of a kind of proto-schwarzbier, that, according to New Belguim, was being brewed in 1554.

Nov 09, 2014
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Lucular from Maryland

4.28/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I've never had a Euro dark lager before so I don't have anything to compare it to but from looking at other beers in the style it's safe to say it wouldn't be one of my favorites. However, this is a really tasty and easy-drinking beer. I wouldn't have guessed I'd be a fan but I could drink several of these if someone put them in front of me...

Jul 24, 2015
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bbtkd from South Dakota

4.09/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New Belgium 1554, 5.6% ABV, 21 IBU. Pours medium viscosity and light black, with a one finger off-white head that left decent lacing. Nose is malty, bready, slightly nutty, taste follows, with very little bitterness. Excellent mouthfeel, overall excellent.

Mar 03, 2017
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Pantalones from Virginia

4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Second (and last) bottle from the fall Folly pack; best-by date is January 17th, 2016.

Pours dark brown, almost the same color as a darker soda (like Coca-Cola), but once in the glass it is much darker in appearance -- nearly black, with some dark brown-red around the edges and in thinner parts of the glass. Beer is clear enough that I can see the light from my phone through it, but it only comes through as a red square -- yep, this is pretty dark. Nice head of tan foam on top, which came close to filling my pint glass upon pouring but has settled down to about a third of its original size, leaving nice trails around the side of the glass as it went. Leaves really nice layers of foam on the outside of the glass as I drink more -- it's looking like I may be able to count how many drinks it took me to finish the glass when I'm done, assuming they hold up as well as they are now! XD

Smell is roasty, chocolaty, and "beery." Not incredibly strong, but present enough that you don't need to stick your nose in the glass to pick up some of the aroma here. A bit of a nuttiness seems to come in toward the end of the glass.

As I seem to be saying a lot lately -- the taste is similar to the smell, but stronger and richer. There's definitely a roasty flavor right away, and then that blends into a more chocolaty sort of thing. The chocolatiness fades a bit quicker than the roastiness though, and there's a slight lingering roasty flavor for a while after swallowing. There's also something a little sweet and almost fruity in there along with the roasty/chocolaty flavors, I didn't notice it on the first sip but it was definitely there in the second. Overall it reminds me a bit of a lighter, milder version of the same brewery's Portage porter, but without the "almost charred" sorts of flavors that at times got slightly harsh in that one. I also don't remember getting that sweetish almost-fruity flavor in that beer. I'm not getting anything that stands out as hoppy or bitter in the least, though I suppose that fruitiness could be from hops? Then again, malt, hops, and yeast can all give off fruity flavors sometimes so it's hard to guess.

Feel is pretty nice as well. Feels more substantial and richer than most paler-colored lagers, which is appropriate given the color and flavors involved, but at the same time it's still fairly light in feel for something so dark in color, and very drinkable. Doesn't quite have that same "soft and bubbly" feel as some other beers from the brewery, but it's still nice.

Overall, this is a very good beer -- an interesting combination of stout/porter (dark color, roasty/chocolate malt flavor) and lager (light/medium bodied, very drinkable) characteristics that just WORKS. I'm glad I got to try a couple bottles from the variety pack, and I'll likely have it again in the future (thankfully it's not actually a winter seasonal as this site's entry claims -- it's in the fall variety packs and was on the shelf through summer where I am, anyway.)

Sep 12, 2015
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Caj1 from Texas

4.18/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I needed a change from strong hoppy beers and since it isn't porter season yet I thought I'd get the next best thing.

12 oz. glass bottle, expiration date 8/29/15. Poured into a mug. Nice caramel-colored head with excellent carbonation from what I can see. Moderate head retention but not a great deal of lacing. Color is deep copper/ruby, black when not backlit.

Smell is pretty deep and fruity with dark roasted notes, sweet bready malt, a touch of hops for earthiness. Caramel and chocolate predominate.

Taste is quite nice and better than expected since some dark lagers can be extremely underwhelming. Chocolate and some fruity esters from malt are noticeable first. A gentle hops bitterness comes up next which helps balance the more cloying fruit notes. I also notice some caramel, and roasted barley flavors round the beer out, and it finished with a rounded sweetness. It does have a coffee note but it isn't overwhelming. Big points for unexpected complexity.

Mouthfeel is very smooth and the beer has a medium body which it maintains through the finish. Not a great deal like a lager in my experience.

I so-far have not been grearly impressed by New Belgium, but this beer is actually not too bad at all for supermarket fare. I enjoyed it quite a bit and was pleasantly surprised that it had a rounded flavor profile, instead of just "light feel with brown flavor." I will pick it up again.

To good health and good beer.

May 27, 2015
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dchoover1987 from Arkansas

4.46/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I love this beer. The head isn't always the same. Some times it looks almost "nitro infused", sometimes it's a here and gone. It has a heavy, dry dark chocolate/caramel taste that ends in a roasted dark coffee flavor, but is a little more "punchy" than other stouts I've had (yes, I know this is a "black lager", but it screams "stout"). Very light hops hints...not heavy or overpowering. I love Stouts and dark beers, so this is a favorite of mine. If they ever made a nitro infused batch....I'd lose my mind. Ah, dreams.

May 12, 2016
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pbnagel from Texas

4.17/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

My first black ale. I was impressed by the drinkability. The smell and taste were the caliber of a high quality beer. A very good beer overall.

May 17, 2002
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KarlHungus from Minnesota

3.47/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer pours a black color. The head is small, and recedes quickly into almost no lacing. The aroma is of smokey caramel, with a hint of dark chocolate. The taste is like the aroma, but not quite as pronounced. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, and mildy watery. The carbonation is high. Overall, this is a decent beer. I would drink this if it were the best thing available.

Jan 27, 2008
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NickMunford from Wyoming

4/5  rDev +4.2%

Jan 22, 2012
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akabealo from Ohio

4.75/5  rDev +23.7%

Jul 09, 2014
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thecheapies from Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. Pouring the contents of the bottle into my Westvleteren goblet, it looks dark brown. The head that caps the beer is beige in color and spotted with big bubbles. So far, it looks like it really wants to lace. 4.0

I smell musty Belgian dark ale yeast, some bitter almond, faint cherry or plum, and a light milk chocolate aroma. Simple, yet forcing my smile. 4.0

More chocolate tones burst about with a spicy yeast muscle. Some fruit showing, your usual dark fruit varieties. A little clove and a little sourdough bread highlighting the malt/yeast combat. A light spritzy hop character simply provides bitterness. Earthy/clay notes comprise more of the brew. 4.0

Medium-high carbonation is of note. There's a strike of alcohol on the breath of the beer. No complaints on the body; nothing too heavy or thick for just a simple Belgian dark, but that's not to say that there isn't some depth. And, with that depth comes smoothness. 4.0

Not my favorite style (I prefer my Belgian darks to be strong), but this is nothing short of quality. It doesn't surprise me with New Belgium. I don't care for the blatant American twist on a Belgian style in the way that many craft brewers do tripels or pales. This is legit. Maybe a relief as most Belgian darks from the home country are swimming in yeast esters. This ale is complex enough to make you stop and muster up what you can in between sips, yet drinkable enough to forget that you're writing a beer review. I support you drinking this beer. 4.0

Apr 20, 2012
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shawnohall from Texas

4/5  rDev +4.2%

Aug 27, 2013
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boilermakerbrew from Indiana

4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Poured nearly opaque, in a very dark brown hue. Two finger tannish head. Pretty foamy, stuck around a bit and laced very nicely.

S- Not really strong, but fairly complex. A lot of chocolate there as well as a bit of burnt smell. Mostly chocolate though.

T- Lots of chocolate and burnt malt notes, just like the smell. Little bit of hops bitterness at the end. Heavier on the burnt than the smell. Fairly complex with a clean, crisp, slightly hopped finish.

M- Nothing terrific here. A little thicker than most, but nothing out of line with the style. Fairly silky going down, and very sessionable.

Overall, I'm probably going to get this again. It's a little more pricey than some of the other similar brews I've had, but a very solid brew.

Nov 03, 2011
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Kharkov from Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev +17.2%

Mar 22, 2012
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intensify from Colorado

4.03/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a thick and heavy Cola-colored body. Off-white, 3 finger head(even with a tilted glass) and good retention. Packed plenty of lacing for the whole summer.

S- Dark fruits, caramel, biscuit, toffee, roasted malts and a microscopic hint of hops.

T- Follows close to the smell. A coat of dark fruits and roasted malts up front, then the biscuity/bready finish blends it well all while hiding the alcohol. Rich, warm and inviting tones of toffee and dark chocolate add to the style.

M- Full bodied, creamy mouthfeel reminds me of a shake. Packs a small amount of carbonation, too.

This one caught me off guard. Drinks like a thick, creamy milkshake and tastes like the dark fruits and biscuit which you expect from a Fat Tire. I found a new friend.

Jun 01, 2012
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WhatAlesMe from Wisconsin

5/5  rDev +30.2%

Mar 24, 2012
1554 from New Belgium Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 4294 ratings