Early this year New Belgium changed the labels for all its beers. You probably noticed this already. But what you might not have noticed is a slight change to 1554.
Now, we're not talking about the beer itself. It remains the same (which is to say it's still the delicious, crisp brew you've known and loved). We're simply talking about the description of the beer on its label. If you've had a 1554 in the last decade you'll know that it was labeled an "Enlightened Black Ale." The new labels now say "Black Lager."
To be clear, both labelings are correct. (Kind of.) See, 1554 is brewed with a lager yeast, but at an ale temperature. It's a unique beer brewed using a unique process, and classifying it in either category leaves something to be desired.
So, why was it traditionally referred to as an ale? Well, the answer is Texas. Yeah. Texas.
Until recently Texas had a law stating that any beer with an ABV over 5 percent must either be labeled an ale or a malt liquor. Since 1554 is kind of an ale — and because we wanted to sell 1554 in Texas — we labeled it an "Enlightened Black Ale."
The law was ruled (by Judge Sam Sparks, who seems like a nice guy) unconstitutional in December of 2011, and brewers everywhere rejoiced.
We took the new labels as an opportunity to change the wording on 1554, labeling it a "Black Lager." We feel it's a more appropriate classification for the beer (though not perfect). Again, the beer hasn't changed, only the labeling.
Did I just give you a great bar story or what? Seriously. You'll impress everyone you know with A) your knowledge of 1554 and B) your knowledge of Texas liquor law (which I admit isn't the hottest conversational commodity, but at least it's something).
Cheers — Nic The Intern