Black lagers are becoming more popular as established brands branch out and smaller craft operations search for a seasonal winner. Here's a side-by-side look at three offerings now on shelves.

Black lagers are becoming more popular as established brands branch out and smaller craft operations search for a seasonal winner. Here's a side-by-side look at three offerings now on shelves.

Brewery: Guinness

Beer: Black Lager

ABV: 4.5 percent

Web: guinness.com

Purpose of release: The world's leading stout producer said this year that it wants to increase its presence in the United States. This lager - marketed by some hyperbolic Facebook ads - is a main strategy.

Tasting notes: This beer was so bland that it was difficult to take any notes. Nothing except color set it apart from your average light American lager.

Brewery: Shiner

Beer: Bohemian Black Lager

ABV: 4.9 percent

Web: shiner.com

Purpose of release: Initially crafted to celebrate the 97th birthday of the Spoetzl Brewery - the Texas facility where Shiner is produced - the Bohemian's now available all year long.

Tasting notes: A slight malty sweetness was a welcome treat, yet the beer had almost none of the burnt flavors or complexity you might expect from a black beer.

Winner

Brewery: Magic Hat

Beer: Howl

ABV: 4.6 percent

Web: magichat.net

Purpose of release: This seasonal built for the winter solstice is, the brewery website insists, "born of dark and cold and snow in the marrow of the northeast's longest night."

Tasting notes: Substantial burnt and coffee notes emerged after opening the cap, a welcome characteristic missing from competitors. This was a remarkably good version of the style - coffee-tinged character combined with lager refreshment.