Friday, March 16, 2007

TLM Interviews Guinness Brew Master, Fergal Murray

”Considering it took 248 years to get it so wonderful, we do a few secret things,” confides Guinness Brew Master, Fergal Murray who fell in love with brewing beer nearly 24 years ago. He explains that to become a Master Brewer incorporates both science and art, and can take 10 years of experience to successfully pass the standardized exams at the Institute of Brewery in the UK.

Accomplished in his field, the company sent Murray to Nigeria, to oversee the first Guinness brewery outside the Emerald Isle. He says that the people there came to regard the stout as their own and even asked Fergal why the main brewery is in Ireland, instead of Africa. That sort of brand loyalty has helped Guinness grow to have breweries in 49 countries, and distribute its products to 147 nations. Top markets include the UK, Ireland, Nigeria, US and Ghana.

Fergal still enjoys “dabbling” in the brewing itself, though most of his time these days is spent traveling around the world, talking about products and teaching bar professionals to achieve the “Perfect Pint.” He says that the Guinness experience is as much visual as it is flavorful, claiming, “People drink with their eyes, first.”

According to Fergal, the perfect beer begins with its environment. Guinness should be stored at 38 – 42 degrees Fahrenheit. The bar equipment should be set up with the right amount of gas to push the rich nectar through the draft spout and, of course, clean lines and glasses are integral.

The bartender can then craft "the perfect pint” via 6 steps:
  • start with a 20 ounce tulip glass. (Fergal says this design is optimum for the aerodynamic flow of the bubbles.)
  • hold it at a 45 degree angle, under the beer faucet
  • allow a smooth flow until glass is 3/4 filled
  • allow the extra bubbles to settle and the creamy head to form
  • top up, creating a domed effect, a “proud head”
  • present to the customer
With Spring approaching, and St. Patty’s Day this weekend, I was particularly interested getting to the bottom of rumors that Guinness is less fattening than many paler ales and lagers. Fergal confirmed that Guinness has roughly the calorie equivalent of orange juice. It is also lighter in alcohol than Smithwicks, brewed by the same company but geared toward the taste for higher alcohol content in the American market.

This weekend, no doubt, the Irish brews will flood US streets, from coast to coast. Irish people in the US have celebrated their heritage since early immigrants first held parties in Boston. Fergal is celebrating the feast day of Ireland’s Patron Saint in the Big Apple, enjoying its famous parade.

Fergal says that enjoying a pint of Guinness with friends is well-suited to the social atmosphere of Ireland. “Over the years, I look at the people enjoying our beer, and I feel like their expectation becomes my responsibility to make it perfect.” This weekend, he’ll no doubt get validation that he succeeds in meeting those expectations.


District Chatter said...

Ah...Guiness. TLM, you have hit on my fav beer! Have a Happy St. Patty's Day! said...

Happy St. Patty's Day to you! I have a feeling I'll be guzzling Guinness, too, this weekend. (I hear its good for my diet... ;-)

Scenic Artisan said...

fascinating. nigeria? who knew?