Secrets of the famous Irish stout
By Hope S. Philbrick
Even if you haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland—in which case we highly recommend adding it to your dream destination list—odds are that you’re familiar with Guinness stout.
During a phone chat, Master Brewer Fergal Murray shared some details about the famous beverage.
During his tenure as master brewer for Guinness, Fergal Murray has introduced a number of innovations aimed at bringing the authentic taste of Guinness to more people around the world—including, for two examples, the floating widget device in cans that helps emulate the taste and creamy head of Guinness Draught, and the Surger that uses small sound vibrations to release the nitrogen gas in the beer and cause a cascading effect, also referred to as “the surge and settle.”
A: Not many, only a few. I don’t know the exact number because people do leave the company though they do of course have that confidentiality piece [of a signed contract to honor]. There are up to four master brewers, but really it’s about the passion to make great beer that counts. A recipe is one thing, but it’s actually putting love into it that’s key. That’s what you learn as a craftsman: No matter what it’s about the soul you give to it. It’s where you get enjoyment that all comes back.
Q: From grain to bottle, how long does it take to make a batch of Guinness?
A: It’s eight days to keg, for bottle it takes a bit longer depending on the market. It’s a very quick brewing process because our yeast is very special as it operates at a higher temperature. Ours is a very unique process. A stout ferments at 24 degrees which is unique compared to lager beers.
Q: Where does the U.S. rank in consumption of Guinness?
A: The biggest market in the world in terms of volume is Great Britain. Second is Nigeria. Ireland is third. After that it’s Guiana. The U.S. is fifth but growing. The new Guinness Black Lager product is helping with our growth.
Q: Tell me about the new Guinness Black Lager.
A: It’s our new little baby, a cold-brewed lager with roasted barley character coming through. It’s sold only in bottles and is out in the U.S. People love the new taste, which is completely different though brewed in the same brewery as Guinness. It’s not a yellow beer but has the lager taste, effervescence and is refreshing. We don’t want people to give up our Guinness stout but try our new products as well. Try it and see–most people have an ‘oh-my-god’ experience because it’s so different from Guinness and has an interesting kick in the back of the throat. It’s in a silver and blue bottle that’s very contemporary and flashy.
Q: Any other new products in the works?
A: There’s always something coming out somewhere around the world, we’re always innovating. But we only recently launched the Guinness Black Lager six months ago so it will be awhile before we pitch anything new in North America.
Q: You recommend a six-step process for pouring a perfect pint. What are the steps?
A: I invented that so it’s consistent, pub to pub. People love pints of Guinness and I want to see the perfect pour crafted because you drink with your eyes first. There’s visual impact of the dark ruby red color topped with a creamy head. First off, you need a 20-ounce branded pint glass. Hold it at a 45-degree angle. Flow into it nice and slow. Fill only three-quarters of the way up and watch it surge and settle and come alive with gas bubbles on the glass. Then top up the dome. And then present it so the customer can see the beautiful Guinness.
Q: So is there a perfect way to drink Guinness?
A: Drink with your eyes first, taking in the beauty of the pour. Then raise your glass proud and take a healthy first sip; always with your eyes to the horizon. [Savor the sweetness of the malt and the roasted flavor of the barley, and then take in the explosion of hop flavor.]
For more information visit www.guinness.com/.
-Photo Credits: Pint courtesy Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant; Fergal Murray courtesy Guinness.