My Interview with Guinness Brewmaster Fergal Murray

Monday during my Kate the Great Day live blog I received an email asking if I wanted to have a phone interview with Guinness Brewmaster Fergal Murray. Let’s just say Monday was a pretty big day in beer for me. I got the chance to interview Fergal due to my involvement in Guinness’ Biggest St. Patrick’s Day Party promotion. This ends 3/17 and for every (free) pledge submitted at using the promo code SEAC I am donating $1 to Pints for Prostates. Please take the 1 minute and pledge today. On to the interview! I will include audio clips as well (flash needed) if you would like to hear the responses.

What is it that sets Guinness apart from other beers?

  • Quality of the pint
  • Quality of the product
  • The history
  • Distinctive taste of the roasted barley and hops
  • Consistency of the the final product that we have to have globally
  • Perfect pint

What is the demographic of your best customers.
“We understand the main bunch of people who drink Guinness are people who are matured in their drinking habits. People that understand what flavor means and the confidence in the approach that Guinness can give them. But we do love looking toward the younger group. Hence our new variant, Black Lager. This is a beer for people who are on the Lager journey, can step into.”

How has the US reaction to the Black Lager been?

“We loved it, I loved it. We gave a few choices to the markets to pick one they really like. When we said we were going to make a lager we wanted to make it special. I knew it was special but when it gets into the marketplace you don’t know what way it’s going to go. So far, feedback has been amazing. It’s the surprise people get when they first taste it. They say a lager doesn’t normally taste much like this, but this product gives you that effervescence and refreshment but also that wonderful taste. When you see people drinking it for the first time go, “oh my god, you can actually make lagers like this?” and that’s the greatest compliment anybody can say to it.”

“Fergal can’t take all the glory, but we have a grand team of people. We do brews all day long in our research facility. We have things going on all the time. When the market says “can you give us something new and innovative” we go into this little [Pandora’s] box and put the idea in front of them. When they say “yes” we refine it and manage it. It’s getting it into the brewery that’s key thing. Moving out of the design phase into the production phase is where I get involved. We learned an awful lot from making black lager because it set a new set of standards for us and gave us a new set of ideas/approach.”

Craft beer is booming in the US, as you know, with different craft brewery’s springing up every month (in my area alone). Do you notice any need to adjust your marketing plan in areas where new breweries are started?
“It’s great that people are trying out brewing. Some of them are doing it for the interest of beer and it helps everybody. Hopefully they try one of our beers and realize the quality and consistency is higher than anybodies in the world. They want to be like us, in lots of ways. Hope some of them survive through the longevity of their lives. They need to get consistent in what they are doing and always maintain high quality.”

“There is some guidelines they need to have. When the wind turns against them, will they still be there? I love to help them out at any stage, and I’m always available to give advice and help these young guys and girls. We aren’t against them, we love them. Brewers stick together.”

It’s commonplace for small brewers in the US to start with one brewery and continue to move around to other breweries throughout their career. For someone who’s been with Guinness for 26/27 years, what keeps you brewing for Guinness?
“I’m on my 28th year. No where else I want to go. Hard to move on, great product, life.”

For those turning 21 before St Pats day, Any professional advice to those individuals who are about to have their first Guinness?
“Everybody’s first St. Patrick’s Day is an interesting journey for people.”

  • This is a responsible drinking day, hold fire and don’t go too far
  • Enjoy the experience
  • Make sure you go to a pub that has a reputation of pouring a great pint. Make sure it is crafted behind the bar. You can go on YouTube or or website to see how a perfect pint should be poured, don’t let them get away with anything else at the bars
  • Observe how other people are consuming it
  • Drink behind the head and into the liquid to enjoy the flavor and don’t be intimidated by the color
  • Remember that there is less calories and alcohol in Guinness than most beers
  • Join in on the celebration of the greatest party in the world

What are some of your favorite pubs in Ireland/US?

  • Dick Mack’s of Dingle
  • Doheny and Nesbitts
  • Ulysses- NYC
  • Old Bar- NY
  • Arnolds- est. 1861- Downtown Cincinnati. Gorgeous. Love coming across these little ones that blow my mind.

This is the final push to get pledges to drink a pint of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. Use promo code SEAC. Promotion ends 3/17!