The world’s favorite day of drink is upon us, so we caught up with Guinness Master Brewer Fergal Murray during his recent trip to Boston to talk about Irish-style grub, the perfect way to enjoy Guinness Black Lager and what it was like to pour a pint for the Queen.
When you’re in Boston, where do you enjoy Guinness?
There are so many good draft outlets in Boston—so many places that pour great pints. One of the top three in the world is Mr. Dooley’s. It’s got great atmosphere, with great craic. It’s out in the suburbs, and they’re doing a great job pouring a perfect pint.
What do you look for in a pub?
You never want to be disappointed by the bartender, and the pints should be poured correctly. You always drink with your eyes first, so the beer should look stunning, like a supermodel.
How did you get your start with Guinness?
You can come in through different routes. I came in as a scientist, but I found it a bit boring. I was young, keen and eager and wanted to show my mettle. It all happened for me in the brewery. That’s where I fell in love with making Guinness. I love the whole excitement of getting it ready to go out the gate. It took 10 years to get really acquainted as a brewer. It took another five years to become a master brewer, and it’s a life-long title.
Does the role of master brewer come with its share of pressure?
It can be pressurized, because you are the face of Guinness. Pouring a pint for the Queen was definitely the most stressful thing I’ve done. The whole room went quiet, but I nailed it and got a standing ovation. I have photographs on the wall at home. She was mesmerized by the look as the beer came into the glass.
Where do the more experimental ideas like Guinness Black Lager come from?
If the market wants something, we’ll do it. The American market wanted another product, so we put the Guinness character into a lager. We’ve got things going on all day long, and we’ve got the capability to make any beer. Research goes into mash times, different cereals, different yeast, high and low gravity brewing—just a thousand different ways of doing things. It’s an efficiency optimization program, really. There’s also a lot of thought and theory going on in the brewhouse. It’s a very scientific kind of place.
Is there a perfect way to enjoy Black Lager?
The best way to drink Black Lager is out of the bottle, cold, while you’re watching a match. Drink a pint of Guinness at the pub, but bottles at home.
Is there any beer other than Guinness in your fridge at home?
I’ve got some Smithwicks, and I do like a bottle of lager now and again, usually Carlsberg. But I just love going out for a pint. I’m a social animal. I don’t have kids, so I slog it down to the pub. Any chance, man. Give us a shout.
What’s your take on St. Patrick’s Day in the States?
You’ve got to love it. It’s a party and a fun day—a day when everyone wants to be Irish. If you’re going to be anywhere in the world on March 17, you’ve got to be in America. New York is amazing.
What about celebrating in Dublin?
There’s only one place to be in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day: The Storehouse at the Guinness brewery. Have a few pints at the Storehouse, then go find yourself in one of the great pubs. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 365 days of the year. We’re a phenomenal race: Through thick and thin, we always have a little bit of fun.
Do you have a favorite dish to pair with a pint?
I’m always in heaven with 12 oysters and a pint of Guinness. Any seafood, like shrimp or crab, goes naturally with the beer. Then again, I don’t mind having a burger or beef stew. They’re so warming they need a pint of Guinness to help them go down.