There are 4,000,000 pints of Guinness made each day at the St. James Gate Brewery in Ireland. Before you sip one in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, belly up with Fergal Murray, Guinness’s master brewer, who recently came to DC to check out who pours the perfect pint—and to lobby Congress to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.
After ten years with Guinness, you became a master brewer. What’s involved in that?
“You’ve got to learn your trade. Anyone can sit and take an exam to become a master brewer, but you really need to spend years floating around the departments to learn how it all works: the brewing, the bottling, the production, how to meet the demands of the global market, the whole process. The accreditation isn’t an easy task. It’s like a master’s degree.”
Tell me about the six-step process to pouring the perfect pint.
“Start with a clean, dry glass. Hold it at a 45-degree angle under the tap. Don’t let the spout touch the beer or the glass. Open the tap and let the beer flow in smoothly until the glass is three-quarters of the way full. Straighten the glass and let the beer settle so the head can build and strengthen. Top off the glass so you create a dome with the head.”
Who in Washington pours a perfect pint?
“I did a whirlwind tour to see how some of the local bartenders are doing. I went to Fadó, James Hoban’s, McFaddens, Four Courts, and the Irish Channel. They’re all doing a fantastic job.”
If there’s a way to pour the perfect pint? Is there a way to drink it?
“You want to hold it so you can drink through the head. You don’t want to drink the head. It’s not a cappuccino. Leave the cream for the last moment.”
One of the reasons you’re here in DC is because of Proposition 317. Tell us about that.
“We’re asking Congress to declare St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday. I was at an event the other day with a number of congressmen. They all learned how to pour the perfect pint and seemed to support the idea of a national holiday. And why not? If you take the spirit of the day, what does that mean? It’s about being friendly and letting the cares of the world go away.”
How is St. Patrick’s Day typically celebrated in Ireland?
“Americans really put the celebration into it. We can be Irish 365 days of the year, so we don’t have to cram it all in on one day. We have parades and a family day. It’s more like your Independence Day. We don’t all end up in a pub.”
What are you doing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
“I have to work a little bit. I’m heading up to New York to ring the stock-exchange bell. Then I’ll have a pint to wish St. Patrick a happy birthday.”
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