Saturday 25 November 2017

Swigging black beer in a car park at 10am -- yes, this is a strange job . . .

Guinness master brewer Fergal Murray (left) with Ian O'Doherty at the launch of Guinness Black Lager outside the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin yesterday
Guinness master brewer Fergal Murray (left) with Ian O'Doherty at the launch of Guinness Black Lager outside the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin yesterday
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

SO THERE I am. It's 10am and I'm standing in a car park just off Francis Street swigging from a bottle of beer.

And while there are plenty of people (mainly teachers) who will have read that line and thought that I'd always end up as a bum who drinks in car parks early in the morning, this time I have an excuse.

It was for work. Honestly.

Yup, you know you work in a strange job when you're told to turn up in a car park at that time of day and start drinking.

But this was the first official sip of Guinness Black Lager to be had in the Republic of Ireland.

And, for some odd, unfathomable reason, when the Indo news desk was offered an exclusive chance to taste this new beer, they picked me. Funny that.

Now I must confess that I'm a Beck's drinker, and the only time I now drink Guinness is when I'm in the company of my father-in-law, in what is a rather feeble attempt to appear manly.

So, mixing a traditional stout with a lager?

Are they insane?

Well, according to master brewer, Fergal Murray, this is merely the latest in a long line of innovations from Guinness.

And let's be honest here, that's not a particularly auspicious list. The most famous flop was, of course, Guinness Light, which came burdened with the unfortunately self-fulfilling slogan: "They said it couldn't be done." And they were right.

"It's a different culture, a different society now," says Mr Murray. "People are much more interested in flavour and taste. You can see that people's palates are more open to new experiences, be it in food or drink."

Mr Murray describes the research and development department in St James's Gate as a hub of innovation, laughing that: "There are lots of sealed black boxes up there with all the secrets and tests done over hundreds of years".

But why on earth would Guinness, one of the most iconic brands in the world, want to get involved in lager?

After all, aren't stout and lager mortal enemies?

Well, according to Mr Murray, "when I go out for a few pints on a Friday night I will always only drink Guinness. But there are times when I'm at home and I fancy cracking open a bottle of something lighter.

"This is something that is very refreshing and full of flavour. It's perfect for, say, a barbecue or something like that."

Of course, the fact that this is the most miserable summer since Noah decided it might a good idea to build himself a boat, means that few of us are likely to get the opportunity to try it with a barbie.

The new black beer will be sold in packs of four bottles for €6.79. So, what's it like?

Well, the first sip tasted like some sort of weird, hybrid fizzy Guinness. The malt taste hits the tongue first, followed by the bubbles and then the back of the throat gets the hint of barley.

Ah yes, I hear you say -- but did you like it? Well, in all honesty, it's not something I would rush out to buy, but I will freely admit that it is a beer I'd recommend to people who drink Guinness but fancy something a bit lighter during the summer. But then again, what do I know?

I'm only the bloke who finds himself necking booze in a car park at 10 in the morning. As I said, it really is a strange job at times. . .

Irish Independent

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