Guinness Black Lager, tested recently in both Northern Ireland and Malaysia, is the company’s first foray into the craft beer market, with the fabled Irish brewer looking to develop a beer with the taste of a lager and the character of Guinness.
With the US launch of the new product nearing, Guinness’ master brewer Fergal Murray is a man with beer on his mind. He recently sat down with The Irish Emigrant at Boston’s Westin Hotel for a chat about the new bottled product.
“When served ice cold, it’s effervescent and crisp like a natural lager,” Murray says of Black Lager, which is light and crisp with a hint of malt and a slight hop finish.
“Then you get that wonderful back of the throat character that is unique to Guinness.”
The lager, which will have a dark black color and a 4.5% ABV, is packaged in 11.2 oz bottles with blue and silver accents. Murray sees it as taking Guinness down a road it has not yet traveled, with the US seen as an ideal launch pad as craft beers enjoy a renaissance here.
His enthusiasm for all things Guinness should come as no surprise, having spent some 28 years brewing “the black stuff.” Asked how he landed a job most could only dream of, he says it was not expected.
“I got a job back in the ‘80s,” he said of a time when not many Irish were finding things easy. “It was a tough time in Ireland and I was very lucky to get a job at the brewery. From there, the magic of St. James’s Gate took over.”
St. James’s Gate, of course, is the legendary Dublin site where Guinness is made. According to lore, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the brewery in 1759 at ?45 per year; some call it one of the shrewdest business decisions in history.
These days, Murray sees himself as more of an ambassador for Guinness, but says he does miss the hands-on aspect of brewing. Genuinely excited about the launch, he says he cannot wait to see how people react to Guinness Black Lager.
Asked if the new beer will “travel”, he elaborated on how it won’t change as it makes its way across the globe, but might taste slightly different in Ireland, for obvious reasons.
“When you come to the home of Guinness, your expectations naturally rise,” he said of the effect surroundings can have on the palate. “Your senses are a bit more aware. It’s like drinking Burgundy while in the Burgundy region of France or having tequila in Mexico.”
Guinness Black Lager, to be enjoyed ice cold straight from the bottle, will launch across the US in September, with pricing in line with other premium import beers.