The journey to the creation of a beer/stout/ale or lager is best told by the creator.
Yesterday, I got the privilege to speak to Peter Simpson, one of the Guinness Master brewers based at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland – the home of Guinness on the creation of the new Guinness Smooth. The Smooth is set to hit the market after the launch event will be held at Simba Union Club in Kisumu tomorrow.
Here’s the story of the Peter Simpson & the Guinness Smooth:
Kindly start by telling us who you are and what you do
My name is Peter Simpson, head brewer for Guinness based at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, the experimental brewery in St James’s Gate, the home of Guinness. I’ve been there for 12 years, where I’m part of a Guinness initiative that encourages innovation by its talented team of expert brewers. We basically have the task of creating new products like the Guinness Smooth & Hop House 13 and exploring new recipes while drawing inspiration from the two and a half centuries of expertise contained in the Guinness archives.
It’s quite the interesting job, if I do say so myself.
Why did you want to be a brewer?
I originally didn’t (laughs). My story into brewing started with my dad who used to brew at home. He had this barrel at home and I got fascinated by all the things he could try out. I then went to the university to do chemical engineering and I became friends with a couple of brewers there & I came back to Ireland looking for a job; I happened to find one at Guinness and 12 years later here we are.
What does your day in the life as a brewer look like?
It varies quite a bit. There are days like this, where I interact with the media; there are days where I’m getting my hands dirty at the plant and brewing a beer.
Within the experimental brewery we have a bar where we push at least three new beers every month on tap for consumers to try so that keeps us busy. I also work a lot with problem solving for some of the breweries so I spend quite some time on conference calls with them, I also travel to a lot of breweries to bring new products to life.
You were instrumental in the development of Hop House 13, a lager launched a few weeks ago in Kenya & you worked closely with the team in Ghana to develop new Guinness Smooth that’s launching this weekend. Why did you decide to go this direction seeing as these products are totally different from what we’re used to from Guinness
Everyone knows Guinness as a brewer of stout and everyone thinks Guinness as black but we also wanted to give people choice in a range of beers as well as making people aware that we’re brewers of great beer, not just great brewers of stout. We wanted to bring out the fact that we can create beers of any style to the same criteria that we hold Guinness to, so these two products are entirely different but still have the bold flavour, character and are made of more.
The Guinness Smooth has been described as a new expression of Guinness. What does that mean?
It’s part of the Guinness family and it still has the cues from Guinness but still a distinct beer on its own.
The beer itself is black and it’s got a chocolate character from the roast barley, which actually gives it its black colour. It gives a full rounded palate with malt and roast characteristics and a unique and perfect balance of bitter and sweet flavour making it the perfect partner for spicy foods and BBQs.
(All the Guinness everywhere in the world has roast barley is created in Dublin and shipped all over to make sure that everyone has the same roast element)
The amount of roast you use and how you use it can give you different flavours ranging from chocolate through to really dark roast coffee 🤯, so for Smooth, we use the roast barley in a particular way and amount to give us a more chocolate character.
When you smell the Guinness Smooth, you initially get butterscotch and toffee and chocolate and when you taste it, it’s really velvety and smooth in your mouth. You also get the chocolate notes and that unforgettable Guinness taste at the end which leaves your palette quite refreshed. It doesn’t linger and last very long and it just invites you to take another sip.
It’s also the perfect partner for spicy foods and BBQs?
The way to get the perfect balance in beer is in around balancing the hops (that gives the bitterness) and malt (that gives you sweetness). Dialing both of them up and down in different intensities gives you different styles of beer. So for the Smooth, we’ve got the perfect balance of bitter and the sweet with the butterscotch character – and this is the reason why Smooth works so well with spicy foods – its sweetness that kinda dulls and cleans spicy flavours. The roast character from the barley also complements the roast flavour that you get from BBQs.
Most ladies tend to shy away from Guinness because of its distinctively dark colour and would tend to go for an ale or a cider. Has this been the case with the Smooth?
Not at all, actually the responses we’ve gotten are ‘Finally a Guinness I can drink‘.
Obviously a lady who takes wine won’t jump into the Smooth overnight, but for those who occasionally partake in beer, find the Guinness Smooth to be a Guinness they can drink and I personally think it’s because of the balance of the chocolate sweetness and the roast that collectively gives it an appealing offering.
This doesn’t mean that the Smooth has alienated male drinkers. There’s enough character for the male drinkers to still say that it’s a bold and masculine drink.
How do you know that a beer has or hasn’t made the cut?
It really comes down to making sure that we as brewers are happy about it and we as brewers think that it’s worthy of Arthur Guinness’ signature. Would Arthur Guinness be happy about that beer? If we think that, then it makes the cut.