What made you want to go into brewing? "There wasn't that much of a choice, really, to be fair now. I qualified with a degree in chemistry from Trinity College in Dublin in 1983, and the Irish economy, a bit like today, was such that all my class apart from me had to go abroad. I got lucky, I suppose, because I had done some student training at the Guinness brewery and they offered me a job as a research chemist. Sitting round doing things in a white coat didn't really cut it, so I saw the opportunity to get into the brewing department, and I just jumped into that and fell in love with the operations side of brewing."
How did you get the gig as global ambassador? "What happened is I got an opportunity to go to the United States with Guinness as its quality director type of thing, to manage our draught growth in America. I thought, as a young man sent to America, 'Woah, this is fantastic!' So I sort of drifted into a different world there, more marketing, more sales oriented. I did that for a couple of years, then came back and re-entered the brewing world in Dublin. But because of my US activity, if anyone was visiting, [I would be told], 'Fergal, listen, there's a couple of visitors in from China …' I became known as the person to go to if you wanted to know anything about beer, or tour the brewery, or anything knowledge-based. So suddenly I became a resource for all the marketing teams around the world who wanted information, because up until then they couldn't get hold of any at all. So, I created my own role - I've become the face of the brand, and a credible source to be able to deliver the right message to our consumers and customers."
What Chinese food would go well with a pint of the black stuff? "The Chinese style of cooking is obviously different from the Irish style, but some of the products - chicken, roasted elements, deep-fried elements, some of the sweet-sour foods - would go well with Guinness. It would go brilliantly with fresh fish, shellfish, oysters. And you can use it in your batter for deep-frying."