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St. Pat's Preview: Guinness's nearest and beerest hits Chicago tonight

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Amalie Drury

It's my job to write about Chicago and all of its people, places and things. If it's new and it's cool, I'm checking it out.

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Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray, who will judge the Pour the Perfect Pint competition at Grace O'Malley's tonight.

There's a competition for everything, I guess--ugliest dog, extreme ironing, worm charming--but it never crossed my mind that somewhere, some people are going head-to-head over beer pouring. Tonight, that somewhere is Chicago, as the St. Patrick's Day festivities swing into action and Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray presides over a "pour the perfect pint" competition at Grace O'Malley's in the South Loop. Here, five questions for the man who knows a lot more about beer than I do, and lives to promote the heck out of some Guinness: 

What does the title 'Brewmaster' mean? What are your job responsibilities? 
The first is to ensure that every ounce of Guinness that leaves St. James Gate is of the finest quality, because people around the world have come to expect as much. The second part of my job is traveling the world, educating people on the proper way to serve and enjoy Guinness, including the fundamentals of the Perfect Pour.

Your name, Fergal Murray, sounds just about right for a brewmaster. What's the most Irish thing about you? 
My name and my connection to Ireland's most famous export. 

I hear you pour the perfect pint. What's the process?
You need a clean, dry glass--preferably a 20 oz. Guinness pint glass. Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and never allow the spout to touch the glass. Pull the tap handle down and allow beer to fill the glass. You will see the surge commence. Allow the nitrogen bubbles to create theater and a wonderful surge event with a beautiful creamy head. The final step is the top up, when the beer has settled and there's a distinct gap between dark liquid and head. The glass is topped slowly to create a domed effect with the head proud of the glass. Give the perfect pint to the adoring customer.  

OK, wow. Well, do you think Chicago's St. Patrick's Day traditions are over the top? I mean, do we really deserve to act all Irish and dye our river green? 
It's absolutely not over the top. It's about bringing people together to celebrate and enjoy one another's company in a responsible manner. In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is more of a family-type holiday. The celebrations aren't quite as large. But that's not to say I don't love how passionately Chicagoans and Americans in general celebrate the day. 

Do you ever get sick of drinking beer? 
I never tire of the taste of a perfectly crafted pint of Guinness. 

Pour the Perfect Pint competition, 9PM, Grace O'Malley's, 1416 S. Michigan Ave.

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