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Where does the Guinness man go on vacation?

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

Fergal Murray's job is to visit about 400 Irish pubs worldwide every year...

As one of eight master brewers for Guinness, the Irish stout maker, Murray is an international ambassador for the brand. This year he expects to hopscotch Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean over the course of about 20 weeks. He will, as always, be thanking pub owners for selling Guinness and offering tips on how to store and pour the beverage.

Given his broad travel experience, Murray knows by heart a variety of spots worth visiting. His favorite place to take his family on vacation is Quinta do Lago, an oceanside resort town in Algarve, the most southern region of Portugal. Last year he went there with his wife and their two sons, a one-year old and a four-year old. Here's what he has to say about the place:

"I would recommend it for American families for a few reasons. First, the town's restaurants and hotels are set up to entertain small children. You can walk into any restaurant with two kids and let the kids be themselves without feeling self-conscious as a parent. The pools are designed to be safe for children, and there's always someone around to mind them. Second, the weather's good and the beaches are fantastic. Third, it's a favorite destination of Irish and British families, but I'd be totally surprised if any American family visits there. So if you are an American visiting the town, you will truly feel like you are visiting another country because none of your fellow citizens will be near you, while you'll still enjoy the benefits of child-friendly facilities and English-speaking staff."

While I chatted with Murray, I had a few pressing questions to ask that weren't precisely travel related, but he was kind enough to answer them anyway...

Is there any downside to your job as master brewer?

I can't stand being served a bad pint. And this causes a problem when I'm out with my wife and two kids. I'll be served a bad pint--It even happens in Dublin from time to time--and I'll want to throttle them. My wife will say, "You're not going to do that, now are you?" and then she'll go off somewhere else because she doesn't want to hear any more about How to Pour the Perfect Guinness, and she knows it's going to take an hour for me to instruct the bartenders. Maybe they need to clean the lines, or change the mix of gas, or make sure that someone behind the bar is fully engaged, instead of looking at blond at the end of the bar.

How does a person become a Guinness master brewer?

There's a bit of drinking involved, of course. But primarily it's a process, a craft. You join Guinness at some stage of your life, and you experience it, and when you've experienced enough, you take exams and get accredited by an external organization. It takes about ten years of experience, and the exams are fairly challenging, covering everything from running a power plant to the chemistry of beer.

You spent three years in Nigeria working for Guinness. What was the deal with that?

In Nigeria, they don't have the same infrastructure, generally speaking, for serving draft Guinness at the ideal temperature. So we concentrated on marketing our beer by the bottle. The Guinness stout sold there is about 7.5 percent alcohol, while in the 'States it's about 5 percent and in Europe it's about 5.5 percent. We vary the alcohol level primarily to accommodate local tastes and regulations and storage methods.

What's your favorite pub in Quinta do Lago?

De Barra. It has an outside deck, great beer, and great craic (the Irish term for good conversation).

Learn more about Algarve and Quinta do Lago at VisitPortugal.com. For discounted travel to Portugal, check out a recent Real Deal for airfare and a week in Lisbon and Porto from $1,044.

Earlier: Learn about kid-friendly places to stay in Europe by clicking here.

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