Sunday, March 14, 2010

Me and Fergal down by the schoolyard

Did you know Guinness' brewmaster was in town on Sunday? It's true, one of only three people (if you believe the urban legend) who know the true recipe for Guinness was in Kansas City for a brief period of time this weekend. During his layover in KC Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray stopped by Browne's Irish Market at 3300 Pennsylvania. You shouldn't feel bad if you missed the announcement, because there really wasn't one...

I'd only heard about this after my girlfriend saw it mentioned in passing on the Pitch's Fat City. IrishKC had a few more details but the event hours seemed to keep changing... Originally listed as running from 3 to 7pm, the time had been changed from 2 to 6pm by the time I saw the post. Joey96 later tipped me off that the event was only going to be 2 t0 5pm...

Anyway, I got to Browne's just after 3pm and the outdoor tent was packed. The scene was just about what you'd expect, there was Guinness branding all over the place, people wearing a lot of green and there was live fiddle music being blasted through a PA. There was a huge mass of people crammed around the makeshift bar, which was just three tap handles mounted on an Igloo cooler. Since I couldn't make my way up to the bar and there was no way to hear what was going on over the music, we headed into Browne's to look for the Perfect Pour certificates. After wandering around the shamrock covered labyrinth that is Browne's Irish Market we finally made our way to the deli area where we ended up standing in a line that snaked around the tables and counters. After a few minutes of standing around and gawking at all of the crazy flavored chips crisps I overheard a woman say the certificates are being issued in the back room. We quickly abandoned the line in the front of the shop in favor for another line in the back... but at least this one was shorter, even if it seemed everyone in front of us had German last names that were impossible for the lady to spell out on the certificate. Still, it was a relatively painless process... for a piece of paper that certifies me to pour pints of Guinness, something I'll probably never actually do.

I realize now that the demonstration was probably going on while we were standing in line. Surely that's what all the commotion was about behind the bar. I'm just guessing though because between the hundred people crowded around the Igloo and the three piece fiddle band, I couldn't see or hear anything worth seeing or hearing...

The crowd died down after we got our certificates and I finally got a glimpse of the VIP, Mr. Fergal Murray. Murray was off to the side of the bar signing Guinness pint glasses, which seemed like a really cool souvenir so I made my way over the merch table to buy a glass. The kid behind the table said he didn't have any glasses for sale, odd.... considering he had Guinness pint glass piggy banks, stuffed Guinness pint glass plush dollies, Guinness soccer balls, Guinness hoodies, etc... Ok, I'll just go to the bar and buy a pint of Guinness, chug it and get Fergal to sign that. It's not the most sanitary souvenir I'll have in my collection but at this point my patience was wearing thin. When I got up to the bar I asked for a pint of Guinness in the branded glass, I'd seen people walking away from the bar with plastic cups and I really didn't wan to be the guy who asks the Guinness brewmaster to sign a Dixie cup. I was told, of course, that they were completely out of pint glasses but I could still get a plastic cup for the same five dollar bill... That was at approximately 3:30pm... about half an hour after the event was originally scheduled to begin, or two and half hours before last call. How badly do you have to miscalculate demand for beer glasses for the supply to run out halfway through an event? Not even that, but you have to assume people are going to buy them as souvenirs to get signed, why not charge a couple dollars more for a glass instead of a cup to stretch the supply a little...

As I told the bartender to forget it and walked off I noticed one of the staff reach in to a box and grab a couple pint glasses out to have Fergal Murray sign for guests. I guess the bartender wasn't aware of these extra glasses so I go back up and ask another guy for a pint of Guinness in a glass. He gives me the same line about being out of glasses and I tell him I can see a whole box of glasses right behind him. He then tells me that those are being "held back." Since I'm not cool enough to get one of these glasses I once again decline the generous offer to drink Guinness from a Dixie cup and walk away.

At this point I figured I'd at least get Fergs to sign my worthless certificate and I start making my way over to his side of the bar. As I'm standing in line, one of Fergie's handlers pulls him out of the tent to go talk to some hipster with tight jeans and a Flip video camera. A crowd starts to gather on the outside of the tent and Fergal is now swarmed on the sidewalk as people keep stopping to make him sign anything and everything that has a shamrock on it. It seems St. Patrick himself is conspiring against me, I might just have to leave empty handed...

Just as my hopes were dashed, a Billy Connolly lookalike walked up to the bar, grabbed a glass out of the "held back" box and handed it to a bartender with a five dollar bill to fill it. I waited for everyone at the bar to turn their backs and I pulled a Billy Connolly, swiping a glass from the box. Don't worry, I took it right back to the bar and had them fill it up, I paid just like everyone else.

It was now close to 4pm and I knew the way my luck was going I'd have to hurry if I had any hopes of getting my glass signed so I promptly chugged that unsettled pint of Guinness and walked around the back of the tent to find the most elusive brewmaster in Coleman Highlands. As I approached Fergal Murray he was signing four different half empty Guinness glasses for a kid with braces. "Dear Billy, Best wishes... Blah Blah Blah, Guinness is Good For You. Love Fergal." If this is the live of a brewmaster.... no thanks. As the final glass is signed and returned to Billy Braces, one of Fergie's handlers steps up and asks if he's ready to go. You've got to be kidding me... It wasn't even 4:30 yet and you're trying to rush the VIP away from the event. Thankfully, I managed to get my glass into the hands of Fergal before he was whisked away to the Flogging Molly show at the Uptown. Seriously, that's where he was headed...

On our way out of Browne's my girlfriend pointed out the upside down cup on the Guinness tap handle. Yup, they'd run out of Guinness Draught at a Guinness event an hour and a half before closing time... It seemed like a fitting end to such a poorly planned day. I don't know who's to blame for the glasses and taps running dry well earlier than they should have, whether it was Guinness, the distributor, Fergalicious or Browne's, this isn't the way you handle a brewmaster event. Even though I eventually got what I was after, I couldn't have fun. I couldn't enjoy the beer, I couldn't enjoy the venue, and I couldn't enjoy the VIP.

When it's all said and done, I think it was probably better that this event wasn't advertised more than it was. I'm sure it would have saved a lot of people a good deal of disappointment if it weren't even advertised at all.


  1. I got there on time, had a fine pint of Guinness while listening to some great Irish music, the got Fergal to sign a cool "Guinness is Good for You" poster than I picked up for just $9.95, minus 20%. I had a great time, the staff was friendly and efficient, and I have a picture of me with Fergal.

    A delightful day at one of the coolest places in KC.

  2. They were corduroys, dog.

    I'll send you the link to the video once it's up tomorrow morning. Sorry about that and that you had such a lousy time... I had been waiting in line but his press rep whisked me up there to chat.

    Next time just tell them you represent KC's most popular beer blog and you might have better luck.

  3. Lucas - Paul doesn't even look like Amy.

  4. Good one Dan.

    Lucas, if I wanted KC Beer Blog people to act douchey I would have Hearne write on here.

  5. I think Browne's pushed this out to Facebook fans well in advance, which is how I knew about it. However I did not attend due to my guiding principle of never, ever exposing myself to Irish music.

  6. I understand, Bull E.

    Dan, I'm not sure I understand.

    Anyway, here's our little write-up:

  7. LW - Amy runs the Wort Hog blog, and I was implying that hers is "KC's most popular beer blog". Just a little friendly joking.

  8. The wife and a few friends got there at 1:30 and promptly got the best potato soup I've ever had, as well as a few Guinness in 16oz. plastic cups.

    They had a sign at the bar that said the glassware would be given out FOR FREE once the man of the hour arrived. (We knew the event was 12-7, but were not aware that he would only be there from 2-5). It was 2:30 when he got there. We hopped in line and got our glassware. They had about 10 cases of 24, but you could tell that there were quite a few more people than expected.

    It looked like they had originally purchased 3 kegs of Guinness (very impressed that they were actually running it on nitro) and ran out pretty early (3-ish). Luckily, Central States had some guys at the event and responded wonderfully, running back and getting 2 more kegs.

    I want to say that I am really thankful that Browne's was willing to put on the event. They didn't charge cover (easily could have been $10 per) and they even went to the trouble to rent a large tent and put heaters in it so it wouldn't be freezing.

    All in all, it was a great time. Browne's shouldn't be at fault for having so many people that want to take part. It was also understandable that Mr. Murray tried to jump ship a little early. Nothing worse that being molested by a crowd of complete strangers for 3 hours. Trust me, I've been to an Elton John concert, I know.

  9. All of this was done to introduce Fergal Murray to Missouri and the Kansas City Market. The event was to take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm he stayed an extra 45 min. to sign. He went to the Plaza for a 4:00 that he was 45 min. late for, then to The Flogging Molly concert. The glasses where GIVEN away at Browne's cost and the people that showed up on time or before the event was to start got there glasses. Did you remember to set your clock ahead???. The confirmed guest list was 150 people and 4oo hundred showed up, I don't know about you but can you count on an extra 250 people showing up at your party and not running out of 8 kegs of $5.00 16oz cups of Guinness (should have been $8.00, plus a free Glass as a keepsake) I thought the event was fantastic and everyone else had a great time. Next time just stay home with your girlfriend and read a book!!!!