Black and Blonde
Hear the folks at Guinness describe the heavily guarded St. James’s Gate facility where the brewer stores the master culture of its yeast, and they’ll sound as if they’re talking about some secret lab where government scientists have preserved the body of an ancient alien life form. Few visitors will ever witness a fully sanitized tech pulling the prized microbes out of a chamber smoking with liquid nitrogen -- though those who do will admit that, despite being over 125 years old, the strain looks a lot like, well, yeast. Still, the stuff is sacred, so it’s surprising that when Guinness’s brewers decided that their ale yeast would be used in an American lager -- Guinness Blonde American Lager, to be exact -- the internal reaction wasn’t cries of sacrilege.
"There was a sense of excitement,” says Michael Donnelly, Guinness Master Brewer and head of product development. “It was perceived as a challenge.” What was more surprising was that, after 31 years with the company, a man like the Dublin-born-and-bred Donnelly would feel confident handing over a significant amount of responsibility for the unprecedented project to a guy from Pennsylvania.