KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 ― Julio Jeremy Joachim couldn’t believe his ears when his name was called during the finale of Guinness Perfect Pour 2018 at The Square, Publika Thursday night.
The bartender was named one of the four winners of the annual competition, representing east Malaysia.
“I was speechless. It was such a spectacular moment for me, what an awesome night!” said the 30-year-old who works at The Beer Factory in Kota Kinabalu.
The other three champion pourers were Henry Lai, representing central region; Alwin Goh, representing southern region; and Kenny Loo, representing the northern region.
In a quest for master pourers by Guinness Malaysia, over 600 bartenders from across the country had recently undergone a month-long training with professional trainers Jonathan Chong and Thomas Ling of Heineken Malaysia Star Academy.
After the training came the Perfect Pour contest, in which after a strict selection, a total of eight bartenders — two from each region — were shortlisted as finalists.
Experts were hired to disguise as “mystery customers” and sent to the finalists’ outlets to evaluate their performance based on four criteria — mastery of technique, consistency, quality of serve and service etiquettes.
This year, Guinness fans also got to take part in the evaluation by rating them on a special coaster.
So what does it take to pour the perfect pint of the iconic stout, beloved for its velvety texture and creamy taste?
Turns out there’s an extremely precise and elaborate way of doing so, which isn’t something one could just learn overnight; it is an art form that requires proper training and plenty of practice to master.
The perfect pour requires a unique method called the two-part pour. The first part begins by holding a clean Guinness glass — the harp logo on the glass isn’t just for branding but also to provide measurements — at a 45-degree angle under the tap.
With a steady flow, pull the tap towards you and start to fill the glass while slowly tilting it upright until it’s three-quarters full, which is just right above the harp. Allow it to settle for about a minute.
Once the “surge” has settled, whereby the foam is forming properly and it’s creamy and dark, the second part of the pour follows. The remainder is filled, this time with the tap pushed forward, until a frothy head forms a slight dome over the rim of the glass.
Chong, who has been a trainer with the Star Academy for two years, said the training is important to ensure every pint served to consumers is of good quality.
“The challenge used to be that there was a lack of understanding for the need of quality; but ever since we started the training programme two years ago, the awareness has been raised and many beer outlets have started to reach out to us, wanting to be trained,” said Chong.
Besides the two-pour method, the hands-on training also includes presentation technique and product understanding.
Loo, the youngest of the four at 26, said the most challenging part of the training was to be consistent in every pour.
“It is important to be consistent because quality needs to be maintained in every pint we serve to customers. We trained every single day to achieve consistency and I think I speak for every participant that this was definitely the hardest part of the training,” said Loo, a bartender at 12 Senses in Penang.
Goh, 28, said the training and the competition have been the experience of a lifetime for him.
“I had so much fun learning the science behind a perfect pour. It takes great skills, patience and confidence to be able to pour one in front of a customer,” said the Melaka native who bartends at Monte Cafe.
Sharing Goh’s sentiment, Lai adds that another valuable lesson from the training was product knowledge.
“You have to know your product like the back of your hand in order to best serve your customers. Always go back to basics,” he said.
As winners, Joachim, Loo, Goh, and Lai was each rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to the home of Guinness in Dublin, Ireland.
Chong said the trip would be a great exposure and an eye-opening experience for the bartenders.
“The beer culture there is entirely different from here. Beer and stouts are everyday beverages for the Irish people, something they take during lunch or even breakfast. Whereas for Malaysians, we normally only drink during special occasions, it’s a celebratory treat for us.
“So the beer or stout served in Dublin are at another level of quality, the consistency is there because it is constant. You will find that the Guinness there tastes better, too,” said Chong.
Loo for one is eager to explore the beer culture in Dublin.
“I want to learn as much as I can there and hopefully with the knowledge and experience I can serve my customers better,” he said.
Joachim on the other hand, can’t wait to get competitive all over again.
“Let’s see which country has the better pourers — Malaysians or the Irish,” he grinned.