When there was a knock on the door and a box of Guinness mooncakes turned up, everyone collectively made a beeline for them. Mooncakes are great, an annual treat that has become the reason for Mid-Autumn Festivals, but alcohol-infused mooncakes are just superior. You can still taste childhood with the coffee flavoured lotus paste, sweetness melting in your mouth while the subtlety of Guinness Stout lingers after the initial bite into the chocolate ganache.

Individually packaged in boxes that come together to form the full moon, the brand has definitely taken as much care on the presentation as the taste itself. The bright colours that highlight the geometry pattern is a nice contrast to the black snow skin mooncakes sitting on the inside. A gift that comes only when you purchase three packs of Guinness Draught, this seems like a ‘thank you’ gesture to Guinness lovers and an invitation to celebrate the festivities as a community.

And we are all for it.

Curious about these delicious delights and how they came about, Popspoken chats with Sabina Godri, Marketing Manager Guinness at Asia Pacific Breweries (Singapore) Pte Ltd (Part of the HEINEKEN Company), to find out more about this relationship with Guinness and Food.

Popspoken: Talk us through the evolution of Guinness since 150 years ago, and how it has managed to stay relevant through the changing times.

Sabina: It takes an adventurous spirit and irrepressible ingenuity to do things the Guinness® way. From our humble beginnings in 1759 to the present day, we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to bring people exceptional beer. But while many milestones mark the way on our long and illustrious path, we’re not ones to rest on our laurels.

Founded in 1759, Guinness has been exported to the South East Asia region since the 1860s. The first recorded advertisement for Guinness in Singapore was on 9th October 2019, done by the Blood Wolfe & Co group. Blood Wolfe employed its own coloured pictorial Trade Marks and devices by which their often illiterate foreign drinkers came to recognise them. ‘Wolf’s Head’ brand stout was to become the name by which many drinkers ordered their beer. Guinness became known as ‘Red Tongued Dog’. Since the drinkers were Chinese and could not read English, the ‘Red Tongued Dog’ was the only thing they could recognise on the label. 

So ‘Red Tongued Dog’ or ‘Ang Ji Kao’ (in Hokkien dialect) became the calling names for the brand in Singapore. The symbol of the Red Tongued Dog has been placed on the neck label of the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout bottle, still on the bottles in the Traditional On Premise today, and throughout the years this symbol has become synonymous for Guinness and the unique bold experience it offers their drinkers. 

Many older beer drinkers have a lot of memories about drinking Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. It is rooted in the culture. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is a definitely a beer made of more: unmistakably bold and distinctive. It has managed to stay relevant through the changing times due to its bold character. Since the introduction of Guinness Draught in Singapore, the brand has also started to gain popularity especially among younger consumers. 

PS: In your opinion, what is it about the taste of Guinness that keeps people coming back for more?

S: Consumers are looking for more variation in their choice of drinks. The taste of Guinness, as the number 1 stout, is undisputed. A unique ingredient that gives our famous stout its distinctive rich taste – in addition to its dark, ruby-red hue – is roasted barley. There is also an unspoken rule among Stout drinkers that their common appreciation for Guinness speaks volumes about their possession of an “acquired taste” and that they truly know their beer. 

PS: When did the first thought of infusing Guinness into foods occur?

S: Guinness has been in food culture for over 180 years. Guinness was first paired with oysters in 1837 in the United Kingdom – which led to advertisements pairing it with lobsters and then with a variety of cheeses. Guinness’ relationship with food is a large part of the brand’s heritage. Foreign Extra Stout was also brewed to travel the world and complement the hot spicy dishes of Asia. 

Guinness has also earned considerable respect in the world of food. People from top chefs and celebrities to consumers have regarded Guinness as a changemaker in their foods. Guinness’ natural association with food has landed it in the menus of renowned chefs, top-selling cookbooks and even in David Beckham’s home-cooked stews! 

Many restaurants in Singapore also use Guinness as a key ingredient in their dishes. Since I started the role of Marketing Manager of Guinness in 2017, I have worked closely with the brand team to develop different campaigns about Guinness and Food. 

Some key projects we’ve done include collaborations with café owners to introduce Guinness-infused dishes into their local menu, embarking on a food hunt to source for Guinness pairings recommended by locals, as well as the Great Grill Out, an ultimate annual BBQ festival that brings together groups of friends who are beer and BBQ lovers, as well as renowned restaurant partners, to experiment a wide range of Guinness and Food pairings. The event showcases the unlimited possibilities of Guinness and Food – after all, Guinness is more than just a masculine “uncle” drink!

PS: The mooncakes have a very balanced taste of tradition and modern. How did the experimentation go about and how long did it take?

S: We launched the Guinness Mooncakes for the first time in 2018, after two years of ideation and experimentation. There are plenty of premium mooncakes in the market especially among 5-star hotels in Singapore, so we wanted to make sure that the distinct taste of our mooncakes will stand out and leave an impression. Our key ingredient is, of course, our good ol’ Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This is complemented by the white coffee flavoured lotus paste, rich chocolate ganache and a white chocolate infused shell. Balanced with hints of chocolate and coffee, each mooncake promises uniqueness and flavour with every bite.

We worked closely with local dessert brand Bakerzin to develop this mooncake through cycles of R&D. Guinness already has great product credentials so it did not take long before we found the right formula. The overwhelmingly positive response to the mooncakes in 2018 prompted us to stick to the same great flavour in 2019.

PS: Why do you think modernising traditional delights is crucial to keep our traditional celebrations alive?

S: Mid-Autumn Festival is seen to be old and traditional, and the significance of this celebration is not widely known among the younger generation. However, the festival has evolved commercially, given that this period is where big brands compete on mooncake packaging and novelty flavours for the purpose of gifting – a tradition that younger consumers have continued to adopt. 

Since communion is a key part of our brand DNA, Guinness is in a good space to dial up the significance of the festival to the younger audience – an occasion to be reunited with family, loved ones and the older generation – through our modern and unique mooncakes. This ensures that the significance of the festival is never lost. 

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