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15 Things You Should Know About Guinness

Visit almost any bar and you’re likely to see a familiar tap: Guinness Draught. Founded in Dublin in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, the brewery produces one of the most iconic beers on Earth. An estimated 10 million pints of the brand’s signature Irish stout are enjoyed worldwide every single day, which amasses to over 1.8 billion per year. The beer is so beloved that there are even Instagram pages with thousands of followers exclusively dedicated to reviewing draft pours, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly.

The Guinness brand is currently owned by Diageo, which was formed in 1997 following Guinness PLC’s merger with British wholesaler Grand Metropolitan PLC. Today, Guinness accounts for approximately 15 percent of the conglomerate’s annual sales — a large chunk considering Diageo’s other ultra-popular brands like Casamigos, Tanqueray, and Johnnie Walker.

Think you know everything about Guinness? Think again. Here are 15 more things you should know about the iconic beer brand.

The Dublin brewery isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

In the 18th century, signing a lease on a residential or commercial property looked much different than it does today. Back then, lease terms were expected to run for several decades, and properties were often passed down within the signer’s family after their passing. While the most common leases of the time lasted 21 years, 99 years, or “three lives” (the signer, his wife, and their heir), Arthur Guinness did something unusual when he signed the lease for his namesake brewery in December 1759. After putting down a £100 deposit, Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on the four-acre facility, agreeing to pay an annual rent of just £45. For over 200 years, Guinness abided by the lease’s terms, paying the same price in rent as they had from their very first year in operation. In the late 1900s, the brewery finally bought out their land and expanded beyond their original campus. Given the immense popularity of the famous stout — and the Guinness Storehouse, now one of the most iconic attractions in Dublin — it’s unlikely the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery is going anywhere.

It hasn’t always been all stouts at St. James’s Gate.

The brand actually got its start brewing ale. But in the 1770s, Guinness decided to add another beer to his lineup and started brewing porter stout, an English beer invented in London that same century. Guinness’s creamy new offering was so successful that in 1779, the brewery was listed as one of just two suppliers issuing beer and ale to the seat of government at Dublin Castle. Five years later, Guinness was the Irish government’s sole porter supplier. By the end of the 18th century, Guinness moved away from ales entirely and shifted its focus to launch a single stout, a double (or extra) stout, and the West Indies Porter, which was created for export and later renamed the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. For over 100 years, the brewery produced stouts exclusively, though that changed in the 1950s. In response to growing demand for lighter beer styles, the brewery formulated Guinness Harp Lager, a 4.5 percent-ABV brew that is still brewed in Dublin today.

The Guinness harp is older than the Republic of Ireland.

Just 10 years after Guinness was founded, its beer was already being exported to foreign countries. Given the beer’s popularity, the Guinness family sought to signal to the rest of the world that their beer was an Irish-made product, so they embossed each barrel of their stout with the Celtic harp, a symbol of their homeland. Guinness first used the symbol in 1862 and just 14 years later, it was officially a Guinness company trademark. In fact, when the Irish Free State first gained independence as a dominion in 1922 and sought to make the harp the republic’s national emblem, the government was required to reverse the instrument’s positioning in order to not conflict with Guinness’s existing trademark.

Doctors once prescribed Guinness to pregnant women.

In the early 1900s, some consumers began reporting that after drinking a pint of the stuff, they suddenly felt healthier. The brand launched a market research campaign at various local pubs where they discovered that most Guinness drinkers claimed to feel better after drinking the beer, and the “Guinness Is Good For You Campaign” was born in 1929. At the same time, Guinness was reaching out to doctors across Ireland and the United Kingdom, asking them to send in their opinions. Many reported back claiming they had used the stout as a tonic and had seen great results, even going so far as to recommend the dark beer to pregnant people. At the time, Guinness was produced using live yeast containing high levels of iron, a mineral the body needs more of while sustaining a pregnancy. (With the medical knowledge we’ve learned since, it now goes without saying that beer is a no-go if you’re expecting.)

The general health halo surrounding the stout persisted for decades, with doctors prescribing doses of Guinness to treat anemia or for those recovering from blood donation and major procedures. While the brand did away with the “Guinness Is Good For You” slogan in the mid-1950s, many still believe the beer to be a healthier beer option, with some research claiming the stout can even reduce the risk of heart attacks.

One of the brand’s first advertising campaigns featured a series of zoo animals.

For the first 170 years of Guinness’s existence, the brand had no need to advertise. But when sales slipped in the 1920s due to Prohibition, a change was necessary. Following the brand’s first advertisement in 1929, Guinness launched the “My Goodness, My Guinness” campaign, which ran for over 30 years and included a number of feisty animals stealing the beer from humans. The advertisements’ art was drawn by John Gilroy of the S.H. Benson advertising firm, who got the idea for the campaign after a visit to the circus with his son. There, Gilroy observed a sea lion balancing a ball on its nose, inspiring the first campaign poster depicting a zookeeper chasing after a sea lion who’d stolen — you guessed it — a pint of Guinness. Over the three-decade campaign, the sea mammal was joined by a thieving kinkajou, a brown bear, and a pelican, among many others. The most famous animal from the campaign was undeniably the toucan, which became a mascot of sorts after first appearing in 1935. While the toucan and his fellow zoo friends disappeared from print ads in the 1980s when Guinness cut ties with S.H. Benson, the bird has remained a beloved symbol of the brand and has made numerous appearances in commercials over the past four decades.

Guinness Draught was once stored in two separate casks.

Prior to the invention of pressurized stainless steel and aluminum casks, Guinness Draught was packaged and shipped to suppliers in two separate wooden casks: one containing fresh, unaged suds and one containing matured beer. On arrival at pubs, the two casks were stacked on top of one another and poured in a particular style in order to achieve the creamy head the stout is known for. First, bartenders would fill a pint glass three-quarters of the way from the highly pressurized top cask, resulting in a gush of suds. Once the beer had settled after several minutes, it was topped off from the low-pressure bottom cask. For over 200 years, Guinness packaged its stout this way, and employed a team of approximately 300 on-site coopers in Dublin who were responsible for producing and seasoning each of the casks used to house the stout.

The Irish stout was the first beer to employ nitrogen in its production.

In the 1950s, Guinness revolutionized the beer industry by becoming the first brewery to pressurize its beer with nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide, eliminating the need for dual casks. Nitrogen, which has smaller, more delicate bubbles than carbon dioxide, avoids breaking the surface tension of the beer, resulting in the same smooth texture achieved from the two-cask pour. The idea for nitrogenating was conceived by Michael Ash, a mathematician-turned-brewer who joined the Guinness team in London in 1951. Ash heralded in Guinness’s swap from oak casks to pressurized kegs containing a mix of 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent oxygen, thus creating the “Easy Serve” system synonymous with the brand today. Through this new system, Guinness Draught surges from its keg on its own, and when left to properly settle — for a much shorter period of time than its predecessor — results in the beer’s signature mouthfeel. Ash’s creation was first introduced in 1959, and had fully replaced the distillery’s oak casks by the end of the 1960s.

There’s a set of rules to follow when pouring the beer into a glass from the tap.

While they may not be followed to a tee at every bar across the globe, there are a few hard-and-fast rules to pouring a Guinness properly that were outlined by the brand itself. For the famous two-part pour, a 20-ounce Guinness tulip glass is tilted at 45 degrees with the signature harp positioned right below the spout. The glass is then filled three-quarters of the way before being tilted upright and left to settle for exactly 86 seconds. Once a minute and a half has almost passed, the remainder of the glass is filled with the glass standing flat, resulting in the stout’s creamy, signature head.

Bottles and cans of Guinness are equipped with special technology to ensure the best drinking experience.

While Guinness is almost always tastiest when poured straight from a tap, the distillery has made even more advances in scientific brewing to make its canned and bottled offerings just as desirable. In 1989, the brand debuted a spherical widget to its stout cans. During canning, the widgets are filled with even more Guinness and dropped into each beer before sealing. The widgets, made with a very small hole, then shoot out their contents when the can opens and its pressure drops, creating the stout’s silky-smooth texture. Just two years after Guinness debuted the widget, the invention secured the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement.

Bottles of the stout have been similarly optimized, each packaged with a “rocket” about two-and-a-half inches long that’s activated once the cap pops off. Similarly to the widget, the rocket releases pressurized beer into the brew with each swig. So, if you’re drinking Guinness from the bottle, resist the urge to pour it into a glass.

The stout is beloved in Africa.

Guinness has been exported to Africa since 1827 when the West Indies Porter first arrived in Sierra Leone, which the British colonized from 1808 to 1961. As the British Empire expanded its colonial rule across the continent, Guinness’s presence also expanded, picking up the most traction in Nigeria. Two years after Nigeria gained independence from the British in 1960, the first Guinness brewery outside Ireland and the U.K. opened in Lagos. In 1970, a second Africa-based brewery was opened in Cameroon. Today, there are 13 African countries producing the iconic beer, though Nigerians and Cameroonians are particularly well known for their consumption of the stout. The countries come in third and fifth, respectively, among the countries that consume the most Guinness worldwide.

The brand is responsible for the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Guinness Book of World Records was first published in 1954 as a means of settling petty pub arguments. Three years before the book’s debut, Sir Hugh Beaver — the then-managing director of the St. James’s Gate Brewery — got into one of these arguments himself, debating with a fellow patron about the fastest game bird in the U.K. The two, who wished to check which of them was correct, found no reference book containing the answer. Sir Hugh was inspired to create a book that would, so he consulted with fact-checking brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, who compiled the Guinness Book’s first edition in just 16 weeks. The Guinness Book of World Records, which is published annually, has since been translated into over 40 languages and is one of the best-selling books in the world with approximately 3.5 million copies sold per annum.

There was once a holiday to commemorate Guinness’s founding.

In 2009, Diageo established Arthur’s Day to celebrate Guinness’s founding and the man who made it all happen. Held on the fourth Thursday of September — approximately halfway to St. Patrick’s Day — the first celebration was slated to mark the 250th anniversary of the brewing company. The crux of the festivities was meant to occur at 5:59 p.m., at which point all those in attendance at the St. James’s Gate Brewery would raise a pint in honor of Arthur. The celebration grew more and more unruly over the next five years, after which Diageo disbanded the holiday.

In 2018, Guinness opened its first U.S. brewery in over 60 years.

The first-ever U.S. Guinness factory closed its doors in New York City in 1954, and 60 years later, Guinness Open Gate Brewery finally opened in Baltimore. Established in 2018, the Baltimore brewery does not brew the brand’s iconic stout draught, but instead focuses on new styles of beer including the Baltimore Blonde, a Belgian Style Wit, the Guinness IPA, and El Dorado Amber Ale. For five years, Baltimore was the sole U.S. city brewing Guinness, but that changed in 2023 with the debut of another Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Chicago’s West Loop. There, visitors have the opportunity to try nine Chicago-brewed styles of beer ranging from an American stout infused with chai spices to a Pacific Northwest-style red ale.

There’s a non-alcoholic version of the world-famous brew.

In line with the non-alcoholic beer boom, Guinness released its own NA stout in October 2020. Brewers at St. James’s Gate produce the beer by beginning the same way they do when making the alcoholic version: brewing an alcoholic beer from water, barley, hops, and yeast. Once brewed, the liquid’s alcohol is slowly removed using a cold-filtration process to preserve the taste and character of the beer. After launching Guinness 0.0 in Ireland and Great Britain, the brew became available worldwide. In 2023, Diageo invested over $27 million into a new manufacturing plant at the brewery dedicated to increasing its NA beer production.

The Guinness Storehouse is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin.

It’s no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse, which opened in 2000, is one of the most popular tourist hubs in Dublin — and all of Ireland. In 2023, over 1.5 million people from 165 countries visited the Storehouse. There, guests have the opportunity to take a tour (either self-guided or with a Guinness staff member), learn how to properly pour a pint, and participate in tastings.

The article 15 Things You Should Know About Guinness appeared first on VinePair.

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