Sláinte! 15 Facts About Guinness Beer
By Emily Becker
Under the guidance of Arthur Guinness and his heirs, Guinness has been brewing pints of its famous stout in Dublin since the mid 18th century. Pour yourself a glass of the black stuff (which actually isn't black at all) and read on for more facts about the legendary brewery.
1. The company originally leased its Dublin brewery for 9000 years.
Arthur Guinness began his beer business in 1759 by renting an unused, four-acre brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin for the next 9000 years. He paid an initial £100 and locked in annual rent at £45. However, the original lease was voided when the company bought the property and the brewing operations expanded to 50 acres.
2. The lease included free access to a water supply.
And the owner was very protective of that privilege. In fact, the one time local authorities tried to make Arthur Guinness pay for his water, he is said to have grabbed a pick-axe from one of the sheriff’s men [PDF] and swore at them until they left.
3. There was once an ale as well.
Guinness started his beer company by brewing two beers: a porter and an ale. However, the Dublin Ale was dropped from production in 1799 so brewers could focus producing more on the increasingly popular stout.
4. It takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.
There are six official steps [PDF] to pouring a pint of Guinness, including waiting nearly two minutes for the beer to settle between the first and second pour.
5. The beer's official color is ruby red.
It’s easier to see the slight tint that comes from the roasted barley if you hold the pint up to the light.
6. Guinness is brewed in 49 countries around the world.
In addition to Ireland, Guinness also owns breweries in Malaysia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. The beer is brewed in a total of 49 countries and served in more than 150. All of the ingredients are sourced locally, except for one: the Guinness extract, a secret mixture that is added to a Guinness brewed anywhere in the world.
7. Ireland isn't the biggest consumer of Guinness.
The country ranks third on the list of places where residents tip back the most Guinness annually, after Britain and Nigeria. Every day, 10 million glasses of Guinness are consumed around the world.
8. The bubbles in a pint of Guinness sink because of the shape of the glass.
When a Guinness is poured, the beer flows downward along the side of the glass, dragging bubbles along with it which then move upward through the middle and form the creamy head. This circulatory pattern is created by the fact that pint glasses are wider at the top than at the bottom giving the bubbles more space to rise from the middle as opposed to from the side.
9. Guinness was one of the first companies to offer employee benefits.
Employees who punched the clock at the company in 1928, just one year before the Great Depression, were entitled to on-site medical and dental care—and two free pints after every shift. Guinness also consistently paid its employees 20 percent more than other brewers and gave them full pensions.
10. The Guinness Harp was one of the first trademarks in the U.K.
The harp, along with Arthur Guinness’s signature, made its first appearance on a Guinness beer label in 1862 and was officially registered in the trademark office in 1876. The harp is a nod to the beer’s Irish roots. The same instrument appears on Ireland’s coat of arms.
11. The patent office noticed the similarities between the two harps.
The government ran into issues when trying to register the harp as a state symbol under international trademark law because the symbol and the Guinness label were so similar. Eventually, the state and the brewery were able to reach a compromise: the harp on a bottle of Guinness would always face right, while in official use, the harp would always be left-facing.
12. Guinness promised every British soldier a pint of beer on Christmas Day during WWII.
Guinness made the statement before realizing that much of the company's work force was also serving abroad at the time. When the company discovered they needed more workers in order to brew enough beer, retirees showed up at the plant to help out. With the help from veterans and workers from other brewing companies, Guinness was able to stay true to its word.
13. The first Guinness Book of World Records was published to help settle pub arguments.
After a particularly unfruitful hunting trip, Hugh Beaver, the managing director of Guinness, mentioned that the bird he and friends had been hunting—the golden plover—must be the fastest bird in the world. When Beaver was unable to locate a reference book that could back his claim, he decided to create one. He stamped the Guinness name on the cover and handed the book out for free to pubs to help customers settle the debates and bets that happen so frequently after a pint.
14. It has been consumed underwater.
As part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness signing the lease on the St. James’s Gate brewery, the company held a contest that promised the winners would get to drink a Guinness like never before. A submarine bar was commissioned in 2009 and three years later, the winners went under the Baltic Sea in Stockholm to enjoy their pints.
15. Guinness created its own superhero in Africa.
As part of an advertising campaign, Guinness created a full-length action movie called Critical Assignment that was shown in cinemas across Africa. The story follows the strong journalist Michael Power as he tries to stop a corrupt politician from buying weapons with stolen money. Power gets all his strength from drinking—you guessed it—Guinness.