Visit Dublin, Ireland’s capital and largest city, and you will see the Guinness trucks, kegs piled high for delivery to the pubs for which the city is renowned. Stop for lunch or dinner and Guinness braised beef is likely to be on the menu. And while you are in town you won’t want to miss what has just been named Europe’s Leading Attraction — the Guinness Storehouse.
Production of Guinness beer began in 1759, a time when taxes on Irish beer were higher than on English brews. But something about “The Black Stuff” made it so popular that Guinness became one of the most successful brands, the top selling stout in the world, and has grown to symbolize Ireland. About 10 million glasses of stout are sold daily across 150 countries.
Although medical claims are no longer made, the first advertising campaign was all about “Guinness is Good for You.” It paid homage to the earlier generations of the family who felt that advertising cheapened their brand by noting that “As a result of quality and quality alone, the Guinness Brewery has grown to be by far the largest in the world.” Among the health benefits of consuming Guinness listed were building strong muscles, feeding exhausted nerves, and enriching the blood. It went on to say that “Doctors affirm that Guinness is a valuable restorative after Influenza and other weakening illnesses. Guinness is a valuable aid in cases of insomnia.” Its richness in carbohydrates was said to be good when tired or exhausted. And many people agree.
Guiness is said to have aided in the recovery of a soldier inured in the Battle of Waterloo. “Give a pint, get a pint” was the expression for the Guinness served after donating blood. Women were given half a pint after childbirth. And the strength of the Irish thoroughbred Arkle, one of the world’s greatest steeplechasers, was said to come from drinking Guinness twice a day.
Robert Louis Stevenson brought Guinness to Western Samoa and wrote about drinking it while recovering from the flu. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli immortalized the Guinness and oysters combination in his letters in 1837. And “The Black Stuff,” as it is known, was added to the champagne as a symbol of mourning when Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, died, creating a cocktail now known as a Black Velvet.
The company began after Arthur Guinness inherited 100￡from his godfather, the Archbishop of Cashel. Arthur’s father was the Archbishop’s land steward and is said to have brewed beer for the workers.
In 1759 Arthur signed the most famous lease in Ireland’s history, a 9000 year agreement for 100￡ and 45￡a year thereafter on four acres at Dublin’s James’s Gate. It included a dilapidated brewery and free access to a water source.
Legend has it that when the sheriff’s office came to shut off his free water supply in 1775, the gritty Arthur grabbed their pick-axe and with bold expletives demanded they leave his property. He eventually won out. About 8 million liters a day are used for today’s conservation-minded production.
Arthur began by brewing a red, malty ale and by the late 1770s Guinness was brewer to Dublin Castle. Then he noticed the popularity of a strong black porter beer from London. He adjusted the recipe to local preference, creating Dublin Porter in 1796. On New Year’s Eve 1799 he declared “Today we brewed the last ale at St. James’ Gate.”
People called Guinness’ stronger more full-bodied porter a ‘stout porter’ and Arthur II came up with the name Extra Stout Porter. It has been brewed for two centuries and is known as Guinness Original in the UK and Guinness Extra Stout in Ireland and the USA.
“The Black Stuff” made Guinness the largest brewer in Ireland by 1833. By 1858 it was shipped as far as New Zealand, and by 1886 St. James Gate was the largest exporter in the world, with an annual production of 1.2 million barrels.
The Guinness Storehouse is seven story building in the shape of a 14 million pint glass that is in a former fermentation plant at the Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate. It opened in 2000 and was Ireland’s Number One International Visitor Attraction within a year.
This is a place to learn about the company’s history and brewing process, to see some of the old brewing equipment, and to smell and taste the ingredients in a multi-sensory Tasting Room. The third floor display opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2015 with a colorfully entertaining exhibit on the history of distinctively Guinness advertising. That level also features the Guinness Academy, where visitors learn to pull the perfect pint.
“The story of Guinness stout is the story of transportation” is painted on a beam in a room filled with ways the brew was moved around the globe. St. James Brewery was the first to have its own internal narrow gauge train network and became a “City within a City” with own medical center and fire department. It benefitted from the building of Ireland’s canal system and owned a fleet of ships, yachts and Liffey barges key to transporting raw materials and the finished product right into the 20th century.
It is all topped by the Gravity Bar, the tallest bar in Dublin, which offers a nearly 360° view of the city as well as the opportunity to enjoy a complimentary drink.
Although other breweries have been built in Nigeria, Malaysia, Jamaica, Ghana and Cameroon, Dublin’s St. James Gate continues to be the center of brewing. Three million pints are crafted each day at St. James Gate, the largest stout export brewery in the world, for the Irish, UK, European, and US market.
Over 14 million people have visited since the Guinness Storehouse opened 15 years ago. In September, 2015. it received the Europe’s Leading Attraction title at the World Travel Awards, topping even the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, and the Colosseum. And on December 2, 2015, the 15th anniversary of its opening was celebrated with a gala event. The Honorable Rory Guinness, 8th generation involved with St. James Gate, was in attendance.
“Anything we can dream up we get to brew up” is painted in the courtyard of the new Open Gate Brewery, which opened on December 10. While there has been an experimental brewery at St. James Gate for a century, this pilot plant offers a sneak peak at new brews Thursday and Friday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. by reservation. “It is a brewer’s playground, a chance to bring new brews to the public.” according to Guinness beer ambassador Domhnall Marnell. The €6 ticket includes a flight of four beers of your choice. As Open Gate Manager Padraig Fox said, “You could be tasting the next big success story.”
It’s another example of how the Guinness dream lives on. Sláinte!