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Type Beer; dry stout
Manufacturer Diageo
Country of origin Ireland
Introduced 1759

Guinness (pron.: / ˈ ɡ ɪ n ɨ s / GIN-is) is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100. 850 million litres (1.5 billion imperial or 1.8 billion US pints) are sold annually.

A feature of the product is the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted unmalted barley, although this is a relatively modern development, not becoming part of the grist until the mid-20th century. For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed beer to give a sharp lactic flavour. Although the Guinness palate still features a characteristic "tang", the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The draught beer's thick, creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen when poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001, is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company has had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997, and is now part of the British based multinational alcohol conglomerate Diageo.


Sign at the Market Street entrance
Crane Street Gate

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December 1759 he signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later, on 19 May 1769, Guinness first exported his ale: he shipped six-and-a-half barrels to Great Britain.

"Stout" originally referred to a beer's strength, but eventually shifted meaning toward body and colour.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s. Throughout the bulk of its history, Guinness produced 'only three variations of a single beer type: porter or single stout, double or extra and foreign stout for export'.

Already one of the top-three British and Irish brewers, Guinness's sales soared from 350,000 barrels in 1868 to 779,000 barrels in 1876. In October 1886 Guinness became a public company, and was averaging sales of 1,138,000 barrels a year. This was despite the brewery's refusal to either advertise or offer its beer at a discount. Even though Guinness owned no public houses, the company was valued at £6 million and shares were twenty times oversubscribed, with share prices rising to a 60% premium on the first day of trading.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym "Student" for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student's t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student's t-test.

By 1900 the brewery was operating unparalleled welfare schemes for its 5,000 employees. By 1907 the welfare schemes were costing the brewery £40,000 a year, which was one fifth of the total wages bill. The improvements were suggested and supervised by Sir John Lumsden. By 1914, Guinness was producing 2,652,000 barrels of beer a year, which was more than double that of its nearest competitor Bass, and was supplying more than 10% of the total UK beer market. In the 1930s, Guinness became the seventh largest company in the world. Before 1939, if a Guinness brewer wished to marry a Catholic, his resignation was requested.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1973. In the 1970s, following declining sales, the decision was taken to make Guinness Extra Stout more "drinkable". The gravity was subsequently reduced, and the brand was relaunched in 1981. Pale malt was used for the first time, and isomerized hop extract began to be used.

Guinness acquired the Distillers Company in 1986. This led to a scandal and criminal trial concerning the artificial inflation of the Guinness share price during the takeover bid engineered by the chairman, Ernest Saunders. A subsequent £5.2 million success fee paid to an American lawyer and Guinness director, Tom Ward, was the subject of the case Guinness plc v Saunders, in which the House of Lords declared that the payment had been invalid.

The company merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo PLC. Due to controversy over the merger, the company was maintained as a separate entity within the Diageo and has retained the rights to the product and all associated trademarks of Guinness. The Guinness brewery in Park Royal, London closed in 2005. The production of all Guinness sold in the UK and Ireland was moved to St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin.

Guinness has also been referred to as "the black stuff" and as a "Pint of Plain" - referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O'Brien's poem "The Workman's Friend": "A pint of plain is your only man." Guinness had a fleet of ships, barges and yachts. The Irish Sunday Independent newspaper reported on 17 June 2007 that Diageo intended to close the historic St James's Gate plant in Dublin and moving to a greenfield site on the outskirts of the city. This news caused some controversy when it was announced.

The following day, the Irish Daily Mail ran a follow-up story with a double page spread complete with images and a history of the plant since 1759. Initially, Diageo said that talk of a move was pure speculation but in the face of mounting speculation in the wake of the Sunday Independent article, the company confirmed that it is undertaking a "significant review of its operations". This review is largely due to the efforts of the company's ongoing drive to reduce the environmental impact of brewing at the St James's Gate plant.

On 23 November 2007, an article appeared in the Evening Herald, a Dublin newspaper, stating that Dublin City Council, in the best interests of the city of Dublin, had put forward a motion to prevent planning permission ever being granted for development of the site thus making it very difficult for Diageo to sell off the site for residential development.

On 9 May 2008, Diageo announced that the St James's Gate brewery will remain open and undergo renovations, but that breweries in Kilkenny and Dundalk will be closed by 2013 when a new larger brewery is opened near Dublin. The result will be a loss of roughly 250 jobs across the entire Diageo/Guinness workforce in Ireland. Two days later, the Sunday Independent again reported that Diageo chiefs had met with Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, the deputy leader of the Government of Ireland, about moving operations to Ireland from the UK to benefit from its lower corporation tax rates. Several UK firms have made the move to pay Ireland's 12.5 percent rate rather than the UK's 28 percent rate. Diageo released a statement to the London stock exchange denying the report. Despite the merger that created Diageo plc in 1997, Guinness has retained its right to the Guinness brand and associated trademarks and thus continues to trade under the traditional Guinness name despite trading under the corporation name Diageo for a brief period in 1997.


Guinness stout is made from water, barley, hops, and brewer's yeast. A portion of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and characteristic taste. It is pasteurised and filtered. Making the product requires knowledge in the sciences of microbiology, mycology, bacteriology, and thermodynamics. Despite its reputation as a "meal in a glass", Guinness only contains 198 kcal (838 kilojoules) per imperial pint (1460 kJ/ l), fewer than skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.

Until the late 1950s Guinness was still racked into wooden casks. In the late 1950s and early 1960s aluminium kegs began replacing the wooden casks; these were nicknamed "iron lungs".

Draught Guinness and its canned counterpart contain nitrogen (N2) as well as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, which allows the beer to be put under high pressure without making it fizzy. The high pressure of dissolved gas is required to enable very small bubbles to be formed by forcing the draught beer through fine holes in a plate in the tap, which causes the characteristic "surge" (the widget in cans and bottles achieves the same effect). The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method described above. "Original Extra Stout" contains only carbon dioxide, causing a more acidic taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are weaker than they were in the 19th century, when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv of 7.5% and 9% respectively, are perhaps closest to the original in character.

Although Guinness may appear to be black, it is officially a very dark shade of ruby.

Bottle conditioned Guinness Extra Stout was available in the UK until 1994, and in Ireland until early 2000.

Guinness and health

Pint of Guinness

Studies claim that Guinness can be beneficial to the heart. Researchers found that "'antioxidant compounds' in the Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls."

Guinness ran an advertising campaign in the 1920s which stemmed from market research - when people told the company that they felt good after their pint, the slogan was born – "Guinness is Good for You". This type of advertising for alcoholic drinks that implies improved physical performance or enhanced personal qualities is now prohibited in Ireland. Diageo, the company that now manufactures Guinness, says: "We never make any medical claims for our drinks."

The production of Guinness, as with many beers, involves the use of isinglass made from fish. Isinglass is used as a fining agent for settling out suspended matter in the vat. The isinglass is retained in the floor of the vat but it is possible that minute quantities might be carried over into the beer.


Guinness Original/Draft Can

Guinness stout is available in a number of variants and strengths, which include:

  • Guinness Draught, sold in kegs, widget cans, and bottles: 4.1 to 4.3% alcohol by volume (ABV); the Extra Cold is served through a super cooler at 3.5°C (38.3°F).
  • Guinness Original/Extra Stout: 4.2 or 4.3% ABV in Ireland and the rest of Europe, 4.1% in Germany, 4.8% in Namibia and South Africa, 5% in the United States and Canada, and 6% in Australia and Japan.
  • Guinness Foreign Extra Stout: 7.5% ABV version sold in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and the United States. The basis is an unfermented but hopped Guinness wort extract shipped from Dublin, which is added to local ingredients and fermented locally. The strength can vary, for example, it is sold at 5% ABV in China, 6.5% ABV in Jamaica and East Africa, 6.8% in Malaysia, 7.5% in the United States, and 8% ABV in Singapore. In Nigeria a proportion of sorghum is used. Foreign Extra Stout is blended with a small amount of intentionally soured beer. It was previously known as West Indies Porter, then Extra Stout and finally Foreign Extra Stout. It was first made available in the UK in 1990.
  • Guinness Special Export Stout, Commissioned by John Martin of Belgium in 1912. The first variety of Guinness to be pasteurised, in 1930. 8% ABV.
  • Guinness Bitter, an English-style bitter beer: 4.4% ABV.
  • Guinness Extra Smooth, a smoother stout sold in Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria: 5.5% ABV.
  • Malta Guinness, a non-alcoholic sweet drink, produced in Nigeria and exported to the UK, East Africa, and Malaysia.
  • Guinness Mid-Strength, a low-alcohol stout test-marketed in Limerick, Ireland in March 2006 and Dublin from May 2007: 2.8% ABV.
  • Guinness Red, brewed in exactly the same way as Guinness except that the barley is only lightly roasted so that it produces a lighter, slightly fruitier red ale; test-marketed in Britain in February 2007: 4.1% ABV.
  • 250 Anniversary Stout, released in the U.S., Australia and Singapore on 24 April 2009; 5% ABV.

In October 2005, Guinness announced the Brewhouse Series, a limited-edition collection of draught stouts available for roughly six months each. There were three beers in the series.

  • Brew 39 was sold in Dublin from late 2005 until early 2006. It had the same alcohol content (ABV) as Guinness Draught, used the same gas mix and settled in the same way, but had a slightly different taste. Many found it to be lighter in taste, somewhat closer to Beamish stout than standard Irish Guinness.
  • Toucan Brew was introduced in May 2006. It was named after the cartoon toucan used in many Guinness advertisements. This beer had a crisper taste with a slightly sweet aftertaste due to its triple-hopped brewing process.
  • North Star was introduced in October 2006 and sold until into late 2007. Three million pints of North Star were sold in the latter half of 2007.

Despite an announcement in June 2007 that the fourth Brewhouse stout would be launched in October that year, no new beer appeared and, at the end of 2007, the Brewhouse series appeared to have been quietly cancelled.

In March 2006, Guinness introduced the "surger" in Britain. The surger is a plate-like electrical device meant for the home. It sends ultrasonic waves through a Guinness-filled pint glass to recreate the beer's "surge and settle" effect. The device works in conjunction with special cans of surger-ready Guinness. Guinness tried out a primitive version of this system in 1977 in New York. The idea was abandoned until 2003, when it began testing the surger in Japanese bars, most of which are too small to accommodate traditional keg-and-tap systems. Since then, the surger has been introduced to bars in Paris. Surgers are also in use in Australia,Singapore and Greece. The surger for the US market was announced on 14 November 2007; plans were to make the unit available to bars only.

Withdrawn Guinness variants include Guinness's Brite Lager, Guinness's Brite Ale, Guinness Light, Guinness XXX Extra Strong Stout, Guinness Cream Stout, Guinness Gold, Guinness Pilsner, Guinness Breó (a slightly citrusy wheat beer), Guinness Shandy, and Guinness Special Light.

Breó (meaning 'glow' in ancient Irish) was a wheat beer; it cost around IR£5 million to develop.

For a short time in the late 1990s, Guinness produced the "St James's Gate" range of craft-style beers, available in a small number of Dublin pubs. The beers were: Pilsner Gold, Wicked Red Ale, Wildcat Wheat Beer and Dark Angel Lager.

A brewing byproduct of Guinness, Guinness Yeast Extract (GYE), was produced until the 1950s. In the UK, an HP Guinness Sauce has recently been made available, manufactured by Heinz. Kraft also licenses the name for its Barbecue sauce product, Bull's-Eye Barbecue Sauce.

In March 2010, Guinness began test marketing Guinness Black Lager, a new black lager, in Northern Ireland and Malaysia. As of September 2010, Guinness Black Lager is no longer readily available in Malaysia. In October 2010, Guinness began selling Foreign Extra Stout in 4 packs of bottles in the United States.

Pouring and serving

An example of the newly designed Guinness pint glass released in 2010.

What Diageo calls the "perfect pint" of Draught Guinness is the product of a "double pour", which according to the company should take 119.53 seconds. Guinness has promoted this wait with advertising campaigns such as " good things come to those who wait". Despite this, Guinness has endorsed the use of "Exactap", marketed by DigitalDispense USA LLC, owned in a trust by its American inventor. The "Exactap" is the fastest beer dispense system in the world and can deliver a perfectly presented Guinness, with no overfilling, in just 4 seconds. There are over 600 "Exactaps" in use in Dublin stadia alone.

Draught Guinness should be served at 6°C (42.8°F), while Extra Cold Guinness should be served at 3.5°C (38.6°F).

A pint of Guinness should be served in a slightly tulip shaped pint glass (as opposed to the taller European tulip glass or 'Nonic' glass, which contains a ridge approx 3/4 of the way up the glass). To begin the pour, the server holds the glass at a 45° angle below the tap and fills the glass 3/4 full. On the way out of the tap, the beer is forced at high speed through a five-hole disc restrictor plate in the end of the tap, creating friction and forcing the creation of small nitrogen bubbles which form a creamy head. After allowing the initial pour to settle, the server fills the remainder of the glass until the head forms a slight dome over the top of the glass.

In April 2010, Guinness redesigned the Guinness pint glass for the first time in a decade. The new glass is taller and narrower than the previous one and features a bevel design. The new glasses are planned to gradually replace the old ones.

Sinking bubbles

When Guinness is poured, the gas bubbles appear to travel downwards in the glass. The effect is attributed to drag; bubbles that touch the walls of a glass are slowed in their travel upwards. Bubbles in the centre of the glass are, however, free to rise to the surface, and thus form a rising column of bubbles. The rising bubbles create a current by the entrainment of the surrounding fluid. As beer rises in the centre, the beer near the outside of the glass falls. This downward flow pushes the bubbles near the glass towards the bottom. Although the effect occurs in any liquid, it is particularly noticeable in any dark nitrogen stout, as the drink combines dark-coloured liquid and light-coloured bubbles.

A study published in 2012 revealed that the effect is due to the particular shape of the glass coupled with the small bubble size found in stout beers. If the vessel widens with height then bubbles will sink along the walls – this is the case for the standard pint glass. Conversely, in an anti-pint (i.e. if the vessel narrows with height) bubbles will rise along the walls.

Culinary uses

Guinness is frequently used as an ingredient in recipes, often to add a seemingly authentic Irish element to the menus of Irish-themed pubs in the United States, where it is stirred into everything from french toast to beef stew.

A popular, authentic, Irish course featuring Guinness is the "Guinness and Steak Pie." The recipe includes many common Irish herbs, as well as beef brisket, cheeses, and a can of Guinness.


The Guinness harp motif is modelled on the Trinity College Harp. It was adopted in 1862 by the then proprietor, Benjamin Lee Guinness. Harps have been a symbol of Ireland at least since the reign of Henry VIII. Guinness registered their harp as a trademark shortly after the passing of the Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875. It faces right instead of left, and so can be distinguished from the Irish coat of arms.

Since the 1930s in the face of falling sales, Guinness has had a long history of marketing campaigns, from award-winning television advertisements to beer mats and posters. Before then, Guinness had almost no advertising, instead allowing for word of mouth to sell the product.

Guinness's iconic stature is partly due to its advertising. The most notable and recognisable series of advertisements was created by S.H. Benson's advertising, primarily drawn by the artist John Gilroy, in the 1930s and 1940s. Benson created posters that included phrases such as "Guinness for Strength", "Lovely Day for a Guinness", "Guinness Makes You Strong," "My Goodness My Guinness," (or, alternatively, "My Goodness, My Christmas, It's Guinness!") and most famously, "Guinness is Good For You". The posters featured Gilroy's distinctive artwork and more often than not featured animals such as a kangaroo, ostrich, seal, lion and notably a toucan, which has become as much a symbol of Guinness as the harp. (An advertisement from the 1940s ran with the following jingle: "Toucans in their nests agree/Guinness is good for you/Try some today and see/What one or toucan do.") Dorothy L. Sayers and Bobby Bevan copywriters at Benson's also worked on the campaign; a biography of Sayers notes that she created a sketch of the toucan and wrote several of the adverts in question. Guinness advertising paraphernalia, notably the pastiche booklets illustrated by Ronald Ferns, attract high prices on the collectible market.

Many of the best known Guinness television commercials of the 1970s and 1980s were created by British director, Len Fulford.

In 1983 a conscious marketing decision was made to turn Guinness into a " cult" beer in the UK, amidst declining sales. The move was judged successful, halting the sales decline, and Guinness has arguably been marketed as a cult beer in the UK and America ever since. The Guardian described the management of the brand:

"they've spent years now building a brand that's in complete opposition to cheap lagers, session drinking and crowds of young men boozing in bars. They've worked very hard to help Guinness drinkers picture themselves as twinkly-eyed, Byronic bar-room intellectuals, sitting quietly with a pint and dreaming of poetry and impossibly lovely redheads running barefoot across the peat. You have a pint or two of Guinness with a slim volume of Yeats, not eight mates and a 19 pint bender which ends in tattoos, A&E and herpes from a hen party."

In the late 1980s and early 1990s in the UK there was a multi-award-winning series of "darkly" humorous adverts, featuring actor Rutger Hauer, with the theme "Pure Genius", extolling its qualities in brewing and target market.

The 1994–1995 Anticipation campaign, featuring actor Joe McKinney dancing to "Guaglione" by Perez Prado while his pint settled, became a legend in Ireland and put the song to number one in the charts for several weeks. The advertisement was also popular in the UK where the song reached number two.

In 2000, Guinness's 1999 advertisement Surfer was named the best television commercial of all time in a UK poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. This advertisement is inspired by the famous 1980s Guinness TV and cinema ad, "Big Wave", centred on a surfer riding a wave while a bikini-clad sun bather takes photographs. The 1980s advertisement not only remained a popular iconic image in its own right but also entered the Irish cultural memory through inspiring a well known line in Christy Moore's 1985 song " Delirium Tremens". Surfer was produced by the advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO; the advertisement can be downloaded from their website.

Guinness won the 2001 Clio Award as the Advertiser of the Year, citing the work of five separate ad agencies around the world.

In 2003 the Guinness TV campaign featuring Tom Crean won the gold Shark Award at the International Advertising Festival of Ireland, while in 2005 their Irish Christmas campaign won a silver Shark. This TV ad has been run every Christmas since 2003 and features pictures of snow falling in places around Ireland, evoking the James Joyce story The Dead, finishing at St. James's Gate Brewery with the line "Even at the home of the black stuff they dream of a white one".

Their UK commercial noitulovE, first broadcast in October 2005, was the most-awarded commercial worldwide in 2006. In it, three men drink a pint of Guinness, then begin to both walk and evolve backward. Their 'reverse evolution' passes through an ancient homo sapiens, a monkey, a flying lemur, a pangolin, an ichthyosaur and a velociraptor until finally settling on a mud skipper drinking dirty water, which then expresses its disgust at the taste of the stuff, followed by the line "Good Things Come To Those Who Wait". The official name of the ad is "Noitulove"—which is "Evolution" backwards. This was later modified to have a different endings to advertise Guinness Extra Cold, often shown as "break bumpers" at the beginning and end of commercial breaks. The second endings show either the homo sapiens being suddenly frozen in a block of ice, the ichthyasaurs being frozen while swimming, or the pool of muddy water freezing over as the mud skipper takes a sip, freezing his tongue to the surface.

Two further advertisements in 2006 and early 2007, "Hands" and "St. Patrick's Hands" were created by animator Michael Schlingmann for Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. They feature a pair of hands, animated in stop motion under a rostrum camera. "Hands" focuses on the 119.53 seconds it takes to pour a pint and "St. Patrick's Hands is a spoof of "Riverdance", with the animated hands doing the dancing.

Guinness's 2007 advertisement, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and filmed in Argentina, is entitled "Tipping Point". It involves a large-scale domino chain-reaction and, with a budget of £10m, is the most expensive advertisement by the company so far.

And in 2009, the "To Arthur" advertisement, which started with two friends realising the long history, hail each other by lifting up their glass and saying "to Arthur!". The hailing slowing spread throughout the bar itself to the streets outside, which accuminates to around the world. The advertisement end with the voiceover, "Join the worldwide celebration, of a man named Arthur".

The event is now known as Guinness Arthur's Day. "Arthur's Day is a series of events and celebrations taking place around the world to celebrate the life and legacy of Arthur Guinness and the much-loved Guinness beer which Arthur brought to the world." It took place for the third time at 17:59pm on 22 September 2011.

Worldwide sales

Sales of Guinness in Ireland and the United Kingdom declined 7% in 2006. Despite this, Guinness still accounts for more than a quarter of all beer sold in Ireland.

Guinness has a significant share of the African beer market, where it has been sold since 1827. About 40% of worldwide total Guinness volume is brewed and sold in Africa, with Foreign Extra Stout the most popular variant. The Michael Power advertising campaign was a critical success for Guinness in Africa, running for nearly a decade before being replaced in 2006 with "Guinness Greatness".

The beer is brewed under licence internationally in several countries, including Nigeria, the Bahamas, Canada, and Indonesia. The unfermented but hopped Guinness wort extract is shipped from Dublin and blended with beer brewed locally.

The UK is the only sovereign state to consume more Guinness than Ireland, and the third largest Guinness drinking nation being Nigeria, followed by the USA. The United States consumed more than 950,000 hectolitres of Guinness in 2010.


The Guinness Storehouse is a popular tourist attraction at St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin where a self-guided tour includes an account of the ingredients used to make the stout, and a description of how it is made. A pint of Guinness is offered which the visitor may pour after a demonstration by one of the staff. There are videos showing how Guinness is tested by a panel of tasters and the visitor is instructed in tasting the beer. The tour includes such items as the historical coopering trade within Guinness, a section dedicated to advertising and merchandising by Guinness, and a section dedicated to historical artefacts and footage relating to Guinness. The tour finishes with a pint of Guinness (if it has not already been drunk at one of the other bars)in the Gravity Bar. Two other bars, a coffee shop and a restaurant are available to visitors during the tour and a range of Guinness merchandise is available to purchase.

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