Thanks to our friends at Heave Media for this great Guinness history article. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.
What’s the story?
On the final day of the year 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on a small, dilapidated brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin. Yes, 9,000 years, for an annual rent of £45. The brewery site at St. James’s Gate has since expanded far beyond its original size (from 4 to 50 acres), and the nine-millennium lease has since been superseded, but you can go see Arthur Guinness’s signature on the famously zealous contract on show at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin to this very day.
Prior to 1759, Arthur had brewed ale at a small brewery in Country Kildare. The suffering state of the Dublin brewing industry (due to heavy taxation designed to favor English-produced beer) made his decision to leave his former brewing operation to his brother and confidently sign a 9,000 year lease at St. James’s Gate all the more surprising. Arthur Guinness was a determined and enterprising spirit, however, and an unfriendly tax-structure was just one of many streams he had to help his fledgling company company ford in its early years. When the Dublin Corporation tried to cut off his water supply in 1775, Arthur was forced to brandish a pickaxe and “much improper language” to defend what his original lease had guaranteed free for 9,000 years.
In the early years, Arthur brewed “Guinness Dublin Ale” at St. James’s Gate. By the 1770’s, however, a new, dark beer imported from London called porter was surpassing ale in popularity, and Arthur decided to try his hand at this style. This proved to be a good choice; by 1794, his recipe was popular enough to inspire an engraving in London magazine “The Gentleman’s Choice” of a man drinking Guinness Porter. In 1799, shortly before his death in 1803, Arthur made the fateful decision to stop brewing Dublin Ale and focus exclusively on porter. In the century to follow, the popularity of Guinness’ dark beer would surpass that of all other competitors, would help Dublin would overthrow London as the porter capital of the world, and would spawn a beer style unto itself called stout.
The Guinness Draught you’re probably familiar with, the one served in Irish pubs around the world today, did not really take shape until the 20th century. Around the 1930s, Guinness began shifting away from the use of black patent malt to actual roasted barley, and in the 1950’s pioneered the use of taps that carbonated beer with a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide in response to complaints that the new keg-carbonated beer was not as smooth as the old cask-conditioned variety. Guinness Draught officially made its debut in 1959, 200 years after Arthur signed his 9,000 year lease at St. James’s Gate.
Why should I drink it?
Where to begin…
In February 6, 1929, the first ever Guinness newspaper advertisement appeared in the Daily Mail. The advert featured a simple tagline that would soon become one of the Guinness brand’s most enduring legacies: “Guinness is good for you.” If you’ve ever been to a bar or pub with an “O’’ and an apostrophe preceding the rest of the name, you’ve probably seen this message endorsed by toucans, sea lions, and burly working-class men on colorful Guinness posters. Reportedly, the slogan was born when the SH Benson, the advertising agency charged with creating the campaign, asked pub regulars why they were drinking Guinness. “Nine times out of ten,” says Guinness archivist Eibhlin Roche, “the answer back was ‘Guinness is good for you.’” This wasn’t just brazen, drunk bravado, either; around this time, Guinness was prescribed to post-operative patients and nursing mothers due to its high iron content and “nourishing properties.”
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