While there was no gluttonous German boy or Paraguayan millionaire touring with me, there was a factory that brewed top secret deliciousness, using special, local water. There was even a great glass elevator that took us up many flights only to display the gorgeous surrounding city. And yes, the tour was given by the slightly mischievous, coolheaded and abundantly generous brewer impresario – Fergal Murray.
This amazing brewery began with a different man who is no longer with us. In 1759, the entrepreneur and philanthropist, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000-year lease on an unused brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. It costs him an initial £100 (about $147) with an annual rent of £45 (about $66). This included crucial water rights. The brewery covered four acres and consisted of a copper, a kieve, a mill, two malthouses, stabling for 12 horses and a loft to hold 200 tons of hay.
Now, if that isn’t the best investment ever, I don’t know what is.
Arthur’s Day 2012 took place on September 27th, celebrating over 250 years (253 to be exact) of Guinness with the man who started it all. Arthur’s Day started in 2009, celebrating Guinness brewing company’s 250th anniversary. The brewery that currently owns over 60 acres and brews approximately 3 million pints every day was buzzing.
The magical place incorporates elements from the old brewing factory. The brewery exhibition takes place over seven floors, in the shape of a 14 million pint glass of Guinness. Seriously. The final floor is the Gravity Bar, which has an almost 360° panorama view of the city, where you can drink a free pint of “the black stuff”. Though if you hold it up to the light, as Fergal explained later, it’s actually dark ruby red. His recommendation is to swirl the pint, releasing the bubbles in the head. The head holds more of the bitter flavors, so swirling gives you the proper mixture.
Alas, it wasn’t just about drinking the lovely “juice”, as I heard from a bartender at Murty Rabbitts, in Dublin’s Temple Bar area, a few days prior. Arthur’s Day was about celebrating the man and the history behind the name. Grúdlann Gheata Naomh Séamuis (St. James’s Gate Brewery) is the largest brewer of stout in the world. And it’s been quite the journey. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the brewery owned most of the buildings in the surrounding area, including many streets of housing for brewery employees. There’s so much history, in fact, that the Guinness® Archive was formally established in 1998.
The famous beer reputedly aided the recovery of a cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo, perhaps giving life to the “Guinness is Good for you” advertising campaign. Guinness has brilliantly branded the dark stuff this way for nearly 80 years. The first ad appeared in the columns of the Daily Mail on February 6, 1929 and began with a factual statement: “This is the first advertisement ever issued in a national paper to advertise Guinness.” Soon after, CJ Newbold, then the Guinness managing director, hired the ad agency, SH Benson. Instead of coming up with a slogan themselves, they did their due diligence. What else? They went to the pubs and asked Guinness drinkers, ‘Why are you drinking Guinness?’ The responses were simple and yes, brilliant. ‘Guinness is good for you’. After all, pregnant women in Ireland were once advised to drink a Guinness a day to fortify themselves and their baby.
Creativity peaked when the agency involved its in-house artist, John M Gilroy, on the account. Gilroy was famous for two campaigns, which simultaneously ran for nearly thirty years, starting in the 1930s. The first involved the slogan “Guinness for strength” showing people performing incredible feats of strength empowered by GUINNESS®.The second campaign, known as Guinness Zoo, transformed the Guinness brand. Gilroy was inspired by a circus visit and the sight of a sea lion balancing a ball on his nose. The image of a sea lion balancing a bottle of the black stuff was then subject of the iconic Guinness poster ad. Introducing clever and colorful drawings, he spawned slogans such as “Guinness for Strength”, “My Goodness, My Guinness” and “A Lovely Day for a Guinness”. While Even Glazer’s 1999 ad “Surfer” is frequently cited as Britain’s favorite all-time ad, nothing can compare to the famous toucan.
The toucan (which actually started out as a pelican) was the first of the ‘Guinness Menagerie’ to appear in poster form. The theme of the ad was “Guinness -a- day”, and it showed a pelican with seven pints of GUINNESS® balanced on its beak. It carried the rhyme: “A Wonderful bird is the Pelican, Its bill can hold more than its belly can, It can hold in its beak, Enough for a Week, I simply don’t know how the hell he can.” This was later changed to a toucan by Dorothy L. Sayers.
But the image that has most consistently remained part of Guinness branding for centuries, and will keep you company with every sip is the famous O’Neill Harp. It’s adorned the bottles since 1862. It was registered as a Guinness company trademark in 1876. It is because of the harp trademark that Guinness named its first lager ‘Harp’ in 1960. It’s also strategically placed on the pint glasses to gauge the perfect pour. When the Irish Free State came into being in 1922, it wanted to adopt the same iconic Irish symbol. Much to their chagrin, Guinness had trademarked the logo in 1876. The government had to flip their harp the other way round. In our tour of the archives, our lovely host said with a smile, “we always like to say that we got there first.” The other core features of the trademark label were the ‘Guinness’ name and Arthur Guinness’ signature. Together, the above features evolved into the three core elements of the GUINNESS brand identity.
In those first times, the craft of beer making was a skill unlike any other trades. ‘Coopering’ involved the manufacture of wooden casks, by hand. Everything was gauged by sight and required perfection since each cask had to be airtight and strong enough to withhold the force of fermenting beer. It was thought Guinness coopers were the only coopers to blaze their casks. Coopers were tough, hard-working gents and it was said that women were often smitten with these manly men. Honestly, after watching the film of the coopers making the casks, it made me wish these men still existed.
Many were given nicknames because they had the same surname. ‘Stavisky’ Murphy, ‘Tapeworm’ Murphy, ‘Jellybean’ Delaney and ‘The Scrapper’ Delaney may have worked together, as the trade was a ‘closed’ one so that it was passed down from generation to generation, within the same family. In the 1920s about 300 coopers (half the city’s population) worked here. They were highly paid tradesmen -Guinness paid better wages than any other employer in Ireland.
These men were pivotal in making Arthur Guinness’ main product, Guinness Draught, a 4.2% ABV dry stout. To my surprise, Guinness also produces a Guinness Mid-Strength, a low-alcohol version of the Guinness Draught stout, (2.8% abv). After a few pints (& it was only lunch time), this came in handy. When I noticed it and commented that I wish I had known about that before I ordered lunch, Fergal was quick to swap his Mid-Strength pint for my 4.2% Draught. As I was relishing in my very first Irish stew, cooked with Guinness, of course, Fergal poured the rich 7.5% Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This was my first foreign extra stout in Ireland. As he carefully poured it, he leaned over and said, “this is really special.”
Rory Guinness joined us on the tour for a little while to talk about the tale of inspiration and ingenuity his great, great, great, great, great grandfather had, over two centuries ago. A tall fellow, with an infectious smile, he proudly, yet humbly talked about Guinness’ steeped traditions, their family history, and growing up as a ‘Guinness’. He joked that as a kid, he hated when the kids at school called him ‘Murphy’, for fun. He also showed us the famous ads that helped put them on the map.
Fergal then showed us how to not only pour the perfect pint, but how to drink the perfect pint. Who better? He explained that it’s not just pouring a beer, it’s about creating an experience. This ritualistic two part pour should be respected and demonstrated with passion and care. Because of this, Fergal stressed the importance of the bartender. It takes 119.5 seconds to pour and serve the perfect pint of Guinness draught.
Step One: The Glass
The bartender needs to use a dry, clean glass. It should be a 20-ounce tulip pint glass. The right glass allows the nitrogen bubbles to flow down the sides of the glass.
Step Two: The Angle
The glass should be held at a 45-degree angle under the tap. The tap should not touch the tulip glass or beer and it should be fully open.
Step Three: The Pour
Hold the glass with your forefinger on the harp. Let the beer flow nice and smoothly into the angled glass and fill it up ¾ of the way. The top of the harp on the Guinness pint glass is a great indicator on where to stop the pour.
Step Four: The Head
Let it settle for 2 minutes. The faucet, nitrogen and the bubbles help build this wonderful, creamy head on top. The head should be 10-15 mm high. This brings the beer alive.
Step Five: The Top-Off
Once it settles, fill up the glass and top it off by pushing the tap handle away from you. Bring it ‘proud to the rim’, as he proudly states, do not let it overflow. Guinness should be served at exactly 42.8F.
Step Six: The First Sip
Present the perfect pint, logo facing forward. Hold it up to the light, marvel at the ruby red color.
Part 2 of the perfect Guinness experience, the savor:
Look to the horizon and bring your elbow up and bring the glass to your lips. Break the seal of the head by taking a large sip. You want the sweetness of the malt in the front, the roastiness on the side, the hops in the back, and so tasting the balance of the flavors.
As if learning the perfect pour and the perfect sip from the master brewer himself wasn’t enough, we then got a taste of the meatier side of Guinness, from the executive chef, Justin O’Connor. Justin kindly displayed how to prepare their most popular dishes, beef Guinness stew using their foreign extra stout, Guinness with mussels and mouth-watering Guinness chocolate truffles. The beer added great depth and truly intensified the flavors in the deep sauces and dark chocolates. This was an amazing part of the Guinness experience and one that I will attempt to recreate very soon.
While Guinness has a rich history, they embrace change and are looking forward to exciting advancements in the future. That’s right, St James’s Gate brewery is expanding and currently undergoing renovations. As we ascended the metal stairs overlooking the massive tanks, I felt more history in the making.
To celebrate this history and toast to Arthur, pubs across Ireland were alive, alive with the Guinness legacy and the Guinness generosity. Fittingly so, on Arthur’s Day, they were giving away a free pint. Others who celebrated with us included musical acts like Example, Tinie Tempah, Ellie Goulding, Mika, Professor Green, Fatboy Slim, Texas and Amy MacDonald. Everyone was indeed, painting the town black. It was quite a site to see hundreds of people sipping the beer Arthur brewed over two centuries ago.
In continuing homage to this inspirational man, we paid a visit to his gravestone in Oughterard, County Kildare, picturesquely surrounded by trees and rolling green hills. Oughterard is an ecclesiastical hilltop graveyard site and townland in County Kildare, now part of the community of Ardclough, close to the Dublin border. He died on January 23, 1803, at age 78. By his death the annual brewery output was over 20,000 barrels.
The importance of beer and alcoholic beverages in Arthur’s day cannot be overstated. People gravitated towards the nectar of the Gods due to polluted waters and spreading disease. But it’s also his philanthropy that defines the Guinness brand to this day. Arthur helped fund the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Guinness gave large amounts of money to the poor and was instrumental in the creation of parks and recreation spaces surrounding Dublin. Arthur Guinness was one of the first of his kind in Ireland to offer his employees full pensions and health care coverage and bravely challenged the material excesses of his own social class. Arthur’s grandson became Lord Iveagh due to their charitable works, later setting up the Iveagh trust to help the homeless.
From healthcare and social benefits for employees to contributing to relief projects around the world, Arthur Guinness’ philanthropic legacy is something to be revered.
To further honor the Arthur Guinness legacy, Guinness & Co. has established the Arthur Guinness Fund. Since the fund was launched in 2009, Diageo have donated €3 million to the Arthur Guinness Fund, €2.35 million of which has already been distributed to 30 Irish social entrepreneurial projects & the remaining fund will be used to support future Irish social entrepreneurs in the coming years.
His children and their children’s children have built the Guinness corporation on the strength of Arthur Guinness’ faith, innovation, vision and spirit. Because of this, I’m confident that Guinness will make it another 8,747 years.
Here’s to Arthur!
Guinness Fun Facts:
- Guinness is brewed in 49 countries & sold in more than 150 countries, including Nigeria and Indonesia.
- A pint of Guinness contains only 198 calories. That’s less than most light beers, wine, orange juice or even low fat milk.
- In 1761 Arthur married Olivia Whitmore in St. Mary’s Church, Dublin, and they had 21 children, 10 of whom lived until adulthood.