It’s Thursday the 13th in our 17 Days of St. Patrick Celebration—I say “our” because for some reason you’re here reading about it—and we’re about to spook things up with a Ghost of Guinness Past.
I don’t actually know what that means, but I figured today I’d talk a bit about Guinness history to commemorate this, the last Guinness t-shirt of the countdown.
Arthur Guinness—the man, the myth, the brewmaster—was born in 1725. I’m sure he did wonderful and exciting things all over Ireland for many years, but really most people don’t care much about what happened to him until 1752, when his godfather’s will left him £100. Young Arthur smartly invested that money, and in 1755 he started brewing his own ale outside of Dublin. Then, in 1759, the greatest year in recorded history, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on the St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin, and Guinness was born.
Yes, 9,000 years. That’s some solid business savvy right there. St. James’s Gate is still the main location where Guinness is brewed today, and likely will continue to be for the next 8,745 years. St. James’s Gate is know as the official “Home of Guinness,” clearly making St. James my second favorite saint.
Guinness was exported for the first time in 1769 (to England), and began their first advertisements in 1794. Both of these are important facts, because a) it only took 10 years for Guinness to become go international, and b) all of their success over the first 35 years took place entirely through word of mouth. In 1799, the Dublin brewery stopped making ale in order to devote more resources to their popular porter, the ancestor of the drink we know and love today.
In 1803, Arthur Guinness died, which is why I never talk about that year, and his son, Arthur Guinness II, took over the family business. There’s always a possibility a company might flounder when a son or protege takes over, but clearly Arthur Senior’s descendants knew what they were doing. Guinness made it to Lisbon in 1811, Guernsey, Trinidad, Barbados, and Sierra Leone in the 1820s, and finally New York in 1840. God Bless America.
The 19th century was an exciting one for Guinness, with the stout eventually making it to New Zealand and Southeast Asia. In 1861, the Black Velvet was born when a bar steward decided “that even the champagne should be in mourning” after the death of Albert, Prince Consort. The following year, Guinness began using the harp on its logos, although it wasn’t trademarked until 1876. An interesting note on the harp: it’s is also a symbol of Ireland itself, but because of Guinness’s copyright, the harp on the Irish coat of arms faces left. (Guinness’s harp faces right.)
Guinness has had a lot of milestones over the years, from the famous ad campaigns that began in 1929 to the publication of the first Guinness Book of Records in the 1950s. Today it’s sold in over 150 countries around the world, and over 10 million glasses are enjoyed every day, including the one that I’ll be drinking tonight.