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The History of Guinness Beer

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As a college student and a regular consumer of Keystone Light and Franzia boxed wine, I had never experienced the greatness that is Guinness beer. Before I tried this stout ale, I was accustomed to nearly clear-colored beers and “bitch” drinks like Smirnoff that camouflage alcohol with fruity syrups. As I popped the top of my bottle of Guinness, there was nothing I could do to prepare myself.

In the simplest of terms, it’s rich. Mixed with 75 percent nitrogen, the stout ale has a creamy head when drawn from the tap or from the bottle. The tight head is actually a result of the “surge” of nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas bubbles. Most non-stout beers contain predominantly carbon dioxide, not nitrogen, making a less foamy beer.

Pouring the Guinness Draught requires a “two part” pour, which consists of filling the cup three-quarters of the way, letting it rest, and then filling the remaining quarter of the glass. When drunk from the bottle, Guinness has a small cylindrical plastic piece called a widget at the bottom that pops up and down before and after each sip to maintain this nitrogen level and creamy foam. Don’t worry about it coming out in the neck of the bottle when it gets turned upside down, though; the widget is too big to fit through the neck.

All this science in the bubbly foam consequently calls for a particular way to drink a glass or a bottle. Once you’ve opened the bottle or been served your glass of Guinness Draught, it is crucial that you wait 119.5 seconds (approximately two minutes) before you take a gulp. While amateur Guinness drinkers might not be able to notice a difference in the taste, veteran Guinness enthusiasts wouldn’t dare jump the gun.

With Guinness’ history in marketing the beer with the tagline “Guinness is Good for Your Health,” this drink has a traditional toast to go along with the delightful taste. As seen in an episode of Three Sheets with Zane Lamprey, this drink is customarily toasted with the word “Sláínte,” which in Ireland means “to good health.” Locals explain to Lamprey that in the early years of Guinness doctors even prescribed it for ailments, proving that its dark color and rich taste made it easy for anyone to seek an excuse to drink Guinness. Considering recent studies, the Guinness tagline that stuck with the company may not be all that out of line after all. Having similar antioxidants to those found in fruits and vegetables, the stout ale could actually be good for the heart.

A truly unique beer, Guinness is one of the most popular ale brands internationally and has the years under its belt to support its reputation, celebrating its 250th birthday this year. Founder Arthur Guinness has left a remarkable legacy. Arthur, from Dublin, Ireland, created the stout taste with the use of roasted barley. The roasted barley is essentially what gives the beer its color and somewhat burnt aftertaste, but there are also yeast, hops, and isinglass finings, which are made from the swim-bladders of fish.

While the finings were enough to give scientists and critics something to investigate, in the early 1900s the stout was investigated for its unusually dark color. Obviously, nothing suspicious was found, and although the stout appears black, it is actually a deep ruby red as a result of the roasted barley. It’s similar to coffee in that the roasting of the coffee beans or barley creates this dark color.

When I took my first sip of the stout ale, the initial taste seemed similar to my normal choice of watered-down carbon dioxide beers. However, the aftertaste was an entirely new experience once it set in. I instantaneously thought I had just eaten a large piece of yeasty bread with a glass of wine. The taste made me feel as if I were receiving communion. Maybe this is because it is a truly religious experience, or maybe it was just the roasted barley, yeast, and creamy consistency that registered this in my mind.

Guinness is referred to by some as a “meal in a glass.” After my first bottle I certainly felt like I had just finished a complete meal. Yet the stout ale has only 198 calories, which is fewer than most juices, sodas, and non-light beers, thus proving that indulging your Guinness itch doesn’t have to include a guilty conscience or a beer belly.

Outside of the pure delight Guinness’ taste can bring, the advertising history of the company is exceptional. With iconic and imaginative commercials, ads, and posters, the stamp of Guinness being not just a beer but a complete brand with excellent brand extension is evident.

The early ads of Guinness set the mark for portraying Guinness as having a certain liveliness. From the early print ads claiming that Guinness was good for your health and introducing the fun toucan to the arrival of the harp that is now part of the logo, the ads were consistently edgy for their time. Recently, the ads have flourished with the foundation that the early advertising years of Guinness established. A TV ad full of young twenty-somethings running around and up and down an office building, flipping lights on and off and creating this essentially “bubbling” and “surging” image from a distance, goes to show the liveliness Guinness brings to its beer visually. The idea that Guinness is to be marketed as being “alive” has stayed with the advertising departments since the beginning, with TV ads making Guinness come to life as early as the 1950s.

Triumphing over its 250th year since Arthur Guinness founded the stout ale, and maintaining this seemingly impossible feat of keeping a concise and long-lasting advertising campaign, Guinness came out with its 250th Anniversary Brew Blend in the United States, Australia, and Singapore in April.

Although the ale is weaker now than the original 1759 blend, Guinness’ loyalty to Arthur is something worth celebrating, and that’s exactly what the company has been doing this year. With “The Global Toast,” Guinness is creating the biggest toast in history.

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About Autumn Huffman

  • http://whatwouldmargochanningdo.blogspot.com/ Kt

    Here, here to my favorite beer….I mean…stout. One interesting thing about Guinness is how low in calories it is which you wouldn’t expect with how “heavy” it might seem. 153 calories in a 12 oz. bottle, 210 in a pint, depending on different sources.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Murphy’s > Guinness.

    Hell, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout > Guinness.

    Nice informative and entertaining article, though. I still really enjoy a pint of Guinness from time to time.