Today the biddies dive into the beer that once had the largest brewery in the world and beat a country to register its national symbol: Guinness. Guinness started out as a family-owned company and quickly became the national beer of Ireland and beloved throughout the world. Tune in to learn why the dark brew is so refreshingly light and how to properly pour a Guinness (it’s really important!).


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Study Notes On Guinness:

*Please note these are the literal notes we created to record the podcast and sections may be copied and pasted from our sources above.

Early History

  • Guinness was founded when Arthur Guinness bought a small brewery in Dublin in 1759.
    • But the St James’s Gate brewery goes back almost a century before that. Its first known occupant was Giles Mee, who was paying hearth tax on a property at St James’s Gate in 1663 and was brewing on location by 1670.
    • produced a variety of ales and beers, but in 1799 it was decided to concentrate exclusively on porter, a dark beer with a rich head. 
    • porter later known as stout?
    • came to be regarded as the national beer of Ireland
    • Guinness died in 1803, and his son Arthur took over the family business and greatly expanded sales to Great Britain. 
    • By 1833 Guinness was the largest brewery in Ireland.
    • In 1855 Arthur’s son Benjamin Lee Guinness took over the company upon his father’s death. The beer had long had a strong following in the British Isles, and Benjamin spread its fame overseas. 
    • Guinness’s stout gained a reputation for its nutritional and invigorating properties, and by 1883 the company was the world’s largest brewery. 
    • A brewery opened at Park Royal in London in 1936 was soon outproducing the Dublin site. 
    • In the 1950s the company began producing Harp lager to fill demand for lighter brews.

Guinness – The Timeline

  • Arthur developed his passion for brewing from his father, Richard, who was apparently in charge of the brewing in the Cellbridge estate of Dr. Arthur Price (later archbishop of cashel)
  • Born in Celbridge in 1725
    • His family owned a very successful flour mill and many family members became politicians or served in parliament in England
    • When archbishop left a significant amount of money to the Guinness family when he passed away
    • This money allowed Arthur to open the brewery in Dublin 
    • On December 31st, 1759 Arthur signed a 9000 year lease on St. James Gate’s Brewery in Dublin  (named for both a neighborhood in Dublin and a medieval gate leading into the city)
    • The annual rent is 45 Pounds
  • In 1838 – St James Gate Brewery became the largest brewery in Ireland and in 1886 it was the the largest in the world
  • Still operational today and known as the world’s biggest brewer of stout
  • In the beginning, Arthur started with brewing pale and amber ales since that was the style of the day in that part of the world
  • In 1798, dark beer entered the conversation since it was discovered that if you took beer with darker malt (considered lower quality) nad aged it in large wooden vats, it would end up pretty nice
    • In that year, Guinness constructed Vat House Number 1
  • In 1799, Arthur Guinness II, stopped brewing ales altogether to perfect the stout recipe
  • 1801 – West Indies Porter/Foreign Extra Stout
  • 1821 – Guinness Extra Stout
    • Sharper and crisper than Guinness Draught and Foreign Extra Stout
  • 1959 – Guinness celebrated its bicentennial releasing Guinness Draught Stout for the first time – arrived to the US 6 years later in 1965
    • For years prior to this, bars and pubs served Guinness beer in one of two ways – either the brewery was sent beer to the bars and they would bottle it themselves or the brewery would send each pub two casks of Guinness beer (one cask was fresh and livery right from the brewery with plenty of carbonation and the other was a bit more aged called a flat or stale cask but had more flavors and aromas)
    • The bartender (publican!?) had to blend those two together to make the perfect Guinness introducing the two part pour

Porter vs Stout

  • Stout is a direct descendant of porter. 
  • In the 1700s, “stout” referred to any variation which was bolder, bigger, and higher alcohol, much as “lite” means the opposite today.
  • From an 1810 book on commerce: “Porter may be divided into two classes, namely brown-stout and porter properly so-called … Brown-stout is only a fuller-bodied kind of porter than that which serves for ordinary drinking. A great deal of this is exported to America and the West Indies.”
  • The Beer Judge Certification Program describes stout as “a very dark, roasty, bitter, creamy ale,” and porter as “a substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character.” While some suggest stouts are defined by roasted barley or patent malt (roasted malted barley), history indicates that stout precedes both those ingredients.

Guinness & Innovation

  • First major innovation started with Arthur Guinness in 1801 when he created the West India Porter
    • He wanted to be able to export his beer to countries like the West Indies but he needed a reliable preservation method so he made a higher alcohol and hopped beer to survive the journey
  • 1951: Michael Ash joined the Guinness team; a master mathematician turned master brewer
    • He wanted to serve Guinness in draught format and was convinced that adding nitrogen to the beer was not only the most effective way to do this but it would transform the actual beer itself 
    • Created a special keg called “the Ash can” which was a two part keg with one chamber full of beer and the other full of gas under pressure (25% CO2 and 75% nitrogen)
    • CO2 bubbles are large and attract other CO2 bubbles – they agitate easily and can break the surface tension of whatever liquid they’re in 
    • Nitrogen is the opposite – gas bubbles are smaller and repel eac hother so it changes the texture 
    • “Easy Serve system” aka “surge and settle” is what Guinness is now famous for
  • The Widget: the secret to making a beer creamy, rich, smooth is nitrogenation but trying to recreate that in a can or bottle became difficult
    • The widget was introduced: a small, white nitrogen filled ball that sits inside the can and once the can is opened the widget released a surge of bubbles replicating the draught in the a can
    • In 2004 a survey came out that voted that the widget was a greater invention than the internet
    • The survey was done in Ireland so it’s a bit skewed
  • Guinness 0 – non alcoholic

Distillers Co Scandal

In 1985 the firm acquired Arthur Bell & Sons PLC, a distiller of Scotch whisky, and in 1986 it bought The Distillers Co. PLC, which was the largest Scotch distiller in the world. 

Guinness’s use of clandestine and apparently illegal stock transactions in acquiring Distillers created a major corporate scandal when these acts became known to the public. 

Guinness & Their Merits:

  • Arthur Guiness felt it was important to give back to the city that hosts the brewery
  • 1800s – the Guinness family contributed to the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin
  • St. Stephen’s Green (once a private green reserved for the city’s wealthiest residents) was purchased by Arthur Edward Guinness and donated to the city so the green space could be used by everyone
  • The Guinness Trust in London & and Iveagh Trust in Dublin were established in 1890 by Edward Cecil Guinness to help underprivileged communities living in the inner city 
  • The brewery also established better employee-employer relationships, paying 10% higher than the average wage in Dublin in the late 1800s and even built a medical center to provide free healthcare to employees and their families
  • They also received paid annual holidays, free meals, annual excursions, a beer allowance, and a pension scheme 
  • Water of LIfe – providing safe drinking water to people in Africa
  • Raising the Bar – helping service industry members during covid


Guinness’s merger in 1997 with food and beverage company Grand Metropolitan PLC resulted in a company, Diageo, that was the world’s biggest seller of spirits.

Guinness Book of World Records

In 1955 the company began publishing The Guinness Book of Records, originally conceived to help settle trivia disputes in pubs; the property was sold in 2001.

  • One tale says that Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of the guinness brewery at the time, went on a hunting trip with his buddies and while out shooting animals, he got in an argument with his friends about the fastest game bird
  • Without reaching a conclusion, Sir Beaver returned to the brewery, grabbed a few interns, and told them to figure it out
  • He wanted to put it in a book and send it to pubs to settle arguments
  • Highest selling trademarked book in history

Gunness Around the World

In Africa and Asia, drinkers are much more familiar with an older style of Guinness beer, known as Foreign Extra Stout, or FES, which comes in bottles, is almost twice as strong as draft Guinness and has a powerful, tart flavor that’s surprisingly refreshing in a hot climate.

  • In the overwhelming majority of places if you order a Guinness, you will get a Foreign Extra Stout
  • It is the number one selling beer in Guinness’ portfolio

Guinness in Africa

  • Has had a special place in the hearts of African consumers for almost 2 centuries
  • The first recorded shipment of Guinness to the African continent arrived in Sierra Leone in 1827 and in 1962, the first Guinness Brewery outside of Ireland and the UK was created in Ikeja, Nigeria
    • Nigeria actually has more Guinness drinkers than Ireland
  • Advertising: the have a history of iconic marketing made specifically for Africa
    • Michael Power Campaign: created and featured an all-African action hero and culminated in the creation of an award-winning full length feature film Critical Assignment
    • Helped bring football broadcasting of the premier league across Africa
    • Black Shines Brightest – newest campaign for all of Africa

The Harp:

  • the official national emblem of Ireland
  • The design stems from the Brian Boru harp (on display at Trinity College in the Long Room and dates back to the 14th-16th century
  • Guinness staked a claim on the harp first 
  • By the 1860s, Guinness stout was available all over the world and the Guiness family wanted a symbol that would firmly identify Guinness as an Irish product
  • When the Irish Free state was created in 1922, the Irish government had to position their harp facing the other way due to trademark registration

Guinness and Advertising: 

  • 1929: Decided to start advertising for the first time but the quality of the ads had to be as good as the quality of the beer
  • First official Guinness advertisement appeared in the national British press with the slogan “Guinness is Good for You”
  • “Guinness has always been the hero of its own advertising, quite simply Guinness advertising has become and institution – like tea, cricket and fish and chips” – Brian Sibley, Guinness Advertising
  • John Gilroy: the iconic artist behind the Guinness ads (including the toucan)
  • The idea to use animals to advertise occurred to Gilroy after visiting the circus… while watching a performing sea lion, he entertained the idea of having that animal balance a glass of Guinness on its not and it became the concept for the world’s longest running advertising campaigns “My Goodness, My Guinness”
  • The Sapeurs: A group of humble and refined gentleman from Brazzaville, Republic of Congo who have a deep rotted pride in their aspirational culture
    • Want to define their life by respect, a moral code, and a desire to inspire others through their style and attitude
  • In 1959 for the bicentennial, the brewery took a bunch of empty guinness bottles, placed a note inside from Neptune, the god of the sea and tossed them into the Atlantic… bottles are still turning up on beaches today