12 things you didn't know about Guinness

You're at an Irish bar with your buds, and you know what that means -- you're going to get a Guinness. And so is that dude right next to you, even though neither of you is Irish. Drinking Guinness Stout is an Irish tradition that's as prolific as dressing up in green and imploring people to kiss you, but not many people know the deeper history of this magical elixir. For example, did you know that the original Guinness Brewery belongs to the Guinness family for the next 8,745yrs?

So stick with us, and you'll learn some truly eye-opening stuff about Guinness, just in time to get it all over yourself.

Kevin Alexander

1. Their famous dry stout is (officially) a very dark ruby color, rather than black
This is due to the roasting of malted barley, a process which the brewery compares to making coffee. The other ingredients in the beer are water, hops, brewer's yeast, and malt extract. That's it.

arthur guinness

2. Guinness Brewery was founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, a guy who had 21 children
Yeah. This dude was prolific both in beer and in progeny, and was affectionately nicknamed "Uncle Arthur" by the people of Dublin -- a moniker that got extended to his beer. That's right: you can ask for a pint of Uncle Arthur, and people to this day will serve you a Guinness. It remains the most popular alcoholic drink in all of Ireland even today, and that's saying something.

guinness brewery st james's gate
Wikipedia/Trond Eivind Johnsen

3. The St. James's Gate Brewery was leased to the Guinness family for 9,000 years
Arthur, obviously anticipating that his company's stout beer would be wildly popular, took out an unprecedented 9,000yr lease on the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin for £45 per year. It's now the world's largest stout brewer, and that bank is really hitting itself for giving it out so cheaply.

world map

4. Guinness is brewed in more than 60 countries and available in over 100
Annually, the world drinks around 1.8bill pints of the stuff. That's 1,800,000,000 pints. Enough for everyone in the world to have a quarter of a pint -- although some people probably wouldn't be willing to share.

guiness plaque

5. Guinness was the world's seventh-largest company in the 1930s
By 1914, 10% of the beer drunk throughout the UK was that smooth Dublin stout -- and that says a lot about its popularity when you consider the drinking-rep touted by all your beer-swigging Irish and British friends. Guinness was brewing a whopping 2,000,000 barrels of beer annually -- more than double the second-largest producer, Bass and its famous pale ale that came out of Burton-on-Trent, England. Talk about kicking Bass!

guinness head
Flickr/Halshige Suehiro

6. Guinness's distinctive creamy head is due to the presence of nitrogen
The element that makes up most of Earth's atmosphere is also the one that makes Guinness so damn delicious. The chemical formula of Guinness is low in carbon dioxide (making for a smoother, less effervescent texture) and relatively high in nitrogen, which is less soluble than CO2 and makes for a less acidic taste. Yeah, we just talked to Bill Nye about beer. What up?

the guinness harp
Flickr/Stefan W

7. The Guinness Harp wasn't introduced to the logo until 1862
When Guinness began to ship its booze overseas, they ditched a multi-label platform for one standardized version. The symbol was modeled after the Trinity College harp -- a medieval Gaelic harp and a symbol of Ireland -- although Benjamin Lee Guinness and co. flipped the instrument so it’s right-facing. The harp nabbed a trademark 14 years later 00 although it has evolved six times since its introduction.  

guinness toucan
Flickr/Ben Sutherland

8. The brewery's famous toucan wasn't even a part of its brand until the 1940s
As part of a zoo-themed advertising campaign (logical, since Guinness is best enjoyed at zoos), artist John Gilroy drew up a bunch of print spots that included poems and bold statements (e.g. "Guinness Makes You Strong") accompanied by toucans, lions, seals, ostriches, and kangaroos. They would later go on to become almost synonymous with the beer itself.

guinness extra stout

9. In addition to its Stout, Guinness also makes an Extra Stout -- and has discontinued a bunch of other beers
Some of the brews you should pour one out for are: Guinness Cream Stout, Guinness Pilsner, Guinness Shandy, Guinness Brite Lager, Guinness XXX Extra Strong Stout, and a citrusy wheat beer called Guinness Breó, meaning "glow" -- which cost around 5 million Irish pounds to make.

man drinking guinness
Flickr/Doug Belshaw

10. Guinness is good for you, dude!
There are studies out there claiming that the antioxidants present in Guinness are beneficial to the heart, in that they make it harder for cholesterol to accumulate in the arteries. Also, Guinness has fewer calories than skim milk, orange juice, or pretty much any other non-light beer out there. For your health!

guinness storehouse

11. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is a seven-story shrine to the stout
Located adjacent to the brewery, the Guinness Storehouse is a museum, archive, and showroom of all of Guinness's history, brewing process, and products, and it houses a copy of the 9,000yr lease we mentioned earlier. Even Queen Elizabeth II has been there, so it's way more than a tourist trap. 

st. patrick's day guinness

12. More than 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed on St. Patrick's Day ALONE
That's more than double the normal daily average, and most of said St. Patrick's Day drinking takes place in the United States, often by people who aren't even really Irish! But when you've got a pint of Guinness in your hands, you really can't help but feel like you are.

Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and couldn't possibly be more/less Irish. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.