Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Honour of Arthur

If you really want a legacy that lasts…put your name on a bottle and sell it to about 10 million people a day.

Tomorrow (Thursday, September 22) at exactly 8:59pm EST (where I live) Guinness fans from around the world are going to raise a glass of Guinness (in unison, mind you) to toast Mr. Arthur Guinness…...founder of the aforementioned brew.

Arthur Guinness
 As if Guinness fans needed a reason to tip a pint.

I’ve no idea how many Guinness fans will be participating in this event, but if cyber chatter is any indication, you may feel the world beneath your feet shift just a tad as all the glasses are lifted at once.

I thought, in honor of this auspicious and world-tipping occasion, I would talk a bit about Guinness.

*Disclaimer: I am not a beer drinker.
*Follow up Disclaimer: However, I love Guinness. Odd, I know. I've been told a million times.

My current love affair with Guinness (the drink, not Arthur or any of his kin) started with my recent trip to Ireland. Everyone kept saying that Guinness tastes different in Ireland (where it originated) so of course I set myself on a path of discovery. I started drinking Guinness at our local pub…at first with my fingers pinching my nose, then graduating to making “eeewww” faces…and finally drinking so easily I forgot to hesitate the glass at my mouth.

So does Guinness taste different in Ireland? I’ll talk about that in a minute. In the meantime, I went on a quest for useless facts about Guinness in honor of Arthur’s day tomorrow. So here is everything and more than you ever wanted to know about Guinness:
  • Arthur Guinness was born over in Celbridge, County Kildare,Ireland in 1725.
  • Look closely. Guinness beer is not actually black but rather dark ruby red because of the way the ingredients are prepared. Some malted barley is roasted, in a similar way to coffee beans, which is what gives Guinness its distinctive color.
  • In the pub or bar the perfect pint of Guinness Draught is served using their famous 'two-part' pour. First, start with a clean, dry glass. Pour the GUINNESS® Draught into a glass tilted at 45 degrees, until it is three-quarters full. Allow the surge to settle before filling the glass completely to the top. Your perfect pint, complete with its creamy white head, is then ready to drink. 
*Note – they are seriously serious about this pouring system. Pouring contests are held all over the world…and competitors practice year round to get the nod of approval from the Guinness folks. Our local pub owner, Dale competes each year. He does pretty well...he says the secret is to drink about 8 pints prior to the competition.

  • Water used in the brewing process comes from the Wicklow mountains, a little way to the south of Dublin, where the Guinness factory stands. (not in the river Liffy as most people tend to think) And speaking of that factory….
  • In 1759 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 US dollars) with an annual rent of £45 (about $66 US dollars) - this includes crucial water rights. The brewery covers four acres and consists of a copper, a kieve, a mill, two malthouses, stabling for 12 horses and a loft to hold 200 tons of hay. 

St. James Gate Brewery, Dublin

The famous 9,000 year least on the Brewery

  • In 1775 a Dublin Corporation committee & sheriff were sent to cut off and fill in the channel from which the Brewery draws its water. Arthur Guinness is forced to brandish a pickaxe to protect his supply. The dispute is finally settled in 1784 when water rights are granted for 8,975 years.

The pick axe Mr. Guinness used MAY have looked like this one
  •  Over 10 million glasses of Guinness stout are enjoyed every single day around the world, and 1,883,200,000 pints are sold every year - that's 1.8 billion, to put it another way. (kudos here to Jerry and Andrew for making this possible)
  • In 1840 Guinness finally made it to the United States by way of NY. Just in time for the 2 million thirsty Irish emigrants that would follow a few years later
  • By 1870 10% of Guinness sales are overseas…yes, now I see a connection to the last point.
  • Skipping ahead a few years, in 1939 Guinness sent all British troops in the British Expeditionary Force in France a bottle of GUINNESS “ stout, beer, or draught to enjoy with their Christmas dinner.”
  • Skip ahead again to 1954….The first "Bottle Drop" promotion. 50,000 numbered and sealed bottles are dropped overboard from ships in various oceans of the world. Finders send the enclosed slip back to Guinness Exports to receive a reply and a memento. Bottles are returned from locations across the world, including Liverpool Docks, the Bahamas, Tahiti, the Azores and Mexico.

Tomorrow night’s event is going to be a moment to remember. Like a New Year's celebration except in a pub with strangers and no Dick Clark. But we will have a countdown. 

If you aren’t able to roll on down to your local pub, no worries. Facebook actually has a page that will take you to a LIVE video stream in Dublin. So you’ve no excuse.

Whether you are Irish or just Irish at heart, or just a lush looking for any excuse to drink, we hope you will all join in the revelry. As we say in Ireland, Cead Mile Failte - or 100,000 welcomes.

Oh..and in case you were curious, I must say that to my unseasoned palatte that yes, Guinness did taste better in Ireland. Creamier.