Cheers to Guinness, the venerable stout that the Irish lovingly call "The Black Stuff", known for its velvety pour, creamy head and reputation among diehard fans as one of the tastiest brews on the planet. Ranker.com recently conducted an online survey of more than 3,500 drinkers to rate the world's best beer, and Guinness once again claimed first place. Legendarily hard-drinking Irish actor Peter O'Toole would surely agree. “My favorite food from my homeland is Guinness," he once said. "My second choice is Guinness. My third choice—would have to be Guinness."
Here are fifteen reasons why Guinness is indisputably Ireland's greatest beer.
1. It's good for you
At 198 calories a pint, Guinness is better for the waistline than most non-light beers. Even more impressive? A study by the University of Wisconsin revealed that it may work as well as a low-dose Aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks and blood clots, as it contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine.
2. It's the only beer that's stopped more bar fights than it's started
In 1954, the unfortunately-named Guinness managing director Sir Hugh Beaver developed the famous Guinness Book Of World Records, and distributed it to pub owners as a way to settle boozy tavern arguments, decades before Google was even a glimmer in Silicon Valley’s eye.
3. It's made from quality ingredients
The main ingredients that go into every pint are water (straight from Ireland's Wicklow Mountains), hops, barley (which is responsible for the color) and yeast—the same strain of which hails all the way back to the original recipe.
4. The logo is legendary
The Guinness harp emblem is based on a famous 14th century harp known as the “Brian Boru”, and is nearly identical to the stringed instrument used as Ireland's national symbol. In fact, when the Irish Free State was founded in 1922, it had to get permission to use the harp from Guinness—which had already trademarked its version in 1876.
5. They made really cool posters of beer-loving animals
English artist John Gilroy’s famous renderings featured an assortment of beer-balancing seals, lions, turtles, alligators, and the famous pint-toting toucan (Gilroy was inspired after visiting his local zoo).
6. It tastes great because of science
Guinness was one of the first breweries to invest heavily in quality control going back to the early 1900s, when they hired William Sealy Gosset as their statistician. The math whiz devised a complicated way of insuring each gulp tastes the same in Kenya as it does in County Cork, although it supposedly still tastes best in its native Ireland.
7. The original Dublin brewery still has a 9,000-year lease
Company founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease (not a misprint) on the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin in 1759. So yeah, Guinness will be around long after we're all gone.
8. It has tons of loyal celebrity fans
Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, Sean Penn, Paul Rudd, Tom Cruise and Queen Elizabeth (who is rumored to keep a keg of Guinness on tap in Buckingham Palace) have all tippled at the Dublin brewery, though Rudd is perhaps the brand's biggest fan. “Paul let me crash in his apartment when I visited New York,” says Guinness Brewery tour guide Alan Maxwell. “He loved my tour so much that he came back with his family and specifically requested me.” Rudd is either a really nice guy, or he's just really into drinking Guinness.
9. They patented "The Widget"
In 1969, Guinness patented an ingenious little device known as “The Widget”. The nitrogen-filled ball releases gas that better manages the consistency of the stout’s silky, creamy head, thereby making canned Guinness taste more like it came from a tap rather than your local CVS. In 2004, the game-changing widget was even named the greatest technological invention of the last 40 years by British tech mag T3. (Sorry, Internet.)
10. It has its own team of historians
“The amount of documentation we have on the brewery, if rolled out, would be five miles in length,” says Guinness's resident archivist, Eibhlin Colgan. The company's libation library is available via appointment and its many highlights include a copy of Arthur’s absurdly long lease, original recipe books dating from the late 1700s, and the company’s first print ad in a national paper with the Daily Mail copy reading: “THIS IS THE FIRST ADVERTISEMENT EVER ISSUED IN A NATIONAL PAPER TO ADVERTISE GUINNESS”. It was a blunter, more word-repetitive time.
11. The Guinness storehouse is shaped like a giant pint glass
The brew palace’s entire cylindrical design is meant to look like a seven-story glass of Guinness—even more so with the just-added Christmas lights resembling the tan-turned-black cascading waterfall of a settling pour—and fittingly, it could hold 14.3 million pints. That’s more than one cup for every man, woman and child in Ireland.
12. They are serious about pouring the "perfect pint"
Domhnall Marnell is minister of ceremonies at the Connoisseur Bar Experience within a beautiful private space near the fifth floor dining hall at Dublin's Guinness Brewery. The class pairs various foods with the most agreeable stouts, porters and IPAs, with the highlight being a lesson in how to pour the perfect pint. It’s a worth-the-wait endeavor that should take 119 seconds from the time you place your order. “Because 120 seconds just doesn’t sound as interesting,” explains Marnell.
Here’s how to pour the perfect pint:
A) Pull the tap all the way down, towards your chest, with your glass roughly 15 milliliters from the spout. “The further the beer travels, the more air bubbles you get,” explains Dom. Fill all the way to the pint’s little Guinness harp at a 45-degree angle. Don't have a gift shop pint glass? Leave an inch of space, and wait until you see a solid distinction between the cream of the head and the dark ruby-red.
B) Push the tap—this time away from your chest and towards the bar—and finish the pour.
C) Wait for the cascading fountain of brown to turn crimsony black and…sláinte!
13. Bartenders love to draw on the head
“I know a local bartender who picks up women by writing his phone number in the foam,”claims Marnell, when asked about the popular practice of drawing shamrocks atop the pint, using the last few drops from the tap. You can watch a pro show how it's done here:
14. It's guzzled around the world, but it's actually most popular in Africa
The beer is brewed in 49 countries and sold in over 150, with Africa being the Irish stout's biggest market. Indeed, 40 percent of total consumption happens there , and three out of the five Guinness breweries call the continent home. An estimated 10 million Guinness pints are ordered at bars and restaurants around the world every day.
15. Company employees are encouraged to drink on the job
Guinness employs 22,000 people worldwide, and was one of the first companies in Ireland to offer paid vacations. Up until the 1970s, every employee was allotted two free pints a day. (And you thought it takes them a long time to pour the stuff now.)
Photos by Courtesy of Guinness