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Irish Beer Styles: Guinness and Dry Irish Stout

With St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, it seems fitting to discuss the most famous beer from Ireland, Guinness Draught, a Dry Irish Stout. With distribution in over 150 countries, it may well be the most famous beer in the world.

Guinness didn’t always make its famous stout, however. When Arthur Guinness began brewing beer at Saint James’s gate in Dublin in 1759, he brewed ales. A stout didn’t appear in their lineup until 1840, almost 100 years later. It took another 100 years and 2 World Wars, to produce the Dry Irish Stout we drink on draught today. Historians point to sometime around the 1950s when Guinness Extra Stout diverged significantly from the stronger Foreign Extra Stout. The current version we drink today was formulated in the 1970s to produce a more “drinkable” beer in the face of declining sales.

Saint James Gate DublinGuinness was one of the most innovative breweries in history in terms of its business practices and marketing efforts. Some examples include hiring the now famous statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899 to predict the best yielding barley varieties, the “Guinness is Good for You” ad campaign in 1929, developing and marketing the first draught pouring tradition and of course the can widget in 1988 that produced a draught like beer from the can. They are also famous for the Guinness Book of World Records, which started in 1951 when brewery manager Sir Hugh Beaver, while on a shooting party, got into an argument over what is the fastest game bird in Europe.

By 1902, Guinness brewed two thirds of all beer in Ireland and was not only the largest brewery in Ireland but the entire world, producing more than 2 million barrels annually, more than double its closest competitor Bass. By the 1930s, Guinness was the seventh largest company in the world. By the 1950s, Guinness was selling 5 million pints a day. Today, more than 10 million pints of Guinness are enjoyed in over 150 countries each day.

The Dry Irish Stout is characterized by it’s dark color, creamy head and roasty, bitter flavor with a dry chocolate or coffee-like finish. This creaminess with a dry finish makes them very drinkable. Alcohol is usually in the session levels of 4-5%.