Guinness may have a claim on being „Ireland‘s national drink“, no other drink is as synonymous with the Emerald Isle. Even the coat-of-arms of Ireland can be found on every bottle of Guinness – the harp.
Guinness - What's in a Name
First of all Guinness is a family name, a brand and a trademark ... it is not and has never been a „type of beer“. Okay, it is now, but only through common usage.
Guinness - A Short History
Arthur Guinness was born in 1725 in Celbridge, County Kildare, and had already dabbled in brewing before leasing the nearly derelict brewery at St. James Gate, Dublin, in 1759. The lease was for 9,000 years. Today, Guinness is owned by multinational Diageo. And brewed in roughly fifty countries around the world, with the main ingredient (the secret ingredient) still coming from St. James Gate.
Guinness - Variations on a Theme
When you order „a Guinness“, you order a „stout“ ale, also nicknamed a „porter“ (because it was popular with hard-working porters). But let‘s not mince words, ordering a Guinness will get you the expected „black liquidation with froth on top“. In which bubbles seem to float downwards, defying the laws of nature (actually an optical illusion). Guinness has, however, brewed alternatives under „extended“ names. In the Millennium year the white Guinness Breo was marketed, similar to continental yeast ale and proving so popular that it sank without a trace (I liked it). Then there is the Nigerian „Export Guinness“ which has become quite popular in Ireland. It is Guinness but packs a lot more punch due to higher alcohol content. No alcohol at all is in „Guinness Malt“, a malt drink coming (again) from Nigeria and available in ethnic food stores.
Guinness - The Potential Pitfalls
A cool Guinness on a summer‘s day can be refreshing and deceptive – even the native variety is quite strong. The other potential pitfall is taste, many beer drinkers shy away from Guinness because of it. You like it or you don‘t.
What Makes Guinness Unique?
The brand name and the bubbles – similar stouts and porters are brewed in many places, some with a very similar taste to boot. But none are quite like Guinness after all.
Guinness - What are the Alternatives?
A popular Irish alternative is Murphy‘s Irish Stout, a creamy ale with a different yet similar taste. Try it.
Guinness as a Souvenir?
As Guinness is available in nearly every corner of the world, exporting small quantities is not really worth the bother. But there are literally thousands of Guinness-branded souvenirs available in every corner shop, many featuring the famous advertising campaigns. Apart from the famous toucan, look out for those telling you that „Guinness Gives You Strength“ or the despairing zookeeper eternally cursed to exclaim „My Goodness, My Guinness!“