The smell of fermented barley has hung over St. James' Gate since 1759 when the Guinness brewery first produced the turf dark stout. Today, the scent of barley still lies heavy in the air as you walk through the Guinness Storehouse, once a storage spot for the brew, now a high tech museum. Here interactive exhibits bring the beer's fermenting process to life and allow visitors to taste-test a fresh brew. To top it off, head up to The Gravity Bar on the roof to pick up your free pint of the black stuff and savour the panoramic sweep of the city below.
The 18th Century and Arthur Guinness
In 1759, at the age of 34, Arthur Guinness signed a lease for the St. James’s Gate
Brewery, Dublin. He leased the brewery for 9000 years at an annual rent of £45. The
brewery was only 4 acres in size, disused, and had little brewing equipment. Despite
this, Arthur quickly built up a successful trade and by 1769 he had begun to export
his beer to England.
Arthur Guinness began by brewing ale at St. James’s Gate. In the 1770s, he began
brewing ‘porter’, a new type of English beer, invented in London in 1722 by a brewer
named Ralph Harwood. Porter was different from ale because it was brewed using
roasted barley, giving the beer a dark ruby colour and rich aroma. Arthur’s porter
was successful and in 1799 he decided to stop brewing ale altogether, and
concentrate on porter alone.
Arthur Guinness brewed different types of porter to suit different tastes, including a
special export beer called ‘West India Porter’. This beer is still brewed today and is
now known as GUINNESS Foreign Extra Stout. It accounts for 45% of all GUINNESS
sales globally and is popular in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
By the time Arthur died in 1803, he had built a successful brewing business, with a
promising export trade.
Arthur Guinness II and the 19th century
Arthur’s business was passed on to his son, Arthur Guinness II, who took over the
Brewery. The business was then passed on from father to son for five successive
generations; a remarkable brewing dynasty.
Arthur Guinness II continued to develop the business, and in the 1830s the St.
James’s Gate Brewery became the largest brewery in Ireland. Arthur II also
expanded the export trade, and by the 1820s shipments were being made to
destinations as far away as Lisbon (Portugal), South Carolina (USA), New York
(USA), Barbados (Caribbean) and Sierra Leone (Africa). Under Arthur Guinness II the
recipe for yet another type of porter was written down. This brew was known as
‘Extra Superior Porter’. Extra Superior Porter was a slightly stronger porter designed
for the British market. This beer is still brewed today and is known as GUINNESS
Extra Stout, or GUINNESS Original.
Benjamin Lee Guinness
By the 1850s, Arthur II’s son, Benjamin Lee Guinness, had taken over the business.
Under Benjamin’s leadership the first trademark label for GUINNESS stout was
introduced in 1862. The main features of the trademark label are still used today in
the GUINNESS brand’s livery – the Arthur Guinness signature, Harp device and
‘GUINNESS’ word. The success of the business helped to elevate the position of the
family in Irish society. Benjamin became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1851, and also
contributed generously to the restoration to St. Patrick’s Cathedral - some £150,000.
Edward Cecil Guinness
Benjamin died in 1868 leaving the business to his son Edward Cecil Guinness. Under
Edward’s leadership the St. James’s Gate Brewery became the largest brewery in the
world, and was floated on the London Stock Exchange; Guinness was the first major
brewery to be incorporated. On incorporation in 1886, Edward became Chairman, a
position held by a member of the Guinness family until 1986. By the end of the 19th
century sales of GUINNESS stout had reached 1.2 million barrels a year, the Brewery
had grown to 60 acres in size, and had its own railway and fire brigade; it was a city
within a city.
Edward, like his father, contributed to the welfare of the Brewery’s workforce and
the people of Dublin. He established the Iveagh Trust to provide clean affordable
housing for the working classes. The Brewery’s employees were among the highest
paid workers in Dublin receiving employment benefits such as pensions and medical
healthcare, which were not provided by the State at that time.
The export trade was flourishing, but little was known about the condition of
GUINNESS in foreign markets. In the 1890s overseas travellers were appointed.
These men travelled the world investigating the markets where GUINNESS was sold.
They wrote reports on their travels and provided valuable information to help the
company monitor product quality.
The 20th Century
By the turn of the 20th century, GUINNESS had become an international brand and
the largest brewery in the world. In 1901 a laboratory was established; using science
to enhance generations of brewing craft.
Edward died in 1927, and his son, Rupert Guinness, became the new Chairman.
Under Rupert’s Chairmanship the business expanded further afield. For the first time
a GUINNESS Brewery was built overseas and opened in 1936, at Park Royal in
In 1929, the first official advertising campaign for GUINNESS was launched. This
represented a significant break from a tradition that relied solely on the quality and
good name of the product to generate sales. S.H. Benson Limited was chosen as the
advertising agency to run the first campaign. It was a success, and the agency
continued to hold the account for a further 40 years, creating some of the most
memorable poster and television advertisements in advertising history.
S.H. Benson employed the artist John Gilroy; responsible for posters in two of the
most famous campaigns for GUINNESS. The first used the slogan "Guinness for
strength", showing people performing incredible feats of strength empowered by
GUINNESS. The most popular poster in this series was the "Man with Girder" (1934)
showing a workman effortlessly carrying a massive girder on his head. The second
campaign featured the zoo-animals with the slogan "My Goodness, My Guinness”.
The hapless zookeeper, a caricature of Gilroy, watched over the family of animals
who tried to prevent the zookeeper from enjoying his GUINNESS.
Greater involvement in product marketing followed and in 1951 a new company,
Guinness Exports Limited, was formed to bottle, market and distribute GUINNESS
overseas. This also provided greater control over product quality.
Further product developments took place including the launch of Draught GUINNESS
in 1959. For the first time GUINNESS was dispensed under pressure using a mixed
gas dispensing system in bars, producing a pint with the distinctive creamy head.
Throughout this period a major overhaul of brewing machinery took place, and new
brewing equipment was installed at the Brewery. This involved the replacement of
wooden and iron vessels with aluminium and stainless steel vessels – known as
‘sterile plant’. A sterile plant ensured better quality control and a more consistent
In 1962 Rupert’s grandson Benjamin Guinness became Chairman. He was the last
member of the Guinness family to hold this position, which he held until 1986.
The brewery at Park Royal in London proved successful and further overseas
breweries for GUINNESS were built in Nigeria (1962), Malaysia (1965), Cameroun
(1970), and Ghana (1971). New licences were also issued to brewers in other
countries so that GUINNESS could be brewed locally. By the end of the 20th century,
GUINNESS was being brewed in 49 countries, and sold in over 150.
The St. James’s Gate Brewery was modernised further, and became fully automated,
making it one of the world’s most technologically advanced breweries. In 1996 the
Brewery became one of the first in the world to be accredited with ISO 14001, the
International Environmental Management Standard.
A new research and development facility was built in 1964 and more innovations
were achieved. GUINNESS Draught in Can was launched in 1988 thanks to the
innovative ‘widget’ – a groundbreaking invention in beer packaging technology. The
widget brought GUINNESS Draught into the home for the first time.
In 1997 Guinness Plc merged with Grand Metropolitan Plc in a £24 billion merger. A
new company was formed called ‘Diageo’ Plc. The name ‘DIAGEO’ was derived from
the Latin word for ‘day’ and the Greek word for ‘world’, because every day, around
the world, millions of people enjoy the company’s brands.
Brewhouse 4, a state of the art brewery at St. James Gate, Dublin, officially opened
in 2014. The new brewhouse is one of the most technologically advanced and
environmentally sustainable in the world, and is also the largest stout brewery in the
world. The Brewery consumes over 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley a year and
continues to be a major contributor to the Irish economy.
GUINNESS Stout today is sold in over 150 countries around the world and 10 million
glasses are enjoyed daily around the world.