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Guinness | History and definition of Guinness | Symbol of Guinness

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide.

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter).

Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic "tang", the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001, is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later on 19 May 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time, when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have invented stout, however the first known use of the word stout in relation to beer appears in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born. "Stout" originally referred to a beer's strength, but eventually shifted meaning toward body and colour.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s. Throughout the bulk of its history, Guinness produced 'only three variations of a single beer type: porter or single stout, double or extra and foreign stout for export'.

Already one of the top three British and Irish brewers, Guinness's sales soared from 350,000 barrels in 1868 to 779,000 barrels in 1876. In October 1886 Guinness became a public company, and was averaging sales of 1,138,000 barrels a year. This was despite Guinness' refusal to offer their beer at a discount and no advertising. Even though Guinness owned no public houses, the company was valued at £6 million and shares were twenty times oversubscribed, with share prices rising to a 60% premium on the first day of trading.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym "Student" for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student's t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student's t-test.

By 1900 the brewery was operating unparalleled welfare schemes for its 5000 employees. By 1907 the welfare schemes were costing the brewery £40,000 a year, which was one fifth of the total wages bill.

By 1914, Guinness was producing 2,652,000 barrels of beer a year, which was more than double that of its nearest competitor Bass, and was supplying more than 10% of the total UK beer market.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1973.

In 1983 a conscious marketing decision was made to turn Guinness into a "cult" beer in the UK, amidst declining sales. The move was judged successful, halting the sales decline, and Guinness has arguably been marketed as a cult beer in the UK and America ever since.

Guinness acquired the Distillers Company in 1986. This led to a scandal over a £5.2 million kickback received during the takeover bid to one of the directors, Mr Ward, approved by the chairman, Mr Saunders. In the case Guinness plc v Saunders the House of Lords declared that the payment had been invalid.

The Company merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo plc. However due to controversy over the merge in the same year, the Guinness co retained the rights to the product and all associated trademarks of Guinness, meaning that Guinness co. remained a corporation in its own right as well as being part of the merger that created Diageo. The Guinness brewery in Park Royal, London closed in 2005. The production of all Guinness sold in the UK and Ireland was switched to St. James's Gate Brewery, Dublin.

Guinness has also been referred to as "the black stuff" and as a "Pint of Plain" - referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O'Brien's poem "The Workman's Friend": "A pint of plain is your only man."

Guinness stout is made from water, barley, hops, and brewer's yeast, and is treated with isinglass finings made from fishes' air bladders, although Guinness has claimed that this finings material is unlikely to remain in the finished product this means it is generally deemed unsuitable for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. A portion of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and characteristic taste. It is pasteurised and filtered. Despite its reputation as a "meal in a glass", Guinness only contains 198 kcal (838 kilojoules) per imperial pint (1460 kJ/l), fewer than skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.

Until the late 1950s Guinness was still racked into wooden casks. It was in the late 1950s and early 1960s that aluminium kegs were replacing the wooden casks, these were nicknamed "iron lungs".

Draught Guinness and its canned counterpart contain nitrogen (N2) as well as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, which allows the beer to be put under high pressure without making it fizzy. The high pressure of dissolved gas is required to enable very small bubbles to be formed by forcing the draught beer through fine holes in a plate in the tap, which causes the characteristic "surge" (the widget in cans and bottles achieves the same effect). The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method described above. "Original Extra Stout" contains only carbon dioxide, causing a more acidic taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are weaker than they were in the 19th century, when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv of 7.5% and 8% respectively, are perhaps closest to the original in character.

Studies claim that Guinness can be beneficial to the heart. Researchers found that "'antioxidant compounds' in the Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls."

Guinness ran an advertising campaign in the 1920s which stemmed from market research - when people told the company that they felt good after their pint, the slogan was born – "Guinness is Good for You". This type of advertising for alcoholic drinks that implies improved physical performance or enhanced personal qualities is now prohibited in Ireland. Diageo, the company that now manufactures Guinness, now says: "We never make any medical claims for our drinks."

Some vegetarians might object to Guinness as the production process involves the use of isinglass made from fish. It is used as a fining agent for settling out suspended matter in the vat. The isinglass is retained in the floor of the vat but it is possible that minute quantities might be carried over into the beer.

What Diageo calls the "perfect pint" of Draught Guinness is the product of a "double pour", which according to the company should take 119.53 seconds. Guinness has promoted this wait with advertising campaigns such as "good things come to those who wait". Draught Guinness should be served at 6°C (42.8°F), while Extra Cold Guinness should be served at 3.5°C (38.6°F).

A pint of Guinness should be served in a slightly tulip shaped pint glass (as opposed to the taller European tulip glass or 'Nonic' glass, which contains a ridge approx 3/4 of the way up the glass). On the way to the tap, the beer is passed through a chiller and is forced through a five-hole disc restrictor plate in the end of the tap, which increases the fluid pressure and friction, forcing the creation of small bubbles which form a creamy head. The glass is then rested until the initial pour settles, and the remainder of the glass is then filled with a slow pour until the head forms a slight dome over the top of the glass..

Canned Draught Guinness should be poured into a large glass in one smooth action, while bottled Draught Guinness should be drunk straight from the bottle.

In April 2010, Guinness redesigned the Guinness pint glass for the first time in a decade. The new glass is taller and narrower than the previous one and features a bevel design. The new glasses are planned to gradually replace the old ones.

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