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Beloved Irish brew celebrates two centuries of American fans

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When making a list of the most influential brews in the world, it is impossible to not put Guinness Dry Stout near the top. The story of this iconic beer goes back more than 250 years and is firmly entrenched in Irish lore. This year, Guinness is celebrating 200 years of exporting to America.

In 1759, Arthur Guinness began brewing ales at the now famous St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. To ensure that his company would maintain control, Guinness famously signed a 9,000-year lease for just £45 (approximately $1,600 in today’s dollars). At the time, this was a bold move as the St. James Gate property was rather dilapidated and poorly equipped. 

Prior to setting out for Dublin, Guinness used a £100 inheritance from his godfather, Archbishop Price, to set up an ale brewery in Leixlip, County Kildare. Just a few years later, he set his sights on pulling the brewing industry put of its slump and set out for Ireland’s capital to found the Guinness Brewing Company. Ten years later, in 1769, Guinness shipped six-and-a-half barrels of beer to Great Britain and set a brewing dynasty in motion.

Guinness had originally brewed lighter ales, but a darker, richer brew was becoming more and more popular in London. Called a porter for the hard-working baggage-handlers of the city’s river docks and streets, the brew made the leap from London to Dublin, where it quickly gained favor. True to his courageous form, Guinness abandoned ale production in 1799. The porter he created is the precursor to the stout we now know and love.

After his father’s passing, Arthur Guinness II inherited the brewery and, as were his father’s wishes, embarked upon a mission to perfect the porter, becoming the only brewery in Dublin to produce porters exclusively. In 1817, his son Benjamin brewed the first Guinness beer with a new roasted grain called Black Patent Malt, laying the groundwork for how Guinness would brew for the next 200 years.

Over the next century, the Guinness Brewery grew into an international company, shipping beer to such far-flung locations as the West Indies, New Zealand and the young United States.

Sales of the “black stuff” soared; by 1886, when the Guinness became a public company, the brewery was producing more than 1.1 million barrels per year. The unparalleled growth necessitated an expansion in 1868 that more than doubled its size. Among the additions were a dedicated railroad system, a cooperage for crafting barrels and an on-site barley maltster.

The company placed its first print advertisements in 1929. The now-famous campaign featured the slogan “Guinness is Good for You” and included the fan-favorite Guinness toucan.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Guinness’ first shipment to the U.S. Company records indicate that eight barrels of Guinness porter were sent to John Heavy of North Carolina. To commemorate this auspicious event, the brewery has come up with Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout, a rich and full-bodied brew with notes of caramel, toffee and sweet chocolate. Six-packs of this special beer are available now in stores everywhere.

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