Independent breweries and craft beer have become more popular in the 21st century. No matter what happens to the beer industry over the next few centuries, there is one name that will always stand alone.
The deep dark Irish stout with a thick foam head is an iconic beer across the world. Every year over the 24 hour period of St Patrick’s Day, over 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed. With its own pouring style, history and cultural connections, Guinness and its iconic storehouse represent its own part of Irish and brewery history.
The History of Guinness
Arthur Guinness is the man behind the famous stout. While no one really knows exactly where or when he was born, his current place of rest is in Oughterard, County Kildare. This has led many to speculate that that was where he was born. His gravestone states that he died January 23, 1803 “aged 78 years”. For that reason, many believe he was born between 1724 and 1725.
He began his brewing career in 1755 in a town called Leixlip. He was brewing ale there for about five years before passing the business on to his younger brother and relocating to the city of Dublin. In 1759 he leased a space at St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin Ireland. The lease he signed was good for 9,000 years at a cost of £45 per year for the exclusive use of the 4-acre brewery. When the lease was signed, the space wasn’t being used, had little brewery equipment and was in definite need of love and care.
Within ten years, he was brewing the Irish stout and was already exploring it to England.
St James’s Gate Brewery
St James’s Gate Brewery is one of many brewhouses that could be found around St James’s Gate. The gate itself is located on the south side of Dublin on James’s Street. The gate acted as the main entrance to the city during the Middle Ages. The literal gate was demolished in the 18th century but the name still stuck for the region - and was the namesake of the St James’s Gate Brewery.
This area of Dublin was known as a brewing area all throughout the 1600’s. St James’s Gate Brewery was connected to the water pipes in Dublin by Alderman Gile Mee in 1670. He brewed in the brewhouse for a number of years, producing beer and ales as the lease to the space and use of the city water passed on to his son-in-law, and then his son-in-law’s son. The brewery sat for lease in 1715 with no one interested in it. The lease continued to pass on down from son to son until 1759 when Arthur Guinness became interested in the space.
After sitting unused and empty for years and years, St James’s Gate Brewery was in use once again. It’s been home to the creation of Guinness ever since.
Guinness Through the Years
Arthur Guinness built up a successful brand over the years until he passed away in 1803. The company passed on to his son Arthur Guinness II, who passed it on to his son, and so on and so on. Over the years, Guinness began to be exported across countries and continents. New ideas and recipes for porters were thought up.
The iconic harp associated with Guinness comes from the 14th century Irish Harm which can be viewed at the Trinity College in Dublin.
The Guinness Storehouse
The Storehouse is the building that people can visit today to get to know the history and story behind Guinness. It was built by Author Guinness Sons & Co LTD as a fermentation house between 1902 - 1904. Built in the Chicago style with a steel frame, the building was the very first of its kind within the British Isles - the one and only multi-story steel-framed building to ever be constructed in Ireland. Frederick Bauman and William le Baron Jenny lead the group of Chicago architects that helped to design the building. The steel was provided by Sir William Arrol and Company - the same company who built the Firth of Forth railway bridge in Scotland.
As time went on, the standards associated with breweries and fermentation houses were no longer met by the building. In 1980, they relocated the fermentation process to a new facility and they closed the storehouse doors. In 1986.
About ten years later in 1997 the company put together a plan to transform the old Storehouse into a visitors centre.
Building the Guinness Visitors Center
Architects Robinson, Keefe and Devane as well as Main Contractor John Sisk & Son and a number of other engineers and surveyors took part in the renovation of the Guinness Storehouse into a visitors center.
JS McCarthy was the company contracted to take care of the first stage of the renovation project - demolition.
The company took down steel and cast iron. It removed all of the original paint - which contained lead and had to be done so in a safe manner. At the same time, another contractor was cutting out concrete and cast iron floors as well as secondary and tertiary supporting steel beams. The demolition phase took place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The new building features seven floors that take visitors through the journey of the famous dark stout. The glass atrium in the middle is shaped like a pint of Guinness. A copy of the 9,000 year lease signed by Arthur Guinness can be found at the base of the atrium in a glass-enclosed space. The top of the rebuilt storehouse features a bar with a 360-degree view of the city responsible for the beer.
After all, it’s said that that connection to the water system of Dublin established back in the 17th century is responsible for giving Guinness its iconic taste. That’s why no pint of Guinness anywhere else in the world will ever taste the same as one brewed at the original location at St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin.
The History of Guinness
The beer itself has deep ties into the history of Ireland and St James’s Gate. The construction of the storehouse shows a shift in the brewery industry: Visitors don’t just want to drink a product. They want to explore what goes into the beer and what the history is behind it. Maybe this is thanks to the growth of the craft beer industry that the story and people behind a drink are just as important as the flavour itself.
Either way, if story or taste takes the top spot for driving interest in a brand, one thing is clear: Guinness has them both.