19 facts you never knew about Guinness

Go into a pub in Ireland and ask for Mother’s Milk, the Good Stuff or simply a pint of Arthur, and any bartender worth his salt should know immediately that you want a pint of Guinness. Being Irish I grew up on Guinness… okay, just joking, we’re not quite that bad in Ireland… we don’t actually feed it to our babies… or do we? Here’s 19 funny facts about Guinness that you probably didn’t know.

Guinness

1. Guinness is lower in calories than many other beers

A pint of Guinness has 198 calories approximately, which is less calories than you’ll get in a pint of orange juice, skimmed milk and most other non-light beers.

2. Guinness – an aphrodisiac?

Guinness is considered to be an aphrodisiac in some countries. In fact in some African countries, where the advertising regulations are more relaxed than in Europe or America, there are ads for Guinness featuring well known athletes, which subliminally give messages of strength and virility.

In Lagos, Nigeria, a 46 year old man, Adegbite, says: “It makes me feel powerful.” He spends about 10% of his wages on Guinness and he also states: “If I have three stouts, my wife knows she had better watch out. I have energy in my body.” It’s a big seller in Nigeria, where it’s also known as Black Power or Viagra.

3. Give some blood – get some Guinness

Up to November 2009 in Ireland, blood donors used to be offered free Guinness after they had given blood. The good news is that the number of blood donors hasn’t dropped since the free Guinness stopped.

4. Is the black stuff really black?

A common misconception is that Guinness is black, but in fact it’s coloured by roasted barley which gives it a ruby red colour.

5. Guinness for breastfeeding?

Some breastfeeding experts and midwives do recommend that nursing mothers should drink small amounts of Guinness. Should they really give this advice? Well it does stimulate prolactin, because of a polysaccharide that’s in the barley. However many experts would recommend the no-alcohol route when breastfeeding, so it’s your choice – a non-alcoholic drink that contains barley, or a small glass of Mothers Milk.

6. Guinness is good for you

Guinness is good for you – as the old advertising slogan used to say, although it’s perhaps not so politically correct these days, but for some reason the saying stuck – at least in Ireland. Imagine that a good percentage of a nation of people think that an alcoholic drink could be good for you, but hold on… there is evidence to say that it could be.

A study by the University of Wisconsin revealed that Guinness can reduce the risk of heart attacks and blood clots. This is because it contains the same types of antioxidants that are found in red wine.

7. Vegans can drink Guinness Extra Stout

Although draught Guinness is not vegan-friendly, Guinness Extra Stout which is brewed in North America is, because it doesn’t contain isinglass, which is the fish product used in draught Guinness.

8. How to order a pint of Guinness

Believe it or not, ordering a pint of Guinness requires a certain amount of skill, as well as appreciation for the barman’s training. Guinness is poured in a very specific way, it’s a kind of necessary ritual and the worst thing you can do is dare to interrupt the ritual. If you are a visitor to Ireland from a country where fast service is part of the culture, you may struggle a bit with ordering a pint of Guinness. Remember there’s absolutely no point in trying to rush the process, this can be perceived at being disrespectful, both to the barman and the legendary drink itself.

Guinness

So here’s what to do:

Do:

Be cool and patient, nod and smile at the bartender, and wait for him or her to approach you.

Don’t:

Call the bartender, click your fingers, or show any signs of impatience.

Do:

Ask for either a pint or glass of Guinness (if you’re a man, it’s better to ask for a pint – if you look around in pubs in Ireland, you’ll see that very few, if any Irish males, would be seen dead with a glass of Guinness)

Don’t:

Ask for half a Guinness – you’re not in England, the Irish never use this expression.

Do:

Realise that the ritual takes time and stage one is when the bartender will only pour about three quarters of your pint, and then he’ll put it down to leave it settle.

Don’t:

Whatever you do when in Ireland, don’t try to take the pint of Guinness at this stage. Yes, I know it may seem strange that the barman has walked away and left your drink down, but your powers of observation should show you that the work of art has not been completed as yet.

Do:

Stay relaxed, enjoy the banter and wait for the barman to come back and finish your pint – all in good time.

Don’t:

Call the barman, he knows when the time is right to finish pouring your pint of Arthur.

Do:

Offer to pay for your pint if the bartender stands around while it’s settling down. That’s perfectly acceptable.

Don’t:

During the entire process try to take the Guinness, until the barman either gives it to you gently or indicates that it is now ready.

Do:

At this stage you may now lift the pint, very reverently, and bring it back to your table, as carefully as if it were your first newborn baby. Set it down on the table gently and now you need to watch it do its natural stuff. If you watch your pint, you’ll notice that it turns from having a cloudy look into a stunning picture of what appears to be black (but is ruby red of course…) with its magical, creamy white head. Once you’ve had a few pints you’ll recognise this moment of perfection.

Don’t:

Drink your Guinness until that moment has arrived.

9. How to wean yourself onto Guinness

When I was growing up I was told that Guinness was an acquired taste. I hated it the first time I tried it, and somehow this made me feel unpatriotic. So having decided that being Irish I should be able to enjoy drinking Guinness, I set about finding out how I could wean myself onto the stuff. The trick is to start by drinking a glass of Guinness with a good dose of blackcurrant. Over time you put in less blackcurrant and then the wondeful day arrives when the taste of blackcurrant in your Guinness seems sickly sweet. This is the day that you’ve become a proper Guinness drinker. Now you can move onto pints!

10. Half of all pints drunk in Ireland are Guinness

Of all the pints that are drunk in Ireland, half are Guinness. That’s because we know that Guinness is good for you!

11. And 40% of the world’s Guinness goes to…

Africa. Actually 40% of the world’s Guinness is brewed in Africa and Nigeria is the biggest market for Guinness after the United Kingdom.

12. How many pints are brewed each day at Dublin’s St. James’s Gate Brewery?

3 million pints are brewed every day at St. James’s Gate in Dublin.

13. Where did the slogan “Guinness is good for you” originate?

During the 1920s, S. H. Benson, the Guinness advertising agency, carried out market research to find out what customers liked about Guinness. The research showed that a pint of Guinness simply made people feel good, and that’s how the slogan was born.

14. What was considered the best Guinness ad?

That’s actually a difficult question, as over the years there’s been some great Guinness advertising. However the ad that many have voted the best Guinness ad is the one called Anticipication. Actor, Joe Mc Kinney, does this fantastic dance around his pint of Guinness, while he is waiting for it to be ready. He’s dancing to Guaglione by Pérez Prado, which topped the charts in both Ireland (no. 1) and the UK (no. 2). At that time, it was one of the coolest things to do in a disco in Ireland, when the song came on – people would jump onto the dance floor and dance around their imaginary pints of Guinness.

15. Isn’t the harp the symbol for Ireland?

The Irish harp that you see on the Guinness logo was not stolen from the government. Guinness used it first and then it was adopted as the official Irish government symbol some  years later.

16. Pregnant or had an operation? It’s time for some Guinness!

In England Guinness used to be given to post-operative patients because of its iron content. It used also be recommended in small amounts for pregnant women, however these days the iron content has been overshadowed by the vast majority of medical advice, which recommends no alcohol during pregnancy.

17. What is Black Velvet?

Apart from being an Alanna Myles song, Black Velvet is also the name of a cocktail that contains Guinness and champagne.

18. What other ways can Guinness be used?

Guinness is used in a range of dishes, the best known being Beef and Guinness Stew. British chef, Jamie Oliver, also appreciates Guinness and uses it in recipes such as Guinness Lamb Shank, Beef and Ale Stew, Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie and Dark, Sticky Stew.

19. Do the Irish really give Guinness to their babies?

Despite all the rumours, I’ve never seen Guinness given to an Irish baby. In Ireland, the legendary drink to put in a baby’s bottle, to help them sleep was whiskey. That was of course back a long time ago, and I have never seen this done either!

Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Holiday Home Advice.

Comments (12)

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  1. Fact no.20 for you: Arthur Edward Guinness, head of the Guinness family lives at Elveden Estate in Suffolk and drinks his Guinness at the estate pub, the Elveden Inn!

  2. Hi Frances,

    Many thanks for that! Elveden looks beautiful and the produce also seems delicious. It is wonderful to see the wildlife conservation also.

    Kind regards,
    Jackie

  3. Dave says:

    Having worked for Guinness I can vouch for the ruby red colour – but only when you look closely – and with the glass held up to natural light. Whatever you do dont ask to add blackcurrant – another terrible faux pas!

  4. Michael Kelly says:

    My tipple of choice, but since Diageo took over Guinness, locals here in Ireland will tell you the mystique and taste has changed.

    For years if you worked for Guinness in Dublin, you were considered to have one of the very best jobs, especially the way the company looked after its employees…. I have friends who worked when Diageo took over and they are adamant the multi national rode a “horse and four” through the company

  5. Andy says:

    Ah, a piece for my heart. I’ve grown up on Guinness (well, not as a baby either), although I’m from Australia and the closest I’ve had to the real thing is probably in England. Oh the shame! Perhaps there’s a lot to look forward to.

    Cheers!

  6. Hey Andy,

    A man after my own heart! You need to get yourself to Ireland at some stage…make a promise to yourself to do it!!

    Great blog you have by the way.

    Best
    Jackie

  7. Tim says:

    Great post. I am a big Guinness fan, so these will be some fun facts for my next order….
    I was aware of fact #1 and surprised to hear how many people are shocked to hear this. The others are new to me!

  8. Thanks Tim. I am delighted to hear that you’ll get some mileage out of it. Yes, the richness of Guinness is misleading, when it comes to the truth about the calorie count.

  9. Frank says:

    The Harp was always the official symbol for Ireland.Trinity College was where you had to apply to use it on your product.Guinness were not allowed to use it officially so to get around the problem Guinness put the Harp wrong way around on the glass you will only see it the right way from the inside of the glass when you drink a mouthfull or two .Guinness also had to agree to give a free drink of Guinness to all Trinity students who attained a masters degree when they were having a meal in the college restuarant so they could use the symbol anyway .

  10. Mal says:

    The marks on. Guiness glass (the blue circle and the bottom of the harp on older glasses) indicate where one should “rest” when pouring

    Brown head on Guiness indicates that the barrel hasn’t been kept at the correct temperature and that the drink will be warmer than it should be.

    Frog eyes (large bubbles) in the head of a pint indicates that the lines need cleaning.

  11. Chris says:

    After years running bars & restaurants, one rule that should be kept, if poss for the bar persons sake and your own! If ordering a round, order the Guinness first! It can then be “settling” while the other drinks are served. Much quicker and convenient!

  12. Jennifer Smith says:

    I just had several of those fresh pints last week on my trip to Ireland. It does taste better there! I swear by it!

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