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What You Need to Know Before You Order That Pint of Guinness

Few beverages are as closely linked to a location as Guinness is to Ireland. Rich in heritage, the creamy dark stout is a daily staple at pubs and bars across Ireland and the world. Travel along with Pull Over and Let Me Out to the Emerald Isle and learn what you need to know before you order that pint of Guinness.
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Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

Nothing is more Irish than spending time in a pub—whether it’s for a meal in a gastropub, listening to a live “trad session” in a rural pub, or just stopping in for a little craic at a busy pub in a major city like Galway or Dublin. Ireland is famous for its pubs and visiting one for a pint of Guinness is almost an obligatory itinerary item. The ubiquitous pint of the “black stuff” is as much a part of the Emerald Isle as shamrocks, harps, and leprechauns. However, before you hop up on that barstool in the pub, here is what you need to know before you order that pint of Guinness.

What You Need to Know Before You Order That Pint of Guinness

Two full pints of Guinness
Guinness dry stout originated at the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James Gate in Dublin

Guinness is Rich in History

Guinness is more than just a beer. A pint of Guinness comes with a story behind it that is as rich as the creamy froth on the top of a pint.

Founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, “every pint served around the world is one more pint of his undeniable legacy.” The art of brewing has been passed down from generation to generation since Arthur pulled that first pint.

Profoundly confident in his craft brewing skills, Arthur signed a 9000-year lease on St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin on December 31, 1759. Since then, people from all over the world have traveled to this legendary location which remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.

The brewing company Guinness founded in the 18th century, forever changed Ireland and how beer is enjoyed worldwide. Over the centuries the brand has innovated, prospered and transformed, yet still carries on his legacy of brewing exceptional beer.

a woman and a boy outside at the Guinness gate in Dublin
Guinness St. James Gate Dublin

Why a Harp?

Dating back to medieval times, the harp has long been the coat of arms of Ireland. The symbol is representative of the Irish culture and arts with its design purported to stem from the 15th Century “Brian Boru” harp.

In the 1860s, Guinness stout’s popularity was on the rise and it was being sold in numerous countries. The Guinness family felt their product needed a symbol or branding if you will, that would be recognized worldwide as an Irish product. It was then that the harp became the official symbol for Guinness.

Consequently, when the newly formed Irish Free State in 1922 sought to use the harp, it was forced to turn the harp facing the opposite direction of the Guinness harp so as not to violate its trademark.

Since 1862, the iconic harp has been part of the Guinness branding. Although the harp has gone through a few modifications and lost a couple of strings here and there, it’s an enduring and world-renowned symbol like no other.

Guinness Health Benefits

I have vivid memories of my Irish grandmother serving my grandfather a Guinness when he was in failing health. She said it would give him strength. Well, maybe she was on to something!

After doing a little bit of research, I’ve discovered several studies showing that Guiness has more going for it than just great taste. Packed with vitamins and minerals, Guinness is a terrific source of iron and B vitamins, which help to maintain healthy blood cells and contribute to cardiovascular health. 

According to Dr. Courtney Giel in an article at HealthBenefited.com, “Guinness Stout is rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of certain diseases and boost immunity.” (link to article)

Moreover, the distinctive dark roasted barley and hops can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, improving digestion and nutrient absorption.

While Guinness makes no medical claims and they don’t advertise as such anymore, it’s pretty interesting information nonetheless. I’m not a doctor, so do your own research.

a pub with the name Courtney's over the door
Studies show the old ads may be right. (Courtney's in Lucan, Co. Dublin)

Look Good and Feel Good Too?

There is a social aspect to enjoying a pint of Guinness with friends or family that makes it all the more enjoyable. To that point, studies have shown that the antioxidants present in Guinness can help reduce depression and anxiety, as well as improve focus, energy, and mood (again, I’m not a doctor, so do your own research).

And before you let that gorgeous dark color and creamy rich head fool you, Guinness is actually lower in calories than the average beer. For those keeping an eye on their waistline, a pint of the black stuff only has about 15 more calories than a Bud Light.

Furthermore, it’s lower in alcohol than most beers as well. EatingWell.com points out, “Guinness is 4.3% ABV, whereas most popular lager beers in the U.S. are at least 5%. Alcohol is the main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage, so a Guinness will naturally be lower in calories than a beer containing 5% (or more) alcohol—even though it might seem more filling.

As with any alcoholic beverage, moderation is strictly encouraged and you should never drive after drinking.

two pints of Guinness in a bar where people are watching soccer on tv
A pint of Guinness goes well with Premier League Football
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In addition to a reputation for treating its employees well, Guinness also has a legacy of philanthropy. For example, Guinness contributed to the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and Arthur Guinness purchased St. Stephen’s Green and donated it to the city so the green space could be enjoyed by everyone. My first encounter with this philanthropy was when I toured Westminster Abbey. 16 Waterford Crystal chandeliers at Westminster Abbey were donated in 1965, by the Guinness family to mark the 900th anniversary of the Abbey's founding. If you tour Westminster Abbey, be sure to look up, they're amazing!

The Pour

There is an art to pouring a pint of Guinness. If you have ever watched a bartender pull a pint properly, you will know it is a sight to behold. The Guinness 2-Part-Pull dates back to the 1930s as a means to solve a problem having to do with the types of casks that beer came in. While the solution to the problem involved multiple pours, there wasn’t a uniform method.

Ultimately, Guinness hired a mathemetician-turned-brewer by the name of Michael Ash, in 1951. Ash believed that nitrogen gas was the answer to the problem. According to an article I discovered on Kegworks, Ash claimed: “It’s completely inert and it’s three-quarters of what we breathe. It was perfect for this purpose.”

In 1959, after a great deal of research and testing to find the perfect keg for the novel method, Nitro Guinness was introduced to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the brewery.

Since then, fans have come to love the Guinness-approved 2-Part-Pull almost as much as the delicious beer itself. There are even Best Guinness Pour contests held around the world as bartenders showcase their unique skills. When I was in Ireland on my last trip, I even met a Minnesota contest winner who was staying at the same B&B as me. His prize was the trip to Ireland!

a freshly poured pint of Guinness
The tried and true Guinness 2-part pour (photo courtesy of Unsplash Dmitry Limonov)

The Tour

The Guinness Storehouse Tour is one of the top tours in Dublin and Ireland. Because of the tour’s popularity, I strongly suggest booking ahead of time online. They offer several different experiences and you can choose the one that best fits you and your travel companions’ tastes.

There are three main tours offered. Guinness Storehouse Experience Only is a 90-minute tour from €20 per person. The Guinness Storehouse+ Stoutie is from €28, lasts about 2 hours, and comes with a pint that features your selfie on the head. For a more in depth experience, the Guinness Storehouse+ Guinness Academy is €32 per person, lasts approximately 2 hours, and you will learn to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. You will also receive a certificate as a keepsake and proof of your newfound pouring skills.

Not traveling to Ireland?

No worries. Guinness has two breweries located in the U.S. The first U.S. location launched in 2018, Guinness Open Gate Brewery outside of Baltimore, Maryland, serves up several beverages brewed in-house in addition to the famous Dublin brews. I recommend trying out their flagship beer, Baltimore Blonde Ale.

The second location is Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Chicago. Both of these stateside locations offer a variety of guided tour experiences as well as food and beverages.

Enjoy a pint of Guinness in a Pub

Speaking of food and beverages, there is no better place to enjoy a pint of Guinness and a traditional Irish meal than at a pub. A visit to a pub is an itinerary-must when in Ireland.

Pubs dot the landscape and come in a wide range of styles, shapes, and sizes. You are certain to find a delicious pint of Guinness regardless of what they’re serving on the menu. Pop into a pub for a meal and pair it with a cool pint. It’s the quintessential Irish experience.

Brazen Head Pub Dublin Visit Ireland Now PullOverAndLetMeOut
Dublin's oldest pub The Brazen Head

More Beers Brewed by Guinness

Besides their famous Guinness Irish dry stout, Guinness also brews a host of other popular beers.

Among those favorites for St. Patrick’s Day and any other occasion worthy of tipping a glass to, there is Guinness Harp Lager, Guinness Kilkenny Draught Irish Cream Ale, Smithwicks Red Ale (the ‘h’ and the ‘w’ are silent), and Guinness Blonde Ale or Baltimore Blonde Ale to name a few.

As the Guinness website states, “From the original black stuff to its alcohol-free comrade, we’ve covered all bases when it comes to beer.”

two pints in front of a scenic view of a mountain
A couple of pints of Smithwicks in the shadow of Croagh Patrick near Westport.

Say Slainte!

Guinness is an iconic beverage that is synonymous with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Likewise, it is more than a drink. It is an integral part of Ireland’s heritage.

So, when you are preparing to raise your glass on St. Patrick’s Day, if you’re touring the Emerald Isle, or if you are simply enjoying a pint on a Friday night, you can revel in the knowledge you are savoring a delicious legacy passed down over generations that is more than just ordinary beer.

But before you take that first creamy sip, be sure to say Slàinte! It’s an Irish toast that means, “health.” Come to think of it, if the studies are accurate, that pint of Guinness goes perfectly with the toast. You may very well be drinking to your health.

Slàinte!

a plate of bangers and mash in front of a couple of pints of Guinness
A traditional Irish meal complemented by a pint of Guinness

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What You Need to Know Before You Order That Pint of Guinness

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