Tale of the ale: A brief history of Guinness around the world

From humble beginnings in Ireland’s capital, to a truly global brand, Guinness’ journey to international success is a story worth telling. On International Beer Day (4 August), we bring to life the story the world’s most famous stout through the people that made it.



Born in 1725 in County Kildare, Ireland, Arthur Guinness inherited £100 from his godfather Archbishop Price, and used the money to set up his own ale brewery in neighbouring town, Leixlip. At 34, Arthur decided to try his luck in the capital, signing a 9000-year lease on a small, disused property at St. James’s Gate from which to start his brewing journey. The original lease is still available to view at the Dublin archive. 


A failing brewing industry in Ireland led Arthur to begin exporting, sending just six and a half barrels of Guinness beer on a ship bound to England. The rapid growth of a new beer, ‘porter’, in London resulted in Arthur halting ale production and concentrating on perfecting a bold, black beer, the West Indian Porter (a precursor to Guinness Foreign Extra Stout) which remains part of Guinness’ range to this day.

Over the next 200 years, Guinness quickly became part of the world’s cultural fabric. Today, it is brewed in more than 60 locations worldwide, with Nigeria opening the first brewery outside of the UK and Ireland in 1963.

Now sold in over 150 locations, the entrepreneurial spirit and pursuit of innovation is still a vibrant part of the most fabled brewery in the world. The next chapter of Guinness innovation is led by the Brewers Project: a group of enterprising brewers on a quest to explore new recipes, re-interpret old ones and collaborate freely to bring exciting beers to life. Most recently it has delivered Hop House 13, Guinness’ Nitro IPA, and Guinness Golden Ale.

With over 8,000 years left on the original St James Gate lease, they’ve got a lot more beer to make.