Guinness is one of Africa's most favorite drinks
Guinness is one of the most famous brands in the world, but did you know that it's not Ireland who consumes the most black stuff?
The United Kingdom and Nigeria both consume more Guinness than Ireland, and another African country, Cameroon, comes in fourth.
So how did Arthur Guinness’ porter win over Africa?
Guinness goes global
While they say that the best pint of Guinness in the world is found in Ireland and many say the black stuff doesn’t travel well, this really is just lore. As CNN put it: “Guinness didn't get to be the global powerhouse it is today by only catering to taste buds lucky enough to be on Eire's soil.”
In 1803, Arthur Guinness II took over his father’s company and Guinness began to expand, initially along the routes of the British Empire.
Of the original West Indies Porter, which is now known as Foreign Extra Stout, Guinness today says: "In the early 1800s, while other breweries were content to stay close to home, we struck out into unchartered territories, braving the perils of sea travel to export our famous black beer across the globe."
Some classic ingenuity early on quickly set Guinness apart from other brands and make it a global product.
The product was also formulated to withstand lengthy journeys: "Brewed with more hops to preserve the beer in the ships’ holds during voyages of four-to-five weeks in tropical climes, the recipe yielded a powerful drink with a complex, fruity bittersweet flavor."
Guinness was being consumed in Africa as early as 1827. Earlier, it had made its way to South Carolina in the US, and by the mid 19th century it was all the way in New Zealand.
Although the British Empire fell, Guinness endured, and in 1962, just two years after Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom, the first successful brewery outside of Ireland or the UK was opened in Lagos.
In his book “Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint,” historian Bill Yenne discussed the popularity of Guinness abroad with brewmaster Fergal Murray, who worked at the Guinness brewery in Nigeria in the 1980s.
Murray said: “I’ve talked to Nigerians who think of Guinness as their national beer."
“They wonder why Guinness is sold in Ireland. You can talk to Nigerians in Lagos who will tell you as many stories about their perfect pint as an Irishman will. They’ll tell about how they’ve had the perfect bottle of foreign extra stout at a particular bar on their way home from work.”
Today, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is the modern descendant of the original West Indies Porter. With a 7.5 percent ABV, it's stronger, heavier, and punchier than the Guinness available in Ireland. This is the Guinness you’ll find in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean most often.
In 2014, Guinness introduced a 6 percent ABV version of Guinness West Indies Port which was modeled on the original 1801 recipe.
A very old, very secret recipe
Of course, Guinness wouldn't be nearly as popular if it weren't a good product. Today, the Irish brand's claim to fame is a very old, very secret recipe.
In 2017, Guinness archivist Eibhlin Colgan told CNN's 'In 24 Hours' that the recipe from 1801 "really is one of the most precious documents that we hold.”
Colgan's lips are sealed though: “As we've kept this recipe secret for over 200 years, we're going to keep it that way."
Worldwide Guinness sales
In 2004, Guinness sales in Africa beat those in the United Kingdom and Ireland, making up about 35% of the global take.
Later in 2007, Africa surpassed Ireland as the second largest market for Guinness worldwide, behind the United Kingdom, and sales have only climbed since then (by about 13 percent each year).
Today, Guinness is available in over 100 countries worldwide and it is brewed in almost 50. How amazing to think that from Dublin’s St. James’s Gate a global empire has grown.
In case you missed it, here’s one of Guinness’ world famous adverts from 2014. The brilliant ad depicts the elegant Sapeurs in the Republic of Congo. Enjoy:
H/T: Smithsonian Mag.
Where have you had Guinness before? Let us know in the comments!
*Originally published in 2017.