Just like many other large beer brands, think of Stella Artois or Bud Light, Guinness is (no longer) an independent brewery. Instead, Guinness is currently owned by a conglomerate and is part of a large portfolio of brands. In short, here’s everything you need to know:
Guinness is owned by Diageo, which is the result of a merger between Guinness PLC and Grand Metropolitan PLC, which happened in 1997. The company is based in London, UK.
Continue reading if you want to learn more about the merger, Diageo, and who initially founded the company.
Who Owns Guinness?
Guinness was initially owned by the Guinness family after having been founded by Arthur Guinness. Arthur famously signed a 9000-year lease for £45 per year on 31 December 1759 for the St. James’s Gate Brewery. As a result of this lease, the brewery is still in use.
However, it is no longer owned only by Guinness PLC. In 1997, the company merged with Grand Metropolitan PLC in a £24 billion merger. The result was Diageo PLC, which is comprised of dia (Latin for day) and geo (Latin for ´world´) to represent their slogan; “Celebrating Life, Every Day, Everywhere”. Since 1 January 2017, Javier Ferrán has been the Chairman.
Guinness PLC’s portfolio included the stout but also Johnnie Walker whiskey and Gordon’s gin. Grand Metropolitan brought Burger king, Smirnoff, and Haagen-Dazs, amongst others, to the table.
The merger of these two large companies, with their many brands, resulted in Diageo becoming the world’s seventh-largest food and drink company.
Although both companies seemed to be doing well separately, the reason Grand Met wanted to merge was that they saw hardly any growth in the sales of their alcohol brands. Guinness, on the other hand, was doing really well breaking into the Latin American and Asian markets, which Grand Met (rightly) saw as a massive opportunity.
Currently, Diageo is made up of four product groups; spirits, beer, wine, and ready-to-drink beverages. Within the beer group, Guinness is the second biggest brand.
Their highest net sales are from North America (27.4%), but Europe and Turkey, and Asia/Pacific are close behind with 24.7% and 24.4%, respectively. Africa makes up 10%, and Latin America and the Caribbean 6.2%.
The top 10 stakeholders of the company are Managed Account Advisors LLC, UBS Financial Services, Inc., Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Charles Schwab Investment Management INC., The London Company of Virginia LLC, BNP Paribas Arbitrage SNC, AKO Capital LLP, Strategic Advisers LLC, Markel-Gayner Asset Management Corp, and Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
Who Founded Guinness?
Arthur Guinness was the founder and the first Master Brewer at Guinness. Born on 24 September 1725, he grew up learning from his father, Richard, who was a brewer at the Celbridge Estate of Dr. Arthur Price.
The financial crisis in 1759 meant that property was plenty and cheap. As a result, Guinness moved here and signed his lease on the St. James’s Gate Brewery, which was an abandoned ale brewery.
It was the perfect location, as the river gave it access to plenty of water and power, and the barley needed was grown on the farms nearby. About the access to hops Arthur didn’t need to worry either, as he could easily acquire those from Dublin. These resources clearly made Guinness believe in his business, as the lease was signed for 9000 years.
Guinness initially brewed ales, but switched to porters in 1778. This was a new variety of English beer, which was invented by Ralph Harwood in 1722. The difference between these two beers, is that porter is made with roasted barley. This method of preparing the barley meant that the final liquid was a dark ruby red color that we expect from Guinness today.
The first porter that was brewed at the St. James’s Gate Brewery was the West Indies Porter, which no longer exists today. However, Guinness Extra Stout is based on the same recipe and is as close to the ‘original’ you could get.
Arthur died in 1803 and his son, Arthur Guinness II, one of 10 children, took over.
Currently, Guinness is brewed in over 50 countries. There is currently 1 Guinness brewery in the US, and another is set to open in 2023.
Guinness opened its first US brewery in 1954, but this quickly closed again too. It turned out there wasn’t enough demand, and US beer drinkers wanted something lighter instead.
The current US brewery is located in Baltimore, Maryland. But, instead of brewing the famous stout, it was designed to brew an American Pale Lager, their Baltimore Blonde.
Before opening, Diageo spent $90 million to convert the existing distillery to a brewery large enough to welcome 300,000 visitors a year. The result isn’t just a brewery; there is also a taproom, beer garden, restaurant, food truck, and restaurant. If this all sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry. The site offers both guided and self-guided tours, so you’ll be sure not to miss out on anything.
As its first location was a success, Guinness is planning on opening its second US location in Chicago. This location won’t just be a brewery; it’ll have a 300-seat restaurant and a taproom too. The Baltimore brewery is designed to brew and distribute beer in the region, but the Chicago location is mostly here for visits. It’ll only have a 10-barrel system, which means you’ll only be able to taste the beers brewed at this location by visiting. Though there will be plenty of beers to taste, keep in mind that here too, they won’t be brewing the famous Guinness Stout.
What Other Brands Does Diageo Own?
Diago is one of the leading food and drink companies in the world. The company owns more than 200 brands, which are sold across 180 countries. We won’t bore you with the entire list, but some notable mentions are as follows;
- Guinness (Irish dry stout)
- Smirnoff (premium distilled vodka)
- Baileys (cream liqueur)
- Tanqueray (gin)
- Jonnie Walker (scotch whisky)
The company currently makes the most profit from the sales of spirits. The second is beer, the third is ready-to-drink, and lastly, wine.