We’ve all heard the phrase “the luck of the Irish,” and of one thing there is no doubt, they are lucky to have Guinness as their “unofficial” national beer! Have you ever thought about the logistics of Guinness?

Guinness is loved around the world that it’s been a staple at every St. Patrick’s Day celebration since Arthur Guinness set up his brewery in 1759.

More than 33 million revelers around the world participate in St. Patrick’s Day festivities each year. That equals more than 13 million pints of Guinness beer consumed on March 17 alone!

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, Guinness will be delivered and enjoyed in 150 countries around the globe. That’s a tall logistics order!

Just a wee bit of history…

Way back in 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on a defunct brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin for an annual rent of £45. That’s just under $64 by today’s standards.

Just one decade later, the first export shipment of six and a half barrels of Guinness beer left Dublin on a sailing vessel bound for England.

On October 16th, 1817, the very first Guinness shipped to the United States, from Dublin to South Carolina by sea, in just eight barrels. And so the American love affair with this hearty, foamy pint began.

In the beginning, the complexity of the logistics caused problems.

The multiple steps in the beer’s journey to the U.S. market—with numerous handoffs between different responsible parties —was compounded by the inherently unpredictable nature of ocean transport.

Certain shipping lines performed better than others. The price of oil affected how fast the vessels moved across the Atlantic. Weather helped or hinder vessel movement, and even the time of year caused variability in crossing times.

Things simply went wrong. A container might not get down to the quay in time to meet the feeder vessel sailing. The feeder vessel could be delayed or canceled due to bad weather.

It would arrive at the deep sea port in time, but not get in and offloaded in time to meet the deep sea vessel.

The deep sea vessel might be running late itself or do a “port skip,” missing a port to get back on schedule. That the beer literally missed the boat.

Where are they now? Logistics wise…

“Guinness beer destined for the corner pub on Main Street, U.S.A. leaves the Dublin brewery in kegs that are then loaded into 40-foot containers, which are loaded onto trucks that drive to Dublin Port, where the containers are offloaded into a customs bay before being moved into a holding pen. From there, the containers are loaded onto a feeder ship that sails from the shallow Dublin Port to a deep-sea ocean port (Amsterdam or Southampton, for example, or even Liverpool) and offloads the beer into a holding area until the arrival of the ocean vessel. The ocean vessel takes the containerized beer across the Atlantic to, first, New York, followed by port calls in Norfolk, Charleston, Houston and, finally, Los Angeles.  In port, the containers are offloaded, taken through customs, then picked up and delivered to a Diageo company warehouse. Transit times, gate-to-gate, range from about 21 days to New York, up to 33-36 days for Los Angeles, depending on which of several different carriers is transporting the beer, weather, time of year and other factors — when everything goes right.”

That’s quite a journey, just so we Americans can enjoy pints of frothy dark deliciousness!

Bottoms up, and cheers to Guinness!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

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