Guinness Sales Falling in Ireland

Sales of Guinness are plummeting in its native Ireland, as wealthier consumers are sipping Chardonnay and cider.

“You’ll still sell Guinness, but you’ll sell the likes of wheat beers, beers from the Czech Republic, beers from Poland,” said Eddy Martin, who runs the Bailey Bar. “Beer sales are declining while the amount of wine is phenomenal. Before, people would say they wanted a white wine, now they’ll say they want a Chardonnay,” he said at the bar in the heart of Dublin’s smartest shopping district.

Latest figures from global drinks giant Diageo, which owns Guinness, show local sales for the brand down about 7 percent in the six months to the end of December 2006 from a year before. Wine now accounts for over a fifth of alcohol drunk in Ireland.


Sales are doing well in North America and parts of West Africa — where the stronger, bottled local version of Guinness has a reputation, perhaps undeserved, for everything from helping prevent malaria to enhancing male sexual prowess.

But while “Irish pubs” have become a fixture across the globe, many in Ireland have been struggling. Guinness reckons Irish pubs are opening abroad at the rate of about one a day — the same rate as rural pubs are closing back home.

That is bad news for Guinness. Most people say it is best straight from the tap, a process that should take at least a couple of minutes to deliver a perfect pint. “People are cash-rich, but time-poor so there’s been a shift away from the amount of times that people are going to the pub,” said Mackin.

The trend is toward drinking with food in restaurants as well as in buying wine or beer to drink at home. With a pint (just over half a liter) of Guinness costing over 4 euros ($5.30) in a Dublin pub, it may not look that cheap either.

Pub landlords complain other discouraging factors have been a smoking ban and, in rural areas, tougher restrictions on drinking and driving to cut road deaths — though many point out that Guinness remains their best seller. “You might find your ladies drinking wine, but only the odd male — and then with food,” said Keith O’Brien, 25, barman at a pub near Dublin’s River Liffey. “Younger drinkers are more likely to drink lager or cider, more refreshing drinks, especially in the summer, though. They’ll turn to shots (of spirits) when they’ve filled up on the beer and can’t get anything more in.”

Now that’s the old Irish spirit!

Seriously, while this is bad news for Guinness, it’s good news for Ireland. More diversified tastes are a direct result of affluence. Being able to afford imported wine and beer rather than being forced to drink the local brew is a positive, no matter how good the local may be.

While I personally prefer a stout to any Pilsner, I seldom have two identical beers in a row, switching depending on my mood, what food I’m having with it, and so on. Indeed, beer is like wine in that regard. Guinness is rather like a cabernet in that it will stand up well to hearty food but overpower lighter fare, whereas a wheat beer like Hoegaarden or Maisel’s Weisse are excellent with the latter.

via Dan Collins

UPDATE: Collins sends along a link to the Guinness 1759 Society page which has a graphical presentation imploring me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness. One presumes it would be acceptable to intermingle some Smithwick’s into the occasion, since they are brewed (or at least distributed) by the same company.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Economics and Business, Europe, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    I expect Professor Chaos to give his opinion on this urgent matter once lent is over and he can post again!

  2. Mister Biggs says:

    Not suprised, on one trip to Ireland in 2001 the big news was that Guinness was switiching on of its breweries from Guinness to Bud.

  3. legion says:

    Not suprised, on one trip to Ireland in 2001 the big news was that Guinness was switiching on of its breweries from Guinness to Bud.

    I lived in Germany for several years, and it always made me do a double-take in the stores to see that the expensive import wine was E&J Gallo…

    Now if you’d said “Budvar”…

  4. Personally, I can’t stand the Guinness stout. The taste is to heavy for me. When I was in college, the “cheap, good beer” was a local beer called Shiner Bock. It was only sold around lent, but it tasted good and was cheap. The prime movers for a college student. Later, the Shiner people started making it more than just for lent because it was one of their major sellers. The Heileman brewery bought out the local Spoetzel brewery that made the Shiner Bock. It doesn’t taste quite as good now (I’m not sure if that is just fond memories or real changes) and it certainly isn’t the cheapest beer around these days. But it tends to be the beer of choice for me.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Shiner Bock’s good, although I can’t compare it to the pre-Heileman days.

  6. YAJ: Heck, I find Guinness Stout to be too thin, I very much the Guinness Extra Stout!

    In that same general vein, I like Sierra Nevada’s Porter.

    Sam Adams has a nice cream stout that I haven’t seen around here since at least last year.

    I find Shiner Bock to be refreshing and also has nostalgic ties to my grad school days at UT. I like their Hefeweizen as well.

  7. James,

    I knew you must have good taste.


    That’s why they make different types of beer. I have successfully resisted the peer pressure to be a man and enjoy the stout. I am a man and would rather sip the fluid from my 10,000 mile oil change that down a stout. We will just have to agree to disagree. Which is actually in our mutual interest because it leaves more of the kind we each like for the one who appreciates it. I can drink a wheat beer, but I prefer the bock, pale ale or a pilsner.

  8. YAJ:

    I didn’t mean my comment as a criticism, just an observation on taste.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I didn’t mean my comment as a criticism, just an observation on taste.

    Personally, I consider it a schoolyard taunt tantamount to Ann Coulter’s!

    Of course, had she said Edwards prefers pale ales to stouts, she’d have gotten into less trouble.

  10. Perhaps, to keep the beer analogies going, she could have said “Edwards has all the gravitas of a non-alcoholic, light beer.” Much more subtle and harder to claim a PC infraction.

  11. Terrence says:

    During college I gave a persuasive speech on Guinness in my public speaking class, the persuasion being that Guinness is the best brew around. Some facts I learned:

    Guinness has less alcohol % than most light beers
    Guinness also has less calories than most beers
    Until the 1950’s, Irish doctors still prescribed Guinness to pregnant women for health reasons

    Anyway, I still love my Guinness, but Murphy’s Irish Stout is lovely, as well, and I have several in the fridge for St. Patrick’s Day. You can get it at Trader Joes.

    IMO, a good stout like Guinness or Murphy’s goes well with almost any meal except Mexican food, perhaps.

  12. James Joyner says:

    Guinness has less alcohol % than most light beers
    Guinness also has less calories than most beers

    I presume you were trying to persuade chicks?