DUBLIN — Guiness, Ireland's unofficial national drink, celebrated its 250th birthday Thursday with Prime Minister Brian Cowen hailing the anniversary as "an excuse for having a great party."
A scion of the Guinness brewing dynasty was also on hand to lead toasts to the "black stuff." The brand is a huge commercial success around the world.
Rory Guinness, a great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, who brewed the first pint of the dark ale in 1759, said it was a great day for the family and the company.
"One of the keys to Guinness is the fact that it comes from Ireland, because the country is what supplies the wonderful barley, the water, all the magic ingredients to go into making such a delicious pint.
"That is Ireland and those years of history and those years of scientific expertise that has gone into perfecting the drink," the 34-year-old told RTE state radio.
Dublin is the hub of worldwide hype to toast the Guinness founder, with millions expected to down a celebratory pint of the world's most famous stout in pubs from Cork to Cotonou and Hong Kong to Honolulu.
Live music was organised in 33 Dublin pubs and Rory -- jokingly describing himself as a "tour guide" at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland's top tourist draw -- said he would "dearly love to have a pint in each of them."
Singer Tom Jones opened celebrations at the Storehouse, while Boyzone's Ronan Keating was among other artists set to perform.
Cowen marked the occasion in a speech at the Storehouse shortly before the main party event at 17:59 pm (1659 GMT) -- to mark the year the firm began.
Calling Guinness a "global phenomenon," he said: "The Dublin celebrations are, of course, special because this is the home of the black stuff and Guinness is an iconic Irish brand -- one that we are very proud of."
"Anniversaries are important occasions. They allow us to come together to celebrate achievement, while looking forward with confidence to the future.
"They can also provide an excuse for having a great party!" he added.
Some 10 million pints of the black stuff are now downed every day in 150 countries.
Guinness first started to flow when its founder, equipped with a small inheritance left by his godfather Archbishop Arthur Price, signed a 9,000-year lease on a run-down brewery in Dublin's St James's Gate and started one of Ireland's biggest commercial success stories.
Rory was the first family member to propose to his future wife Mira in the Dublin brewery since his ancestor Arthur asked heiress Olivia Whitmore to marry him in 1761.
Arthur and Olivia had 21 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood.
Six generations of the Guinness family were involved in managing the brewery. Lord Benjamin Iveagh, Rory Guinness' father, was the last family chairman of the company which has been owned by the Diageo drinks giant since a merger in 1997.
Having a job with "Uncle Arthur", as the firm was known in Ireland, came to mean security, a two pints a day free stout allowance, staff picnics and company health care and sports facilities, including a sports field and swimming pool.
In Ireland, the company still directly employs 2,200 and an estimated 20,000 indirectly.
The Guinness family legacy includes the lavish Farmleigh official state guesthouse which was previously the home of Lord Iveagh and a family-backed charity that provides social housing in the city.
It also includes the building that houses the foreign ministry and city centre parks like St Stephen's Green and the Iveagh gardens.
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