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Lynn Friedman, Flickr //  CC BY NC-ND 2.0
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

21 Writers On Their Favorite Bookstores

Lynn Friedman, Flickr //  CC BY NC-ND 2.0
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

We all have our favorite spots for browsing the latest titles and uncovering hidden gems, but who better to share their picks of most beloved bookstores than the authors whose names appear on those hallowed store shelves. Spoiler: It's a very tough choice to make. 

1. HANYA YANAGIHARA // AUTHOR OF A LITTLE LIFE

"Three Lives & Company, in New York's West Village, is the kind of tiny, cheery bookshop that exists only in movies, and that people come to New York hoping to find (well, I did). If you go at 5 p.m. on any weekend, there's a lovely, two-glasses-of-rosé kind of intimacy that settles in, an impromptu salon of regulars, the very well-read bookselling staff, and tourists all talking books."

2. AND 3. HOLLY BLACK AND CASSANDRA CLARE // AUTHORS OF THE MAGISTERIUM SERIES

Black: "That’s a tough question. I am lucky enough now to live in a place where there are a lot of great local bookstores. There’s Amherst Books, which is right down the street from me and always has books I never find anywhere else. There’s Odyssey Books, which has a fantastic children and young adult section and people ready to recommend great things, and then a bit further from town, there’s a used bookstore near a waterfall, called The Book Mill. It’s a great store and I particularly love their slogan: 'Books You Don’t Need In a Place You Can’t Find.'"

Clare: "It’s a tie between Books of Wonder, because that’s where I bought children’s books while I was in college, and Hatchards in London, because that’s where the characters in Georgette Heyer’s novels buy their books."

4. POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR // AUTHOR OF THE LAST ILLUSION

marfa book co storefront
Monica D., Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"It’s a tie between Marfa Book Company in Marfa, Texas, for its good looks, and Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, for sentimental reasons (my first Faulkner pilgrimage when I was in college)."

5. MALLORY ORTBERG // AUTHOR OF TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE

"Feldman's in Menlo Park, California, because it's where I discovered Shirley Jackson by accident my junior year in high school."

6. AND 7. HEATHER COCKS AND JESSICA MORGAN // AUTHORS OF THE ROYAL WE

Morgan: "We had an event for The Royal We at Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C., and I fell in love. Not just because they have a bar, but—they have a bar! And it's open 24 hours! And the staff is awesome! If I lived in D.C., I would literally spend all of my money there. Take my money, Kramerbooks!"

Cocks: "Kramerbooks is one of my favorites too. There's also an amazing place in downtown Los Angeles called The Last Bookstore. It's most famous for the labyrinth of $1 books on the mezzanine, which features an actual tunnel you can walk through. It's just beautiful."

8. MEGAN ABBOT // AUTHOR OF THE FEVER

"If I can qualify it as my favorite bookstore-for-whom-my-debt-is-the-greatest, it’d be Murder by the Book in Houston, its extraordinary owner McKenna Jordan, and its brilliant booksellers. They serve as one of the great beacons of light in the crime-fiction community. And they always recommend the best books to me. I never leave empty-handed, whether it’s Sally pressing Ben H. Winters’s novels into my hands or John sending me a long-out-of-print sensation novel (Mary Braddon’s The Face in the Glass)."

9. SARAH VOWELL // AUTHOR OF LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES

Country Bookshelf interior
N i c o l a, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"Country Bookshelf in my hometown of Bozeman, Montana, for bogarting my babysitting money throughout my formative years; Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.; Elliott Bay in Seattle; Powell's in Portland, Oregon; and an honorable mention to Eslite in Taiwan for making book shopping second only to dumpling eating as Taipei's favorite pastime."

10. LEIGH BARDUGO // AUTHOR OF SIX OF CROWS

"Books and Books in Miami—there's a bar! Drop by Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California, for just a few minutes and you instantly sense how important the store is to the community. Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, has a great crew of local authors, adorable dogs roaming the aisles, and [owner] Ann Patchett."

11. LEILA SALES // AUTHOR OF MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS

"Hatchards, in Piccadilly, London. Because it is old and huge and beautiful, and it feels like a palace of books. (And/or because I am one of those pretentious Americans who just likes British things better.) When my third book was published in the U.K., I got to sign stock at Hatchards, and that was the moment when I finally felt like, 'Wow, I am an author!'"

12. EMMA STRAUB // AUTHOR OF THE VACATIONERS

"I worked at Brooklyn's BookCourt for four years, so I feel an allegiance to them, partly because I already know where everything is. But I also feel devoted to Greenpoint/Jersey City's WORD, because they are the coolest and best, and I also feel devoted to Park Slope's Community, because they are the closest to my house and so I am there most often. How about I choose the Bank Street Children's Bookstore, on the Upper West Side, or Books of Wonder, near Union Square? Oh, Mental Floss. I can't choose."

13. ROXANE GAY // AUTHOR OF BAD FEMINIST

The last bookstore book tunnel
Omaromar, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

"This is a tough choice because there are many I am fond of, but The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. It is such a strange, quirky space that feels different each time."

14. ANN M. MARTIN // AUTHOR OF RAIN REIGN

"The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, New York, is small but carries a wide variety of titles, has a dedicated and involved staff of book lovers, champions local authors, and is a vibrant part of the community, sponsoring many author events. Books of Wonder in New York City is a children's-only bookstore with shelf after shelf of new titles and classics, a special interest in L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, a tantalizing case of old and rare books, and a passionate owner who regularly brings together children's authors and illustrators."

15. RAINA TELGEMEIER // AUTHOR OF SISTERS

green apple bookstore
Lynn Friedman, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND 2.0

"Just one?! There are so many great bookstores! Books of Wonder in New York, Powell’s in Portland, Green Apple in San Francisco … I’ll give a special shout-out to Kidsbooks in Vancouver, British Columbia. They specialize in children’s books, have amazingly creative window displays, know their customer base inside and out, and put on one of the finest events anywhere in the world. I have never felt like more of a rock-star author than when I visit Kidsbooks!"

16. AVA DELLAIRA // AUTHOR OF LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD

"Ah! Such a hard question. I have many favorite bookstores in different cities I’ve lived in and traveled to. But my first favorite bookstore is a great indie store in Albuquerque called Bookworks, where I’d go to browse during breaks from my first job and discovered many a wonderful title as a high schooler."

17. MARISSA MEYER // AUTHOR OF THE LUNAR CHRONICLES

Joseph Beth booksellers interior
Rich Bowen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

"I'd have to go with Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. There's some nostalgia at play—they hosted my first book tour signing when Cinder came out in 2012, and they've thrown spectacular Lunar Chronicles events since then. Last time I was there, they even had TLC-themed cocktails at the cafe, and that sort of attention to detail really blows me away. On top of hosting great events, it's also a lovely, laid-back bookstore with great staff."

18. JAMES PATTERSON // AUTHOR OF THE MURDER HOUSE

"People often ask me what my favorite character is, among all those I’ve created. And I tend to dodge the question a bit, saying—quite truthfully—that it would be like picking a favorite child. It wouldn’t be fair to Lindsay or Rafe or Alex or Michael or Max to say one or the other was my favorite. Bookstores aren’t like children to me, but a similar principle applies. Maybe it’s more like picking a favorite adult family member. There, again, I have too many I love in too many different ways to pick a very favorite. I have great sentiment for my own local bookshop, Classic in Palm Beach. I dig The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, Malaprops in Asheville, and all of the independent stores that I gave grants to last year. And I also am keen on the ones I didn’t get to give grants to last year. I hope to recognize more of them soon. And I am a huge, huge fan of Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million and Hastings for their big focus on books. I am excessively fond of BJ’s, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart, and other general merchandise stores for their innovative and wide presentation of books and their insistence that books be for sale in their stores even when they’re not the flashiest or most lucrative category of goods they sell. And I love e-book sellers too, for carving out a space in people’s screens where, rather than watching a video or seeing what celebrities are doing, you can actually read stories. Basically, if you sell books—if you take time and attention to bring books to people, if you favor what I consider to be one of the greatest cultural developments in human history and continue to make noise and draw people’s attention to it—then I favor you. How’s that for (with great candor, I swear) dodging a politically charged question?"

19. RAINBOW ROWELL // AUTHOR OF CARRY ON

"This is tough, but I'll say Waterstones Piccadilly, because if I'm there, it means I'm in London. Also, I once had an amazing beet salad at the restaurant on the top floor."

20. ELISABETH EGAN // AUTHOR OF A WINDOW OPENS

"Watchung Books in Montclair, New Jersey, is not only my favorite bookstore, it might just be my favorite place other than the Jersey shore. Not only do I love what they sell, I love the buzz of people talking about books and the smell of all those fresh pages. I live right around the corner, so I try to duck into the bookstore as often as possible. I also love walking my dog past the window at night and peering in like a creepy stalker. The sight of all those soldier-straight spines gives me the most delicious sense of peace."

21. KATHERINE APPLEGATE // AUTHOR OF CRENSHAW

"My favorite bookstore? Why not just ask me to pick my favorite child? (And honestly, I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t like.) Still, one of my favorites is Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois. It somehow manages to display a vast and wonderfully curated selection, while staying comfortable and intimate. And the folks who work there are pretty swell."

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

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