Happy 250th birthday, Guinness: America's microbrewers salute you

Irish eyes are smiling -- and maybe drooping a little bit. Ireland's unofficial national drink, the dark stout with the creamy head known to the world as Guinness, turns 250 this week. Pubs across the Emerald Isle are expected to be packed with revelers celebrating Arthur Guinness, who got an incredible bargain in 1759, when he paid £100 -- about $147 today -- for a 9,000-year lease on an unused brewery in Dublin's St. James Gate.

While the black stuff doesn't have quite the following on this side of the pond, American brewmeisters are still toasting the anniversary. Guinness -- along with Bass Ale -- is widely credited for exposing American palates to beer styles beyond the lighter, weaker Pilsen (or pilsener) characterized by Budweiser and Coors. "Guinness was one of the first majors to make it into the U.S. market," says Larry Channell, co-owner of Dragonmead Microbrewery in Warren, Michigan. "For the first time, Americans realized that American Pilsen was one of only 105 substyles of beer made in the world."