The man who created Guinness

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I first tasted Guinness in 1995 when we were in London, gathered with some new friends who took us out that night to see the city. At first it tasted like I was drinking food, bitter, solid, like chewing on roasted grains. But after a while I began to be ok with it. I think it's fair to say it was an acquired taste for me.

In a day and age when the corporate world is not about creating good automobiles or customer service or quality goods, or a better life for their employees, but rather they are about creating wealth for a few, it is good to be reminded that there should be other goals too.

Mr. Arthur Guinness can be an example to us.

It is the mid-1760s, and in Dublin's grand St. Patrick's Cathedral the famed revivalist John Wesley is preaching with all of his might. He is aware that the congregation of St. Patrick's is filled with the city's more successful, comfortable, perhaps self-satisfied souls. And so he thunders against their self-centeredness, rails against their disregard for the poor. "Oh who has courage to speak plain to these rich and honorable sinners?" Wesley writes afterward in his journals.

In the congregation is a young businessman who only a few years before has begun to make his mark in the city. Born in nearby Celbridge and raised on the archbishop's estate that his father managed, this young man has gained something of a reputation for his skill at brewing beer. In fact, he has purchased a defunct brewery at St. James' Gate, along the River Liffey, and, having married well and embedded himself skillfully in Dublin's merchant class, he fully intends to rise.

Now, listening to John Wesley speak of the obligations of wealth, of a God-given duty to care for the hurting of the world, this gifted young man is reminded of values he learned on that archbishop's estate and at his father's knee. They are values that resurfaced in the Reformation of Calvin and Luther and that were set aflame and made personal in the Methodism of John Wesley. This rising entrepreneur hears and allows Wesley's words to frame a vision for his fledgling company: a vision for producing wealth through brewing excellence and then for using that wealth to serve the downtrodden and the poor.

We should be glad that he did, for that young man was Arthur Guinness, the founder of the renowned brewery whose 250th anniversary we celebrate this year. His famous dark stout would become one of the most beloved beverages in the world, the Guinness brand among the most recognizable on earth. Yet interwoven throughout these 2 and a half centuries of brewing success is a legacy of benevolence that we ought to know and that is perhaps an antidote to one of the great crises of our age.

The values Arthur Guinness envisioned for his company were first honed in a life of devotion to God. He was an earthy but pious man who frequently thundered his views despite angry opposition. He was beloved throughout Ireland for his defense of Roman Catholic rights, for example, an astonishing stand for a Protestant in his day. He criticized the material excesses of the upper class and sat on the board of a hospital for the poor. He was also the founder of the first Sunday schools in Ireland. When he died in 1803, the Dublin Evening Post declared that Arthur Guinness's life was "useful and benevolent and virtuous." It was true.

Read the whole story here. It's quite inspiring

And a happy birthday to Guinness.


  1. Hmmm...Guinness.

    Winter--the season of Guinness--approaches.

  2. you only drink Guinness in the winter??

  3. Not exclusively, no, but I find the darker, "thicker" beers to be more enjoyable when it's colder. Guinness is not something I drink as a refresher on a hot summer day.


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