Guinness is a beer that inspires contemplation unlike any other. You watch in silent approval as the the beer settles in front of you, the darkness of the stout contrasting neatly with the frothy, foamy white head. The next time you find yourself waiting, consider the story behind every pint. Here are six things you may not have known about the Emerald Isle’s iconic pint.
Why Guinness is “Dark” Some Guinness lovers claim that the rich, dark beer gets it color from the ingredients being “burned” or roasted longer. Not true. The color comes from the type of grains and hops used to make the beer. It was first a favorite of the porters of London’s train stations, and that’s why is it called “porter” stout—the word “stout” meaning “strong or full bodied.” When Guinness started brewing porter stout in the late 1700’s, the brew soon became so popular that founder Arthur Guinness decided to stop brewing any other beer except his fine dark beer. Guinness would become one of the most iconic brands in history.
Guinness is Innovative Creativity reigned at Guinness for nearly all of its 250 years. Its founding lease, for example, was one of the most unusual in corporate history—it allowed Arthur Guinness to lease land in Dublin for a thousand years. Guinness used underground railways before these were widely known. Their first aid practices gave rise to the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Ireland—something like the Irish version of the Red Cross—and saved lives during the Irish wars of the early twentieth century. Guinness creativity led to the Guinness Book of World Records—a book first published to answer bar bets where pints of Guinness were consumed. And in the 1980’s, Guinness created the “widget,” a device that nitrogenates canned Guinness so it retains its creamy and smooth taste. The Guinness widget won the Queen’s Award for Technological achievement in 1991.
Guinness is Healthy Researchers from the University of Wisconsin told a meeting of the American Heart Association in 2003 that Guinness contained “antioxidant compounds” similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables. These compounds slow down the deposit of cholesterol on artery walls. Our friends in the United Kingdom already knew this. In England, post-operative patients used to be given Guinness because of its high iron content. Even pregnant women and nursing mothers were urged to refresh with a pint. Though Guinness and its parent company, Diageo, make no such claims today, the advertising slogan from the 1920’s—“Guinness is good for you!”—still seems to ring true.
Guinness Fought Poverty Arthur Guinness, the founder of the famous beer company, was influenced by the social vision of Methodist reformer John Wesley, who often said, “Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” Arthur built his company around these values. Guinness paid wages that were 20 percent higher than other brewers, founded charities for the poor, built housing to address the overcrowding in Dublin and established trust funds that care for the needy of Ireland to this day. The Guinness family was so committed to the poor that one heir, despite receiving five million British pounds as a wedding gift, moved his new bride into a Dublin slum just to draw national attention to the plight of the Irish poor.
Guinness was a Great Employer If you had worked for Guinness in 1928—and remember that this was just one year before the Great Depression—you would have had on-site medical/dental care and even massage therapy. There would have been gymnasiums, athletic leagues, reading rooms, and academic scholarships available to you. The company would have paid your full pension, helped with your funeral expenses, taught your wife how to cook or keep a healthy home, and would have paid for your gifted child’s educational expenses. Guinness would also have paid all expenses for your family to go to the country one day a year and escape the murky city air. And every day of your working life, you would have been entitled to two pints of the world best dark stout—free.
Guinness Supported the Troops You can hardly find a company that stood by its nation’s warriors like Guinness did. When World War I broke out, Guinness promised every one of its workers who went off to war that he would have his job back when he returned home. While the man was away fighting, Guinness paid his family half of the man’s usual salary. During World War II, Guinness promised every British soldier that he would have a bottle of the famous dark stout for Christmas Day. When the task proved overwhelming because too many Guinness workers were abroad for the factories to produce enough beer, retirees began to show up at the plant. Then, veterans began to show up to help produce beer for boys at war. Finally, other brewing companies sent workers to help Guinness brew the Christmas beer. It was one of the great moments of unity in Irish history.