Thursday, March 26, 2009

The 250 year history of Guinness is as good as a pint of the dark brew itself.

The ostrich, travellers recall,
enjoys his Guinness, glass and all.
How sad the Guinness takes so long
to get where it makes him strong!
Guinness Ad- 1952

I'm not a big drinker. I can easily say the only two types of alcohol I like to drink is beer and whiskey. With beers I prefer lagers or ales. Something with a more malty and of hops flavor. More in line with your brown ales, porters and stouts. With Guinness being at the top of my favorites. As for Whiskey well what can I say, I good Irish whiskey will do me fine.

Now I don't if this is because of the Irish in me or that I just happen to have excellent taste. If I was to really think about it I would have to say it's a little of both.

It is with being a lover of Guinness That I read Bill Yenne's Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint.

It was 250 years ago this year that Author Guinness on December 31 1759 with a £100 down(was willed to him by the Archbishop Price) and for £45 a year signed the lease for the site of a unused brewery. But what really stands out about this lease is not the £100 down or the £45 a year lease. It was the fact the terms of the lease was for an amazing nine thousand years. Yes that rights, nine thousands years. Now if that isn't forward thinking I don't know what is.

Beginning with Author Guinness, Yenne takes us through 7 generations of the Guinness family(Sir Author Francis Benjamin Guinness was the last family member to have leadership in the family business, 1937-1992) to present day.

We learn how the business survived competition, economic hard times, legal battles(in 1775 a Dublin Corporation committee & sheriff are sent to cut off and fill in the channel from which the Brewery draws its water. Arthur Guinness is forced to brandish a pick axe to protect his supply. The dispute is finally settled in 1784 when water rights are granted for 8,975 years), wars and an ever changing world.

For a business to survive, especially 250 years, it must be adaptable to the changing economics(local and global) and politics(again local and global) and technology of brewing, storage and transportation. And Guinness did adapt to become one of the world's largest brewers.

That is what makes this story so fascinating. This isn't just a story of a beer(of course saying Guinness is just a beer is like saying that Shakespeare was just another writer) and it's brewery. It is a story of one man's dream to craft a beer that in time has become a tradition among it's consumers. For Author Guinness was a craftsman and a consummate business man. He knew it wasn't enough to love brewing beer but that you had to promote and most importantly believe in the product that you were making. And it is this legacy that has been passed down through generations of the Guinness's and beyond that even today it's brewers feel.

As the story unfolds we learn how each generation of Guinness's has added to that legacy of the beer and company through technology, promoting and expanding brewery's through out the world. And through it all never compromising on quality and the care of it's employees.

It is believed that 4 million pints of Guinness are poured every day. For connoisseurs of beer there is no finer crafted beer than Guinness(for some it is the only beer they will drink). Everything from the pouring(there is something magical about watching the head rise as it's being poured and again maybe it's the Irish in me) of to how one drinks it's a something that is savored from beginning to end.

And after reading this book I have appreciate it flavor even more knowing the craftsmanship that goes into each keg, bottle or can. Between the first and last page Yenne has given us not only the history of a business but the history of the men and woman who through love and determination carried that business through the past 250 years and hopefully for another 250 years.

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