A black combination of water, hops, yeast and roasted barley could hardly be said to contain the soul of a nation.
But for the many lovers of Guinness, it’s a close-run thing.
Guinness, the legendary black stout of Ireland celebrated by poet, poor man, ad man and drunk, has reached the age of 250.
In Ireland and internationally, this was to be celebrated by a toast to its founder, Arthur Guinness, yesterday at one minute to 6pm.
When Guinness celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1959, advertisements still proclaimed the legend “Guinness is good for you.”
Although this slogan has been dropped along with the equally pithy “Guinness for Strength,” Guinness can still to run a slick promotional campaign.
Arthur’s Day, as the company has dubbed yesterday’s events, will be celebrated in Lagos, New York and Kuala Lumpur as well as Dublin, with gigs planned for St James’ Brewery, the home of Guinness in Dublin and music venues throughout the city.
Publicans and their customers around the country will also be joining in the celebrations by raising a Guinness to Arthur and the musical events will be broadcast live into pubs.
Ireland’s post office, An Post, has also printed a stamp to commemorate Arthur’s achievements, as it did in 1959.
What Arthur Guinness would have made of all this, is anybody’s guess, but there’s no doubt he shared the marketing acumen for which the brand is renowned.
He had the foresight to promote the health-giving properties of ale and porter at a time when the temperance movement in Ireland was targeting spirits.
In December 1759, he signed a lease on the St James’ Gate Brewery for 9,000 years and ever since Dublin has been synonymous with the drink.
By 1833 St James’ Gate Brewery had become the largest brewery in Ireland and by 1886, Guinness had become the largest brewery in the world, with an annual production of 1.2 million barrels.
It was then that the dream job at the Guinness company emerged — that of overseas traveler.
These were international quality controllers, who traveled abroad to ensure that the Guinness sold outside of Ireland was of the same high quality as that found at home.
Of course, it never was. According to Guinness myth, the black brew doesn’t travel well and will always taste best in Dublin.
Guinness is now owned by multinational drinks company Diageo, with annual revenues of more than 10 billion euros (US$14.7 billion).
No member of the Guinness family sits on the Diageo board and their share ownership has shrunk to 1 percent (worth 200 million euros), according to Irish Times reports.
Visitors are no longer shepherded around the brewery where they were given a free glass of Guinness. Instead, they are directed to the Guinness Storehouse, where they can watch a video and buy merchandise.
Despite all these changes, the special relationship between Ireland and Guinness is still in place and Dublin, in particular, remains famous for its writers and its Guinness.
There could be said to be a symbiotic relationship between these two as Irish literature is soaked in Guinness.
Flann O’Brien’s tribute, The Workman’s Friend, from his comic novel At Swim Two Birds has rarely been surpassed in its expression of the role Guinness has played in the lives of the Irish:
“When things go wrong and will not come right, Though you do the best you can, When life looks black as the hour of night, A pint of plain is your only man.
“When money’s tight and hard to get, And your horse has also ran, When all you have is a heap of debt, A pint of plain is your only man.”
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