The History of Guinness, the Quintessential Irish Brew – By Michael Lozina

16 March 2021 / by Michael Lozina in Entertainment
The History of Guinness, the Quintessential Irish Brew – By Michael Lozina

The black stuff, Irish champagne, a pint of plain. Guinness. One of the world’s most recognised brands and brewersof the some of the absolute finest beer money can buy. Since 1759, Guinness has brought the finest quality brew possible to beer lovers around the world and what better time to celebrate the Irish brew than Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a drink entwined with Irish culture and Guinness has a rich history reflecting that beginning with one man by the name of Arthur…

Arthur Guinness, the founder of Guinness,had discovered one morning that a loved one had died. The year was 1752, and Guinness’ godfather, Arthur Price, Archbishop of Cashel, had died and left Arthur£100in his will. Thatdoesn’t sound like a lot, but if you adjust for inflation that £100 was worth roughly £21,889.30 today. Price hadn’t given Guinness the loose change he found on his dresser. Guinness was an entrepreneur; he wasn’t going to let this opportunity go to waste.By investingthe inheritance, he had made enough money by1755 to establish a brewery in Leixlip, just south of Dublin. In Leixlip he brewed ale but after five years he had made enough money for something bigger. So, he left the business to his younger brother, Richard, and decided he would head to the big city.

i. Arthur Guinness (1725-1803)

By 1759, in St James’ Gate, Dublin,Arthur Guinness found a 4-acre brewery that wasn’t being used and had very little actual brewing equipment inside. Seeing an opportunity, he signed a 9,000 year lease – yes, 9,000 years –for an annual rent of £45. This ridiculous lease is still on display at the St. James’ Gate brewery today.

Arthur continued brewing ale at St. James’ Gate and by 1767, he was elected Master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers. By 1769, he was exporting his beer to England. But how could he diversify? What was the next new thing? Arthur had heard of a new English beer called ‘porter’ (what is now known as stout). Porter was invented in London in 1722 by Ralph Harwood. It was very different from ale. For one it was dark, almost black, and was brewed using roasted barley. Arthur thought he might have a crack at it himself.

ii. St. James’ Gate Brewery

In 1778, the Guinness brewery started selling their own porter. The beer was so successful that by 1799, the Guinness brewery stopped selling ale completely and focused all their attention on porters. They divided their porters into three categories – single stout, double, and foreign stout for export. Arthur Guinness had done it. By the time of his death in 1803, he had one of the most successful breweries in Ireland and a very promising export trade.

Arthur’s son, also named Arthur, took over the business after his death and decided to continue his father’s legacy. Arthur II wouldn’t just continue his father’s legacy, he improved upon it.Hecapitalised on the burgeoning export trade his father had started by greatly expanding sales to Great Britain. During the 1820s, the business saw massive expansions into Lisbon, South Carolina, New York, Barbados, and Sierra Leone.By 1833 Guinness was the largest brewery in Ireland. Arthur II had also managed to create another recipe for porter. This recipe became ‘Extra Superior Porter’ and was designed specifically with the British market in mind. This beer is still brewed today as Guinness Extra Stout, or Guinness Original.

iii. Arthur Guinness II (1768 – 1855)

In 1855, Benjamin Lee Guinness, took over the business after Arthur II’s death.Benjamin was already working with his father during his teens and knewhe had two pairs of big shoes to fill. But he didn’t let that daunt him. Benjamin was already the Lord Mayor of Dublin after all.

iv. Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798 – 1868)

In 1755, sales of the single and double stouts were 78,000 hogsheads (casks). Ten years later, Benjamin had tripled it to 206,000 hogsheads.About 112,000 of these were sold in Ireland and some 94,000 were exported to Great Britain.In order to achieve these results and increase expansion, Benjamin had invested in the then new Irish railway companies since the 1840s. by 1867, the company owned £86,000 (worth roughly £135 million in 2013) worth of Irish railway stock. On top of good sales,Benjamin created the first trademark label for Guinness in 1862 which include many of the common features we see today. You can thank ol’ Benjamin for the harp logo.

By the time Benjamin’s sons, Edward Cecil Guinness and Arthur Edward Guinness, took over the business in 1868, the Guinness’ were extraordinarily wealthy.Edward was an ambitious young man though. Originally, he had inherited the business as part of a partnership with his elder brother, Lord Ardilaun, but in 1876, at the age of 29, he bought out his brother for £600,000.Guinness under Edward’s leadership became the largest brewery in the world expanding over 64 acres.

v. Edward Cecil Guinness (1847 – 1927)

Edward brought unprecedented success to St James’ Gate and by 1879 was brewing 565,000 hogsheads. In seven years, it was 635,000 hogsheads in Ireland alone, with an additional 212,000 in Britain, and 60,000 elsewhere. In total, St James’s Gate was brewing 907,000 hogsheads of stout.

1886 saw Edward become the richest man in Ireland after floating two-thirds of the company on the London Stock Exchange for £6 million. He retired a multi-millionaire at the age of 40. He still remained the chairman of the company and was still the largest shareholder. He didn’tjust hoard his cash either.

Roughly £1 million was contributed to slum clearance and housing projects, establishing the Guinness Trust in 1890 that still manages over 66,000 homes as of 2020. The Iveagh Trust in Dublin funded the largest area of urban renewal in Dublin and today still provide 10% of public housing in central Dublin. The brewery employees were also amongst the highest paid workers in Dublin and received pensions and medical healthcare that wasn’t provided by the state at that time. These welfare schemes cost the brewery around £40,000 a year. A fifth of the total wages bill. But the business was continuing to grow as 1914 saw Guinness brewing 2.652 million barrels of beer a year.

By the 20th century, Guinness was an international brand, and they wanted the quality of the beer to reflect that status. In 1901, the company established a lab to enhance the brewing craft for generations to come.

Edward died in 1927 and the chairman position was passed to his son, Rupert Guinness.Rupert had learnt a thing or two from his father about branding and in 1929 launched the first official Guinness advertising campaign. Before this, Guinness was relying solely on the quality and good name of the brewery to get from the brewery into the glasses of punters.

These advertisements were incredibly successful and became some of the most iconic advertisements in advertising history. These included“Lovely day for a Guinness” and “My Goodness, My Guinness!”.

vi. Credit: The British Metal Signs Company

Rupert saw the marketing potential and decided to create another company, Guinness Exports Limited, to properly bottle, market, and distribute Guinness overseas. This allowed for more direct control over quality and marketing for regions outside of Ireland and the UK.

vii. Rupert Guinness (1874 – 1967)

Further modernisation occurred as stainless steel and aluminium vessels replaced the wooden and iron vessels used previously in order to have greater control over the quality of the beer. Another first implemented by Rupert was the building of a Guinness brewery outside of Ireland in 1936 at Park Royal in London.

1962 saw the death of Rupert and the installation of his son, Benjamin Guinness, as chairman. Benjamin was the last family member to hold onto this position. Benjamin oversaw further breweries opening overseas in Nigeria (1962), Malaysia (1965), Cameroun (1970), and Ghana (1971). By the end of the 20th century expansion settled with breweries in 49 countries and was being sold in 150 countries.

viii. Benjamin Guinness (1937 – 1992)

Sales began declining for the first time during the 1970s. It got so bad that the company believed that they might have made their last porter in 1973. In order to combat this, the company attempted to make Guinness more ‘drinkable.’ A brand relaunch commenced in 1981 and Guinness’ sales have remained stable since. All was not well though.

Benjamin’s career was described by The Independent as ‘at best undistinguished and at times positively disastrous.’ He hardly was able to run the business effectively as chairman and left most of the duties to Ernest Saunders. Saunders had acquired the Distillers Company in 1986 and criminal trial ensued over the artificial inflation of Guinness stock prices during the takeover bid. When Benjamin gave evidence on the stand it was clear that Benjamin was a fallen idol. He was described as a rambling, confused and befuddled alcoholic. It was clear that he had failed his role as chairman. He stepped down as chairman that same year and the position has since been available to people outside of the Guinness family. It is an unfortunate end to the Guinness dynasty but not an uncommon one. But this was not the end for Guinness.

1997 saw Guinness merge with another company, Grand Metropolitan, for £24 billion to form Diageo. The merger allowed the company to continue operations and has been considered a success. Guinnesstoday is still sold in over 150 countries with roughly 10 million glasses enjoyed daily all around the world. Not bad at all. Continued entrepreneurial vigour kept Guinness going for over 250 years! The focus on quality and customer satisfaction has paid its dividends as Guinness customers are die-hard fans. On Saint Patrick’s Day, head down to your favourite pub, pour yourself a glass of the ‘black stuff’ and enjoy a drink that you can be sure is made with quality and care in mind.

1 Comment

  • Baba ljunica / 17 March 2021

    Congratulations zlato moje

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