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Amazing story of Guinness success.

Byline: By Alastair Gilmour

A week of coincidences began with a pub conversation concerning Dylan Thomas and a legendary 48-hour Guinness binge.

It had actually began at the beginning with "sloeback, slow, black, crowblack" Guinness poured with a shamrock flourish, followed by a chat with marketing guru Francis Eames, who worked on the Guinness brand for a decade; a bedtime reading of Guinness Is Guinness, The Colourful Story Of A Black And White Brand; and the chance finding of a 1948 Guinness handbook.

The surly barman was adept at etching his artistic efforts on the pint's creamy head (but not so skilled at asking if we wanted "ordinary" or "extra cold". Like it or lump it, he served the gum-numbing version).

Then some detective work took over when Francis Eames revealed that Draught Guinness as a brand had been invented only in 1960 when the stout had started to lose ground to carbon dioxide-charged keg beers and mega-budget lagers.

The Colourful Story... and the official, but dated, history begged to be consulted, along with a biography of the Welsh poet by his wife, Caitlin.

In 1946, Dylan Thomas and his great pal Bill McAlpine had gone to Puck Fair in Kerry, Ireland, with their wives.

Caitlin writes: "They made a vow that they would spend the entire holiday standing at the bar, day and night, drinking until it was all over... they planted themselves by the bar and started on the Guinness, draught Guinness.

"To begin with they were chatting to each other as they drank, but by the end they were practically speechless, and yet they still kept on drinking until they were literally propped against the bar and still pouring the stuff down their throats.

"They lasted two days and two nights and by the end they couldn't speak at all and just collapsed.

"They were thrown into the back of a lorry with their bicycles chucked on top of them and driven back to our lodgings."

So, if Draught Guinness didn't see the light of day until 14 years later, was Caitlin mistaken about the drinking cycle? Guinness pioneered mixed-gas dispense ( carbon dioxide and nitrogen ( in the early 1960s and, as such, was the original "smoothflow". Guinness' success originally had come from sales in Dublin and the surrounding areas. Stronger "stout porter" ( also known as double stout ( was reserved for the export market to Britain, though ordinary porter ( "plain" ( was supplied to the Irish community in Liverpool.

The older system of serving draught stout which Caitlin Thomas had witnessed involved two barrels behind the bar.

Each glass was first filled to about two-thirds with old, relatively flat beer from the lower cask ("low stout"), then topped up with lively, young beer from a smaller cask on a high shelf ("high stout").

"Before 1960, Guinness was all carbonated bottles," says Francis Eames. "If you were to talk to people in this country or in Ireland, the impression is that it has been around in draught form since 1759 when Arthur Guinness first developed the recipe.

"I think it was a happy accident.

"The beer business was going very rapidly towards pressurised kegs and Guinness was forced to compete, but because of the beer's characteristics, simply pressurising it with carbon dioxide didn't work; the head exploded in size.

"They had to create this combination of carbon dioxide and nitrogen which created the surge, the tight head and smoothness of taste. Draught Guinness is quite a young product really, yet it has a heritage that goes back to 1759 and that great Arthur Guinness signature."

The Guinness story is fascinating from day one.

Richard Guinness, who was born in the 1690s, was land agent to Dr Arthur Price, Archbishop of Cashel in County Kildare. It is said he also brewed ale for the household.

The archbishop left pounds 100 in his will to Richard's son, Arthur, who bought a small brewery in a neighbouring village in 1756. He quickly moved onwards and upwards and three years later emerged in Dublin where he took a 9,000-year lease on a disused brewery at St James' Gate ( the ancient entrance to the outer city from the suburbs ( at an annual rent of pounds 45.

A whole industry was born and now Guinness is sold in 150 countries, brewed in 49 of them, and sells 10 million glasses of the black and white beauty a day.

The archbishop's generosity obviously had an effect on the young entrepreneur, as the company handbook of 200 years later discloses. Guinness employees and their families benefited from three on-site doctors, two dental surgeons, two qualified pharmaceutical chemists, two nurses, a welfare superintendent, a masseuse, plus "the Company maintains eight beds in sanatoria in the country for patients suffering from tuberculosis".

Messenger boys and boy labourers were supplied with a substantial meat meal in the middle of the day; the pension scheme, "granted at the pleasure of the Board" was non-contributory; the Guinness Permanent Building Society paid interest at the rate of 5% per annum; fees were paid for company scholars at City of Dublin Technical Schools; interest-free loans were available "to assist employees in overcoming domestic difficulties"; the Athletic Union had its own sports ground and a Fanciers' & Industrial Association encouraged the breeding of dogs, poultry, pigeons and cage birds.

In the wider world, all Irish railways connected to the brewery and a fleet of barges conveyed the stout down the Liffey to three cross-channel steamers owned by the company.

Mark Griffiths writes in Guinness Is Guinness: "It can't help being different. It knows that, even though you haven't tried it, you think you know all there is to know about it. Guinness just is."

Then there are its supposed aphrodisiac qualities ("a baby in every bottle"), and letters from doctors prescribing two bottles a day "to patients suffering from various maladies and disabling conditions".

Extra cold had yet to be invented in Dylan Thomas' day. Being practically speechless has been appropriated by surly barmen.

* Guinness Is Guinness by Mark Griffiths (Cyan Books, pounds 7.99).
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2005
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