Arthur Guinness took his time in getting round to brewing stout, but when he did it, it was worth the wait. He took a business gamble when he decided to focus exclusively on brewing stout but his determination and conviction paid off. Next time you're enjoying a drop of Guinness raise your glass to the man himself.
When the Archbishop of Cashel drew up his will, he could not have imagined that one day his godson would use his legacy of 100 pounds to found one of the greatest brewing empires in the world. Arthur inherited the money at the age of 27 and honed his skills with a small brewery in Leixlip in Co. Kildare. Four years later he set off for the bright lights of Dublin...
The lease was originally at a rent of 45 pounds per annum (it's gone up a little since) and the deal included a copper, a kieve, a mill, two malt houses, stables for 12 horses and a loft for 200 tons of hay...Bargain!
By 1930, a total of 13,940 people (excluding wives, families or other dependents) relied on the brewery for their income. Or put another way, about one out of every 10 Dublin men looked to it for their livelihood either directly or indirectly.
That Arthur was a shrewd and canny entrepreneur has never been in question. Yet some might say signing a 9,000 year lease on a run down brewery was pushing his luck a bit.
Success did not come easily. Arthur fought every step of the way to build his empire, and above all to secure that most essential of natural resources, water. Arthur did not lack energy or self-belief so although that particular fight took him 12 years to win, win it he did. At the time Arthur set up in Dublin, there were 200 breweries in Ireland, and 10 just in St James's Street alone. And they were all there for one simple reason - access to a pure and guaranteed water supply. It's no surprise then that when the City Sheriff's team turned up one day in 1775 to cut off Arthur's supply, his usual reserve deserted him. He grabbed a pickaxe from one of the men and announced himself prepared to 'defend it by force of arms'. Less dramatically perhaps, it was force of law and perseverance that finally won the battle for Arthur.
Arthur founded a dynasty that controlled the Brewery for 227 years. He himself did his bit for posterity by fathering 21 children, although only 10 survived. His descendants showed themselves to be equally prolific, ensuring a steady supply of candidates for the top job, all of whom shared his philanthropy, energy and longevity.
Many a girl was counselled by her mother to find herself a Guinness man - and by that she didn't just mean a man who liked to drink it. Arthur and his successors set wages at 10-20% above the local average, guaranteed widow's pensions, gave paid holidays (unheard of, then), provided free medical care, homes, education and a host of other benefits, making a brewery worker quite a catch.The workers received free Guinness stout every day, and in the unlikely event that they didn't want to drink it, they could opt instead to receive an additional "beer allowance" in their pay packet. In other words, they were paid well to make a drink they were given to drink and also paid well not to drink the drink they'd already been well paid to make. Brilliant.