At 250 Guinness seems like an old friend

September 23, 2009

Melissa Cole- Melissa Cole is a leading beer writer, blogger and international beer judge in the UK; she also co-owns lovebeer@borough, a beer-tasting business in London’s Borough Market. The opinions expressed are her own. -

It takes a far-sighted man to sign a 9,000 year lease on a ramshackle brewery, but this week fans of the black stuff will be celebrating Arthur Guinness’s decision to do just that 250 years ago.

Drinkers all over the world will be raising a glass to Arthur and his decision to take a recipe for the London beer style porter, increase its strength and call it stout porter – which has latterly been shortened to stout.

There’s just something about the Guinness brand that has an enduring appeal to people – in my opinion it is by no means the finest-tasting stout in the world and, personally, I much prefer the original bottled version to the nitrogenated draught, but I find myself returning to it every so often, mostly at sporting events, and welcoming it like an old friend.

This is partly because I have great memories so intrinsically linked with the brand, whether it was playing drinking games with the hockey teams in an O’Neill’s pub every Wednesday at university, starting out with a quiet pint of the black stuff watching the football on a Sunday with my other half that descended into an inpromptu all-day session with friends or being in a hotel on business and having Guinness as a saviour option when all I’m confronted with is bland commodity lager, it’s been part of my life for a good 15 years.

And it’s also that it’s just so damn stylish! Guinness’s advertising has been some of the most iconic in the world; the phrases My Goodness My Guinness and, most notably, Guinness is Good For You (interestingly this was probably penned by Dorothy L Sayers), and latterly the fabulous surfer and evolution of man ads are as much part of the brand as the two-stage pour.

And it makes me smile every time someone repeats to me the urban myth that Guinness has iron in it and that pregnant women should drink some daily still persists – it doesn’t by the way, but you still hear of doctors prescribing it!

It’s truly amazing that, as a symbol, Guinness has almost transcended the product itself it has become a touchstone linking you to the Emerald Isle and all that makes it great – and great fun.

When you think of Guinness you immediately make a mental link to the likes of Yeats, Peter O’Toole and Colin Farrell – imagining that if you had ever bumped into them in a pub and were holding a pint of Guinness in your hand you would be instantly forgiven and invited to embark on an evening of twinkly-eyed bad-boy behaviour and creative carousing of the highest order.

So, even though I’m at the Great American Beer Festival this week and surrounded by some of the finest beers known to man, I will be seeking out a pint of the black stuff and will silently raise a toast to Arthur Guinness to thank him for creating such a magnificent social lubricant, and I hope you get the chance to do the same.

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