The Origin of Guinness

A vintage Guinness Advertisement used in the 1950s – 1970s

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Food History Lovers!

To celebrate this amazingly booze sodden day, we’re going to be incredibly stereotypical and borderline offensive by looking at the origin of Guinness.

What if I were to tell you that someone wanted to make beer in order to improve the health of the unwashed masses? It’s okay if you’re laughing at this notion. In fact, I’ll even give you a moment.

Finished? Great.

As laughable as this idea is, it’s actually quite true. Furthermore, in the 18th Century, it made perfect sense. This was a time when no one understood micro-organisms or how disease is spread. People routinely drank from the same water in which they dumped their garbage and sewage. As a result people died, and this made nearly everyone avoid water entirely. Instead, they drank alcoholic beverages. And no, you should not take this as a sign to start polluting your own water in order to justify drinking alcohol for hydration.

Popular spirits such as gin were being consumed en masse. Because of the high alcohol content, this resulted in a significant rise is violence, poverty and crime. To help heal society, some turned to brewing beer. It was lower in alcohol, the process of brewing killed the germs that made the water dangerous, and it was nutritious. No, really. Furthermore, the art of beer making was respected and honoured, and those who did it were considered to be do-gooders. Monks brewed it, Christians brewed it and aspiring young entrepreneurs like Arthur Guinness brewed it.

At the age of 27, Arthur Guinness had achieve far more than I probably will in a lifetime. In 1752, his Godfather Arthur Price, the Archbishop of Cashel, bequeathed £100 to him in his will. In true entrepreneural  fashion, Guinness invested the money and in 1755 bought a brewery at Leixlip, just 17 km from Dublin. This venture into the world of brewing was clearly successful, because in 1759 Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on the St. James Gate Brewery for £45 per annum. Ten years later, Guinness first exported his ale to Great Britain.

Guinness’s sales soared from 350,000 barrels in 1868 to 779,000 barrels in 1876. In October 1886 Guinness became a public company, and was averaging sales of 1,138,000 barrels a year. This was despite the brewery’s refusal to either advertise or offer its beer at a discount. Even though Guinness owned no Public Houses, the company was valued at £6 million and shares were twenty times oversubscribed, with share prices rising to a 60% premium on the first day of trading.

The Guinness Brewery

Clearly, Guinness has remained successful today, but this isn’t all that the company has been know for over the years. Guinness has also been dedicated to being a company that has the interests of common people in mind. This is evident in Arthur Guinness’ reason for starting the company – to help improve health. This charitable ideal has lived on. Throughout the centuries, Guinness has continued to prove that they don’t just want to make a profit, they want to make a difference. They started by paying better wages than any other employer in Ireland. Then they decided they should provide an entire slate of services to improve the lives of their workers. With the passing of decades, they became one of the most generous, life-changing employers the world had ever seen.

Guinness also showed unparalleled upport for the war effort. During World War II, the company promised every British soldier a bottle of Guinness with his Christmas meal. However, there was a problem. Their manpower was depleted because so many of its workers were serving in the military. Despite this setback, they were determined to keep their promise. The brewery operated around the clock, but there simply weren’t enough employees. Clearly the generous spirit of the company had been passed on though, because retired workers showed up to volunteer their time. They were then followed by workers from competing breweries. By Christmas, every soldier had his pint.

Deeds like these are prominent throughout the history of the Guinness company, and are just as inspiring as some of the family members themselves. One heir received five million pounds for a wedding gift, but then moved with his new wife into a poor neighborhood to draw attention to the poverty in the land. We don’t hear about many other heirs doing this in the media.

Given the generous nature of the Guinness company, it is hardly surprising that its beer has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day. Sure, it’s Irish, so of course it’s going to be consumed in vast quantities on a day that celebrates Irish culture and heritage. However, I think that the symbol Guinness  offers is far more significant than that. Guinness is a beer that from its very conception was being brewed as a benefit for others. It’s a symbol struggle, national pride and overcoming adversity. As such, I urge you all to have a pint of Guinness today, not as an excuse to  get wasted whilst wearing green, but in honour Arthur, and all those who use the resources at their exposal in order to help others.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


The Delicious History Podcast Project

Greetings, Food History Lovers!

It was a year ago that I first started this blog. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’ve be fortunate enough to find that there are quite a few people out there who are interested in the tasty world of Food History. I now want to take the next step in sharing my food related historical tidbits with the world by creating a companion podcast to go with the website. I think it will be an fantastic way to build a larger following, as well as prove how fun and delicious history can be. Who doesn’t love a little food and humour with their education

Now here’s the tricky part. Thanks to a recent redundancy, I need your help you make this dream a reality. Podcasts need equipment, software, media hosting, artwork, and music – all of which need to be paid for. Because I can’t rely on the kindness of retailers to simply give me the resources I need, I’m hoping that some of my beloved readers can help me to get Delicious History onto the internet airwaves.The best part about pledging to the Delicious History Podcast Project is that every donation entitles you to a reward. That’s right, if we hit our target you not only get Delicious History in your earbuds, you also get a BONUS PRIZE. What’s not to love?

So if you love food, history or my good self, please help get Delicious History into an iTunes store near you! If you also wouldn’t mind reblogging or sharing the project with your friends and other fellow history lovers, I’d be eternally grateful.Simply follow the link below for more info or to make a pledge -Delicious History Podcast Project
Thank you in advance for supporting Delicious History and for making this first year in the blogosphere truly amazing.

Tealicious History: Earl Grey

I’ve always considered myself to be a tea drinker. With an incredibly British grandmother and a relatively British mother, I don’t think I ever had a choice in the matter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good coffee, but I see it as something that lights up the nerve endings in my brain in the morning. It enables me to face the day in something other than an incoherent zombie-like state. But tea? To me it is the ultimate comfort drink. It’s an old friend that warms the body and soul and always cures what ails you.

A Shit Day at Work? Tea
Head Cold? Lemon and Honey Tea
Heartbreak? Tea
Upset Stomach? Ginger Tea
Natural Disaster? Tea
Apocalypse? Tea…with a shot of rum.

I once read a story about a woman who was shot in the head in her home. Miraculously, she was hit at such an angle that she was able to make herself a cup of tea whilst waiting for the police. I was always horrified by this prospect.  Not due to the brutality of the crime, but because I knew that this is exactly what the women of my family would do, including me.

Tea fixes everything.

I adore Earl Grey in particular. Nothing makes me happier than writing my blog whilst sipping on that wonderfully scented brew. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of trying it, Earl Grey is an intoxicating blend of black tea infused with the oil of bergamot, an Italian orange. It gives it a lovely zesty aroma and taste that I find enchanting.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my correct opinion. I have heard my beloved Earl Grey described as tasting like dirty dish water mixed with detergent by the boyfriend some. Well to him those people I quite intelligently retort – Your face tastes like dirty dish water mixed with detergent. Yeah, take that.

The actual Earl Grey. He, unlike the tea, doesn’t look particularly appetising

So, who was Earl Grey and why on earth did he have a tea named after him? True to form, there are conflicting historical tales.

Charles Grey was the 2nd Earl of Grey and British Prime Minister between 1930 and 1834. He is still renowned for being one of the primary architects of the 1832 Reform Act. This act introduced a wide range of beneficial changes to the electoral systems in England and Wales.

The Grey family state that the tea was specially blended by a Chinese Mandarin for the Earl. Legend has it that it was made with bergamot oil to compliment the water on the Earl’s estate, which is said to have had a hint of lime to it.

Some believe that in 1803 one of the Earl’s men saved the aforementioned Mandarin’s son from drowning. He then showed his appreciation by presenting the Earl with the tea as a gift. However, bergamot oil wasn’t present in China at the time, and nor was the Earl. A far more likely story is that the Earl was presented with the tea by an envoy upon returning from a routine trip to China.

The belief in this origin story is universal, unless of you ask Twinings. Their website claims that they themselves developed it and named it after the Earl. Conveniently enough there is no explanation as to why. Every historian knows that it’s those who hold power that decide what version of history will be considered as truth, and this is no different, albeit on quite a small scale.

The tea rose in popularity due to Lady Grey, as she often used it to entertain guests in London. Others wished to purchase the tea and this is where Twinings most definitely became involved. They began mass producing the tea on a large scale and it quickly became a household name. Unfortunately for the Greys, they didn’t have the forethought to register the trademark. Subsequently, neither they nor their ancestors received any royalties from the sales of Earl or Lady Grey tea.

Because I’m sure you don’t know what tea looks like

For those who haven’t heard of Lady Grey, it was developed by Twinings and named after Lady Elizabeth Grey. It is far more delicate and fragrant than her husband’s counterpart. In addition to the bergamot oil, it contains both lemon and orange peel. I find it to have quite a flowery aroma and a very sweet taste.

Earl Grey has remained popular throughout the years and is used quite often in cooking and baking. I’ve personally tried Earl Grey flavoured macaroons and chocolate and they were both delicious.

I’d like to thank the lovely Katie for requesting this topic. As a result, I have decided to not only write about other teas, but to start an entire series on High Tea. I’ll most likely roll this out in September so it will coincide with  one of Habitat for Humanity’s annual events – High Tea for Habitat. It’s a fantastic and delicious way to raise money for a great cause. I urge you all to get a group together and participate. More info can be found at http://www.habitat.org.au/hightea.

Please leave a comment if you have a favourite tea that you would like me to explore the origins of. I absolutely love taking requests. Yes mum, I will definitely write about Russian Caravan for you.

Have a lovely weekend!

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to hear it in your earbuds? If so, I humbly ask you to take the time to donate $1 to the Delicious History Podcast Project.Only $500 is needed make this dream a reality, and all donations over $10 receive a reward!