The subtitle claims that it is “a biography of the beer that changed the world.”  I love combining unusual things like biographies and beer, but what got me even more were the two elements combined in the title. God and Guinness.  In the circles I grew up in, alcohol wasn’t taboo (after all Jesus made wine and my parents drank socially), but it was viewed as something not really discussed because the subject could be divisive.

The full title is The Search for God and Guinness: a biography of the beer that changed the world by Stephen Mansfield. Though I’d heard of Guinness, I had the typical American ignorance of the Irish company.

Sitting outside the Guinness archives, a pair of teens asked Mansfield why Guinness is so famous.

I launched into a brief, informal survey of Arthur Guinness, his descendants, and the amazing thing that Guinness had become. But I kept the focus on the bear, and this, I quickly realized, was a mistake. I knew I had not captured them… I told them how the Guinnesses were people of faith and how this faith moved them to do good in society. I recounted the deeds of Arthur Guinness –the righteous use of wealth and the Sunday schools and the anitdueling association and his stand against extravagant living. I spoke also of the later generations and the high wages they paid their workers and the restoration of Ireland’s historic landmarks and the huge gifts to build housing for the poor… And I told them how nothing they have read about Microsoft or Google compares with the way an Irish beer company cared for people when their grandparents were still young.

The longevity of the benevolence impressed me. It wasn’t merely one Guinness that used his or her power and influence for good, but generation after generation starting in 1759. How many companies can say that?! You’ll have to read the book for the specifics, but I believe you will be impressed.

In the final chapter Mansfield asked What might we learn from the Guinness tale that we can emulate?

  1. Discern the ways of God for life and business
  2. Think in terms of generations yet to come
  3. Whatever else you do, do at least one thing very well
  4. Master the facts before you act
  5. Invest in those you would have invest in you

That’s a list anyone can print out and review occasionally, isn’t it? I’ll also throw in two interesting tales. When Samoset first approached the Pilgrims in March of 1621 and greeted them, I don’t know which they found most surprising, that he was (in their words) stark naked with only a loin cloth, greeted them in perfect English, or that his very first question was if they had some beer. Next Thanksgiving, any American out there, choose two of the three to celebrate the day, I’ll let you pick!

Second, The Guinness Book of World Records comes from these Guinnesses! What started out as a “pub-game book” turned into something much bigger.

The night I finished the book I ordered half a pint at dinner and lifted my glass to the positive influence a company can have. I didn’t really like the taste, but if Jesus wants to greet me with half a pint instead of a Thai iced tea or Diet Coke, I will gladly accept it.

What companies do you like because of their positive contributions?