Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31st, 1759: Guinness Inceptum

Randall Stephens

On December 31st, 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. (Since then Guinness has been a staple of new years merry makers.) The lease has survived and is held in a vault at the Guinness HQ. The four-acre site had a brewhouse, a dozen horses, a stable, and a grist mill.

Much changed in years to come. The Handbook to the City of Dublin (1908) described some of the brewery's history up to about 1900:

The brewery, which is now that of Arthur Guinness, Son, & Co., Ltd., was probably founded early in the eighteenth century, and belonged to a certain Mr. Rainsford. From him it was purchased by Mr. Arthur Guinness in 1759. Up to the year 1825 the trade was almost entirely local. From 1825, however, the trade commenced to increase in Ireland and England, and about the year 1860 commenced the foreign trade, which has gradually spread to all quarters of the world.

The stout manufactured consists of four kinds, viz.: porter, which is chiefly used in Ireland for draught; extra stout, which is the article best known to the English public, but which is also largely used in Ireland; export stout, generally exported in wood; and foreign stout, which is specially brewed and stored for the requirements of the bottlers, chiefly in Dublin, Liverpool, and London, by whom it is exported.

The amount brewed is equivalent to 101,132,001 standard gallons a year, or 2 gallons per head of population in the United Kingdom; and the supply of raw materials requires the produce of 130,900 acres of barley and 1,000 acres of hops. . . .

As regards the materials—consisting solely of malt, hops, and water—the firm use Irish barley as far as possible, but a sufficient supply of Irish barley cannot be obtained, and, consequently, a considerable quantity has to be bought in Great Britain, and a small amount is imported from foreign countries. Like most brewers, the company make a large part of the malt they use, and the remainder required is made by various firms throughout the country, on commission, or is bought in the Irish, Scotch, and English markets. The hops are obtained from Kent and America. . . .

There are three different levels in the Brewery premises, all connected by a narrow-gauge railway. . . .

The number of new casks capable of being turned out is as many as 1,500 a week, and the life of each cask about ten years. Unlike other breweries, Messrs. Guinness have not adopted cask-making machinery, except for the purpose of sawing timber. The casks are practically entirely made by hand.

The firm owns 210 drays and floats, 171 horses, and 10 steamers, all in full use; and the principal railways in Ireland have connecting lines to the brewery. The steambarges take casks from the quay which extends along the Liffey, and bring them down to the Channel steamers anchored at the North Wall, as well as to numerous vessels waiting at the mouth of the Liffey.

For more on drink, new year's revelries, frolics, merriment, teetotalism, temperance, prohibition, and more, see:

Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (Harvest Books, 2007)

John Kobler, Ardent Spirits: The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition (De Capo, 1993).

Michael A. Lerner, Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City (Harvard University Press, 2008)

Norman H. Clark, Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition (W. W. Norton & Company, 1976)

Iain Gately, Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol (Gotham, 2009)

Richard W. Unger, Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)

Judith M. Bennett, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 (Oxford University Press, 1999)

W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1981)

Thomas R. Pegram, Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933 (Ivan R. Dee, 1999)


hcr said...

OK, I'll ask a question that's always bothered me:

Is it really possible to float a quarter on the head of a Guinness Stout?

Unknown said...

Not for very long. Lest you swallow it accidentally.

hcr said...

I know two people who have done this! (Neither drinking Guinness, though.)

And once had a student who swallowed a Miller bottle cap playing quarters. He went through the rest of his college career as "The Miller High Life Man," as I recall.

zacklsmith13@gmail said...

dose anyone know anything about this poster St.James shown with the article? I have an original poster just like this and would love to know its value and history