St. Paddy’s Day is synonymous with the color green… and a belch-worthy, riotous excess of beer. Let’s celebrate the holiday by looking at legendary Irish beer maker Arthur Guinness.
Saint Patrick’s Day, like all holidays born in antiquity, has evolved. What began in Ireland as a day to honor the island nation’s patron saint has, over the centuries, transformed into an internationally celebrated day of verdant clothing, raucous parades, and booze-fueled revelry.
For those celebrating the holiday every March 17th, there’s no shortage of delicious and intoxicating Irish libations to be found—Jameson’s whiskey, Smithwick’s ale, and more—but one drink, smooth and creamy and nearly black, towers above the rest and flows from bottles and taps in a seemingly endless stream. That drink is Guinness, a porter style of beer (now referred to as a stout) created by Sir Arthur Guinness in 1759 and a national symbol of Ireland. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day this year, here are seven fascinating facts about the man behind the beloved black beer.
1. Beer in His Blood
Arthur Guinness was born into a family of brewers. His father Richard was the personal brewer for a protestant archbishop, and, as Arthur grew up, Richard educated the boy in the craft. As a young man, Arthur learned of the temperamental nature of yeast, of barley’s roasting times and temperatures, and of the need for imported hops, a crucial element of beer not native to Ireland. By his late 20s, Arthur was ready to make a name for himself.
Arthur Guinness (Photo: User Morrison1917 on en.wikipedia (mechanical reproduction of 2D image) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
7. An Enduring Legacy
It’s likely that Sir Arthur Guinness had no idea how he would change the world. Not only did he produce a beer that would become so popular that, in the US, a pint is enjoyed every seven seconds, but during his life he held convictions on the improvement of working class conditions that would survive long after his death in 1803. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Guinness board members provided employee benefits—health insurance, subsidized meals, pensions, higher wages, and more—that were unparalleled in Ireland at the time.
So, this Saint Patrick’s Day, raise a pint of Guinness in honor of the life and legacy of its mastermind.