Yep, it’s a big day down the pub today – we celebrate the birthday of Irishman Arthur Guinness, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and most importantly, founder of the Guinness brewery.
Arthur Guinness’ exact date and place of birth is not known, with some indications being that he was born in late 1724 or early 1725, while others point to a date later in 1725. In the early 1990’s the Guinness company decided to put an end to the speculations, and proclaimed its founder’s ‘official’ date of birth to be 28 September 1725. This date, affectionately known as ‘Arthur’s Day’, has been enthusiastically celebrated by fans of his dark brew ever since.
Arthur Guinness’ legacy lives on in Guinness, one of the world’s most successful and well known beer brands, brewed in almost 60 countries and available in more than 100. Guinness and Co merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997, and has since become part of the multinational alcohol conglomerate Diageo.
Guinness’ marketing has always been one of its strong suits, and this is a significant contributing factor to the continued popularity of the brand. The classic Guinness advertising series was created in the 1930s and 1940s, mostly illustrated by the artist John Gilroy. The advertising posters included classic phrases still seen in Irish pubs all over the world, such as “My Goodness, my Guinness”, “Lovely Day for a Guinness”, and most famously “Guinness is Good for You”.
The “Guinness is Good for You” slogan actually dates back to the 1920s, and stemmed from a market research campaign where people told the company that they felt good after a pint of Guinness. Beyond the feel-good factor, the stout was also considered to have some medicinal benefits – it was given to post-operative patients and blood donors, based on the belief that it was high in iron. It was also popular with pregnant women and nursing mothers.
What’s interesting is that research more than half a decade later indicates that perhaps the ‘good for you’ claim wasn’t so far off the mark, albeit for different reasons. As reported by BBC News in 2003, “A pint of the dark stuff a day may work as well as a low dose of aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart disease.”
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin tested the stout by administering it to dogs who had narrowed arteries similar to those in people with heart disease. They found that the dogs fed different daily doses of Guinness had reduced clotting activities in their blood, while a control group of dogs given a lager beer did not show similar improvements. The research team furthermore claim that the greatest benefit was achieved when test subjects received about a pint each day at mealtime. Their conclusion was “that ‘antioxidant compounds’ in the Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for the health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.”
In response to these claims, Guinness’ owners Diageo simply said “We never make any medical claims for our drinks.” Despite this, I am sure millions of Guinness fans the world over will be more than happy to call on the ‘irrefutable scientific research’ above to justify their daily mealtime pint.
So here’s to Arthur and his famous brew – cheers, everybody!