Three Cheers to Arthur Guinness!
"The founder’s personal popularity, more than two centuries since he died, is a testimony to the power of product over politics."
According to the publication FinanceBuzz, a pint of Guinness will set you back at least $8.00 in three of the 50 states. The average price of the dark and creamy Irish stout is highest in California—a whopping $8.55.
If you thought you knew all the many reasons why Californians are fleeing their high-tax state for low-tax Montana, add one more: The average price of a pint of Guinness is nowhere cheaper than in the Treasure State, at just five bucks.
Being the man of the people that he was, Arthur Guinness would be proud of Montana. Not only does it possess a rich Irish heritage, but it’s also the most affordable state in which to enjoy the beverage known as “Ireland’s unofficial national intoxicant.” Maybe it’s time we learn more about the man who gave it to the world.
Born to a family of very modest means in Celbridge, Ireland in 1725, Arthur Guinness got lucky at the age of 27. He inherited the equivalent of four years’ wages from an Archbishop of the Church of Ireland. Young Arthur put the deceased minister’s money to good use by opening his first brewery with it. The Archbishop himself was a brewer, so he may not have objected to Arthur’s investment.
Arthur was so confident his new, frothy concoction would be a hit that on December 31, 1759, he famously signed a 9,000-year lease for a brewery on four acres of land near Dublin. The annual rent was fixed at 45 British pounds, or about 60 U.S. dollars in today’s money. Guinness the drink became an instant success and Guinness the man an instant celebrity.
It’s been one of the world’s most successful beer brands for generations now, as well as Ireland’s most popular alcoholic drink. The Guinness Storehouse on the site of Arthur’s original operation is Dublin’s most-frequented tourist attraction to this day. Every happy visitor gets a free, generous sample—which may explain why visitors keep coming back.
The founder’s personal popularity, more than two centuries since he died, is a testimony to the power of product over politics. Arthur was a Protestant in Roman Catholic Ireland. He was a Unionist, meaning he supported Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom. But because his company has always produced a product gulped with gusto by the locals, those very same Irish are pleased to put politics aside when it comes to Arthur Guinness.
Other interesting bits of information about the man:
- Arthur and his wife had 21 children, though just 10 survived to adulthood, a sad but not uncommon fact in those days before capitalism improved the lot of both rich and poor.
- He was a prominent supporter of the Irish House of Commons leader Henry Grattan, perhaps because Grattan was a big supporter of cutting the beer tax. That may sound self-serving but lower beer taxes made for many a happy Irishman too.
- Arthur’s magniloquent signature still adorns every bottle of Guinness.
- The famed Guinness Book of World Records, first published in 1954, was conceived by a managing director of the company, Sir Hugh Beaver.
- Arthur was a huge supporter of the arts and numerous charitable causes. He could afford that generous philanthropy because he knew how to create wealth in the first place.
Arthur Guinness never had the good fortune of visiting Montana, but many Montanans are happy that his beer can be seen here often.
Lawrence W. Reed writes a monthly column for the Frontier Institute in Helena, on whose board he serves. He is president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education and blogs at www.lawrencewreed.com.