Searching for God and Guinness is a “biography” of beer’s role in history and culture through the lens of one of the most famous brands and the family behind it. In simple and readable prose, Stephen Mansfield traces the arc of beer–specifically its origins as a moral and healthy alternative to the hard liquors that destroyed men and marriages, the economic and social development of the Guinness family, and especially the latter’s incredible impact on the justice issues of the day.
Guinness’ social influence, particularly on the poor and downtrodden lower classes, cannot be overstated. They were on the forefront of treating their employees responsibly and with compassion, taking care of them and their families long before legal requirements were in place–and even far beyond what many companies do today. The Guinness brand provided scores of programs and incentives to not just employees, but their wives and children–courses to learn skills, free dental care, subsidized housing, and more. My favorite “perk” was the daily pint of beer that every employee was entitled to. Mansfield makes clear it was the foundation of all this was the Guinness family’s strong Christian faith.
I mentioned above that the prose was simple, and it is. Unfortunately Mansfield’s writing and the sociological analysis often felt weakly speculative, almost like a mediocre high school English paper. This surprised me, considering the author’s pedigree. Despite it all, the story is a good one–it’s particularly relevant to the modern discussion about what is appropriate for an employer to offer to those on the payroll. This book should help serve as a corrective to those Christians with a myopic sense of beer’s role in history and culture (and overly informed by the American Prohibitionist era), not to mention a valuable contribution to the discussion on business and social responsibility.
A copy of the book was provided by the publisher through Booksneeze.com for purposes of review