The Search for God and Guinness A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield

1 Mar

Beer and the Bible have been controversial companions on American shores for some time. Having moved here from the UK, and having often shared theological discourse with the vicar over a pint at our local pub, I never could quite connect with the concept that Christian’s should not drink alcohol. I’ve come to see that Prohibition was the major change in thinking, and that generations on we are still feeling the impact of a dry nation.

Mansfield has set out to provide us with a history of the Guinness family, their empire and legacy, and along the way has created much more. For my money, the opening chapter on the history of beer pre-Guinness is worth the price of admission alone (though may it be noted this is a review for Thomas Nelson’s program, and so I received my copy at no cost to me). To see how beer was championed as the healthy choice, the cure to the ailments of hard liquor, and to see the church being the chief brewers and distributors – now that’s a story worth telling!

But even more so, the story of Arthur Guinness & Sons is a fine remedy to the concept that ministry is something done exclusively by clergymen. The most impressive factor in Mansfield’s work is the vision with which he presents the Guinness story – it is the tale of a man following God to do what He has called him to: brew good beer, and impact his employees and city by being a good steward. Here is a rare life, writ large, to show us that faith is not to be separated from endeavor; that our endeavors are not merely informed by faith but that faith breathes life into the work itself.

The writing is easy but full-bodied, much like the beer it addresses, and though there are some sections that are a little too heavy on the historical data for my liking, the stories of assorted people and their part in the history of this grand ol’ brewery cause a cheer to well up within the reader and a strong desire to raise a glass of the dark stout in celebration of a man who changed the course of history for his city by pursuing a God given passion with integrity and determination. May we learn the lesson well!

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