A Brief Review of
The Search for God and Guinness:
A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World.
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
I picked up Stephen Mansfield’s The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World, because frankly I’m a fan of Guinness and because the title piqued my curiosity. As read further into the book however, what I found was a story that ran much deeper than the fleeting pleasures of a fine beer. A clear communicator and masterful storyteller, Mansfield traces primarily the history of the Guinness family from the earliest days of their brewing in the seventh century through the twentieth century. But before spinning the tale of the Guinness family, Mansfield has a fine chapter that recounts the historical significance of beer – e.g., that the brewing of beer killed off many microorganisms that in the middle ages and early modern era rendered drinking water unhealthy – and some brief historical anecdotes that give us a sense of how churches understood the significance of beer in this era.
What intrigued me most about The Search for God and Guinness, however, was that the business model of the Guinness family – if I may use that somewhat anachronistic terminology – was not driven primarily by maximizing the bottom line, but rather took into consideration the health and well-being of not only the brewery’s employees but also those of the broader Dublin neighborhoods surrounding the brewery. The story that Mansfield weaves here is one that has the potential to renew the economic imagination of our churches, reminding us that the health and well-being of humanity and the good craftsmanship that produces a high quality product are ends that are at least as important – if not moreso – than generating profit.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com