Note: Guinness/Diageo extended the sponsorship through June 2017.
As you arrive on the site in the next few days, you'll notice a new banner ad on the site. Some time ago, I mentioned that I would be seeking sponsors for the site. You might have wondered what happened. Well, interesting story. I got a surprising number of inquiries (you know who you are--thanks!). One of them was the Guinness Brewery, which was totally shocking. Even more interesting, they wondered if I would consider them as sole sponsor--an arrangement I'd never considered. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how it turned out--though because one of the largest drinks company in the world was involved, getting that banner up took longer than I expected. We're doing an initial run of two months, so I thought maybe you'd be curious to know my thinking--plus one other informational tidbit.
Guinness is, as everyone knows, one of the largest and most successful beer companies in the world. Nevertheless, not everyone loves them. They are also owned by Diageo, owner Guinness as well as Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, and many others. I have had my own curious relationship with Dublin's giant: Guinness was the only brewery to flat out deny me a tour of their facility, and then I had an awkward call with Fergal Murray, then the face of brewing operations. And finally, many people consider their products bland and industrial.
When I decided to seek sponsors, I wanted companies that would be partners, folks to help me make a few bucks while getting my endorsement in the form of a banner ad. When I heard from Saraveza, General Distributors, and Double Mountain, I was delighted--they're exactly what I had in mind. It never occurred to me that a larger brewery would be interested. Blue Moon, Goose Island--even Bud or Coors might have inquired. I'm not really sure what I'd have done in that case.
But Guinness? A no-brainer for me. I have loved this beer (here in the US, we get a product called Extra Stout that has been a top-ten beer for me) for over 25 years. Many years back, the company ran a promotion to win a pub in Ireland, and friends and I wrote mini-essays with fantasies of moving to Ireland to pour pints of the stuff the rest of our lives. My favorite living author is the Irish author Roddy Doyle, who manages to situate a fair number of his most funny and/or poignant scenes into pubs where characters are gulping Guinness. (A Star Called Henry is one of the best books ever written.) This no doubt led to some inexcusable romanticizing of Ireland's most famous brewery, but then I would not be the first person to romanticize a brewery.
But even more than all that, this is Guinness. It's one of the most important extant breweries on earth. For long decades, it was the only multinational ale brand left, when the world had all gone to lager. It dominates both a national tradition and a nation more fully than any other brewery on earth. Guinness was one of the companies to invent branding. One of its employees, an economist, developed the student t test. Michael Ash, a mathematician, developed the nitrogen draft system. And even if it had done none of that, just surviving since 1759 earns a certain amount of respect.
All of which is to say that I am quite pleased to have that banner on the site. Please welcome them aboard.