Keep your un-patriotic Sam Adams; I’ll stick with Guinness

Keep your un-patriotic Sam Adams; I’ll stick with Guinness

"Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull, via Wikimedia Commons. Adams is seated to the viewer's right of Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row.
"Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull, via Wikimedia Commons. Adams is seated to the viewer's right of Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row.
"Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull, via Wikimedia Commons. Adams is seated to the viewer's right of Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row.

Samuel Adams Beer Company is no stranger to controversy, having participated in a stunt in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 2002 that was not just in bad taste and illegal, but also sacriligeous.

Now they’ve added unpatriotic to the list of offenses. They have a new Independence Day-themed TV ad in which in actor notes their connection to Founding Father Samuel Adams, who was a signer and co-author of the Declaration of Independence, and then recites one of the well-known phrases from the documet:

All men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Notice what’s missing? The Declaration actually says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.[1] Why the omission? Sam Adams (the beer-slingers) say that according to advertising and markering code of the industry-trade group the Beer Institute:

“Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.”

And so both sides of this controversy are portraying this as a religious issue. But it’s not really. In fact, it’s simply nonsensical to say that the mere mention of a “Creator”– not God in a way that could be connected to any particular religion– is itself religious speech. Until just a few years ago, no one would have claimed that acknowleding a Creator to be religion. It would be common sense.

Never mind that they are quoting not just any document, but the founding document of our nation and it’s most important and well-known phrase at that. But it’s all a symptom of the increasing trend of pushing religion into a box that no one talks about in polite company.

It’s not unrelated to the HHS mandate of Obamacare that refuses to recognize a freedom of religion, i.e. the freedom of religious people to live out all aspects of their beliefs in public spaces for the moral good of society, but instead offers a narrow–and unconstitutional–freedom of worship, i.e. the right to go into a church, temple, mosque, etc. to engage in religious pray and ritual.

God must be expunged from all public spaces because He may offend the sensibilities of the militant atheists (4% of society) or the larger number of agnostic cultural religionists (20%). If Sam Adams wishes to be the beer for the cultural elites, the politically correct, and the sexually deviant, so be it.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, not to mention sticking with a real beer from a company that has spent centuries doing good by their employees and customers and whose founding family has always been paragons of Christian virtue and evangelical zeal: Guinness Brewing.

I recently finished reading the book “The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World” and more than a book about beer, it’s a book about a very successful family who took their obligations to God, society, and their fellow man seriously. Long before tech companies like Google offered perks like gourmet meals to their employees, Guinness gave their employees incredible benefits that no company today would even consider offering.

It’s also the story of a family that, generation after generation, remained focused on improving their product and ensuring that everyone who wanted a perfect pint of Guinnness, anywhere in the world, could get one, sometimes at great cost to themselves.

The following is quoted at length from the book’s introduction:

From the beginning of their corporate and family history, the Guinnesses had embraced their obligation to the needy of the world. This began at home, with their own employees. Edward Cecil Guinness, great-grandson of founder, Arthur, expressed a foundational company conviction when he said, “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make moneyfrom you.”

Accordingly, the Guinness brewery routinely paid wages that were 10 to 20 percent higher than average, had a reputation as the best place to work in Ireland, and, as important to many employees, allowed workers two pints a day of their famous dark stout.

Moreover, the benefits the company gave its employees surpass those even envisioned by modern companies like Google and Microsoft. Consider the snapshot provided by a Guinness company report in 1928, not an exceptionally enlightened time for corporate treatment of employees. Guinness workers at the brewery in Dublin enjoyed the attention of two fully qualified doctors who staffed an onsite clinic where any employee, wife, or child could receive treatment. These privileges extended to widows and pensioners, as well. The doctors were available night or day, made house calls, and would consult specialists on their patients’ behalf if necessary.

There were also two dentists available to employees, two pharmacists, two nurses, a “lady visitor” who assured healthy conditions in workers’ homes, and a masseuse. Hospital beds were provided both at the Guinness plant and at a “sanatoria” in the country, intended for patients recovering from tuberculosis.

This was only the beginning. Retirees received pensions “at the pleasure of the board,” without having to make contributions of their own. This benefit extended to widows as well. If an employee or an employee’s family member died, the company paid the majority of the funeral expenses.

To improve the lives of their employees, the company provided a savings bank on site and contributed to a fund from which workers could borrow to purchase houses. To make sure that life in these homes was all it could be, the company also sponsored competitions to encourage domestic skills, with cash awards for sewing, cooking, decorating, gardening, and hat making. Concerts and lectures were provided for the wives of workers, in the belief that the moral and intellectual level of a home would rise only to that of the mother or wife who lived there.

This same philosophy led to the company’s sponsorship of guilds and associations of every kind. There was an association for the keeping and breeding of “Dogs, Poultry, Pigeons and Cage birds,” for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers, and for the “encouragement of Home Industries.” An athletic union was founded that sponsored competitions in Gaelic football, cricket, cycling, boxing, swimming, hurling, and tug-of-war. Beyond this, hardly a skill essential to brewing was not represented by a guild or professional development society, all sponsored by the company.

The educational benefits were also more generous than most modern corporations provide. Guinness paid for all its employees between the ages of fourteen and thirty to attend technical schools in Dublin and even funded more advanced education for those who were qualified. There was a lending library at the plant, a musical society, and “Workmen’s Rooms”—which were lounges that allowed a hardworking man to read or just to think, to focus his mind on something beyond his labors. There were also classes in wood carving, cage making, fretwork, sketching, photography, cabinet making, handwriting, music, singing, and dancing.

The generosity of Guinness seemed unlimited. Every year, every employee was paid to take his family into the country for an “Excursion Day.” Train fare was paid and money for food and entertainment was provided. Single men were allowed to take dates and, again, the company paid the bill. On the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, Guinness paid every employee an extra week’s salary.

Like I said, a remarkable company even by today’s standards. So Jim Koch can keep his Creator-less swill. I’ll drink Guinness.

  1. Of course, Sam Adams is in good company. President Obama also has a track record of omitting the “Creator” from the Declaration of Independence in his speeches, too.  ↩

  • For such an intelligent outfit, the act with an astounding level of stupidity and arrogance. I thought they learned their lesson with the Cathedral incident – which flies in the face of the Beer Institute quote – but obviously this is not the case.

    There is a lot of great beer out there.

  • Relax. It’s beer. Here’s a crazy idea, have a couple, relax, and chill out a bit. I actually prefer Guinness to SAMs, but who gives a crap that god would ever come into a good night of drinking.

    • Because it’s not just about beer. What if some beer company sponsored a stunt to have people enter your mother’s house and defecate on her floor? Would that kind of tick you off? It would for any normal person. Well, that’s essentially what they did at St. Patrick’s.

      Likewise their pandering to liberal fundamentalist currents in our society that want to exclude God and religious people so much that they’re willing to excise Him even from our most basic founding documents as a nation.

      And my esteem for Guinness isn’t just about the faith of the owners of the company, but also about the ahead-of-their-time business ethics motivated by their faith that put almost every company today to shame.