Craft and Kin

Monday, 15 August 2016

Robbie Minto shows me a picture of the plaque he crafted from wood and metal.

‘From all his colleagues in the Brewery’. The etched words framed by four ancient copper rivets, each the size of a walnut.

“I won’t be getting one of those when my time comes”, he jokes with a smile that’s got years to go before it’ll retire.

Robbie is a carpenter and craftsman and like the person retiring, one of the people central to the story of Guinness.

He takes me on a private tour of the vast Guinness brewery complex. He’s hunting for salvage, I’m digging for the nuggets that will reveal lessons from one of the world’s oldest companies. Writing about Guinness for Established is like picking through history itself, deciding what to keep, what to throw out.

Behind the tourist attraction of the Guinness Storehouse, we move from building to building in the vast, sprawling brewery, kicking through the old to find something new.

I run my hand over oak staves, planing them down through the years. The ringed grain tells the story of Arthur Guinness setting up his first vat house over 250 years ago.

In the skeletal remains of Brewhouse 2 we knock on an enormous riveted copper kettle, listening to it toll out a tone of history like a church bell. 

From oak and copper Robbie will craft another commemorative plaque to mark the next prominent employee to retire; something to remember their time at Guinness.

From oak and copper to software and steel, Guinness moves on to innovation and modernity.

And mind and spirit. You don’t get to be 257 years old without deciding how to change, when to move on. Like all of the world’s oldest companies Guinness has endured and moved on because Guinness people have endured and moved on. History is story, the story is people, people make history and around it goes.

I find my nugget at last; my piece of history in Robbie. He changes history itself as he climbs to the top of St James’s Gate on New Year’s Eve to change the date.

You can read what happens next in Established, lessons from the world’s oldest companies.

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