Ireland's number one tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse is a "must-do" in Dublin. It's like a rite of passage and thankfully one that's been put together phenomenally well. To be honest any museum that let's you eat, drink and be merry on the way round gets my vote!
So why is it so special? Well Guinness has been produced in Dublin since Arthur Guinness, aged 34, signed a 9,000-year lease on a disused brewery at St. James’s Gate in 1759. That is a LONG time ago and the place is saturated with history and Arthur's passion for brewing. There's no doubt about that fact that Guinness is an iconic brand and behind every icon there's a story - so off we went to find out more.
We bought our tickets online so we could head straight in on arrival (tip - take a taxi. St James' gate is MASSIVE and google maps might tell you that you're a 2 minute walk away, but that's just how far you are away from the property - you're likely actually 15 minutes away from the entrance gate.) We lined up for the mandatory tourist photo outside...
And headed inside...
The self guided tour splits itself over seven, yes SEVEN, floors, starting with a detailed look at the liquid itself - it's ingredients, where they come from and the brewing process. The experience is like disney-land crossed with a museum as you weave through installations, videos and waterfalls (which incidentally isn't a gimmick - it's where 8 million liters of fresh water from the Wicklow Mountains flow into the brewery every day!) facts and explanations scattered among them for those interested to read. One of my favourite tit-bits is that yeast from each brew is transferred on to the next to maintain consistency so the original yeast strains are still used to make Guinness today! It's so important that a small supply is kept in the director's safe and if anything were to happen to the main supply, the secret reserve could replace the entire main stock in a mere few hours. Impressive!
It's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed during the first section but keep plodding on - the crowds spread out as you move through and there's a lot to see! On the next floor we took a look at the history of production and distribution. I was amazed by the incredible pyramids of barrels in the yard! I read that being a Cooper (responsible for making and repairing barrels) was a heavily sought after and prestigious job steeped in tradition - and by the looks of things seriously hard work too!
There's also a cafe on the first floor which serves surprisingly delicious food and it's worth taking a little pit stop as you still have a lot of ground to cover! Our hungover (ahem, hungry) crew tucked into coffees and sandwiches, powering up for the next 5 storeys! The world of transport was next up and the boys favourite, beautiful model ships, miniature replicas of those used to transport Guinness to bottling and distribution centres in the UK right up until 1993!
The fourth floor highlighted some of the Guinness' most famous marketing campaigns. No one can forget the "horses" ad - sheer brilliance! And, have I ever mentioned how good I am at the harp?!
Finally it was time for a taste test! The tasting rooms, a series of chambers at the heart of the brewery take you through a choreographed Guinness tasting experience. First up, in a stark, white walled room, we were presented with mysteriously swirling vapours of beer, malt, roasted barley and hops while a cheery young tour guide explained the nuances of each and their contribution to the brew. Then it was time to grab our mini pint and head into the Velvet Chamber to learn how to sip correctly.
After all if you're going to do something, you want to make sure you're doing it right. Start by observing the beer’s color, taking in its aroma, and finally tasting the glorious Black Stuff (which, ironically, is more red in color than black.)
Finally we headed up to the Gravity bar on the top floor of the Storehouse, to put our new found skills to the test. We'd grabbed a full glass and headed over to the windows to take in the 360 degree views of Dublin - Oh my Guinness (sorry couldn't resist) but there's probably no better place in the world to enjoy a real pint of the black stuff. It's one hell of a grand finale on an utterly brilliant experience.
Book tickets online at here and expect to spend 2-3 hours doing the tour - you don't want to rush it and it's well worth the 20 Euro entry fee. To be honest it would be kind of a crime to go to Dublin and not see it.