“I’ve just tasted my first pint of Guinness ever” I tell the cabbie who picks us up outside the Guinness Storehouse in St James’s Gate in Dublin.
“and what did you think?” He asks.
“Delicious! I was expecting something thick, bitter and heavy, but no it was light, fresh, smooth. It tasted… well it tasted of beer!”
On a weekend visit to Dublin, catching up with old friends, many of whom have strong Irish connections, a tour of The Guinness Storehouse is inevitable.
Guinness has been brewed here since 1759 when Arthur Guinness, signed a 9000 year lease for the site of a failing brewery. From joining the Dublin Brewers and Maltsters Corporation as a ‘new brewer’, it was only eight years before he had become Master of the Corporation himself, and soon, he was exporting Guinness to London to compete with the dark style of London Porter beer that had originated there in the 18th century. The current building was erected on the same site between 1902 and 1904 and was one of the first steel framed buildings in the British Isles. It was here that the fermentation of the brew took place until 1980 when a more up to date fermenting plant was built nearby.
The Storehouse visitor centre was opened in December 2000, apparently designed to represent a giant pint glass seven stories high, though I couldn’t see the resemblance myself. (Oh, architects, what were you thinking?) The exhibition illustrates the 4 ingredients necessary for the process of brewing; water, barley, hops and a strain of yeast so valuable that it has to be kept under lock and key. Vast wooden vessels predating the introduction of more sterile stainless steel are still here, and archive footage shows coopers at work building the oak barrels that once distributed beer around the world.
Surely this is one of the most popular attractions in Dublin, though most visitors seem to be here for the tasting. At the very top of the building, the Gravity Bar boasts 360’ views over the city, (if only you can fight your way through the crowds to the windows) Here, exchange your entry voucher for a skilfully poured pint, topped with the image of a shamrock in its creamy foam, and enjoy the pleasure of your first Guinness.
When the vouchers are all spent, and several more tour parties have squeezed themselves into the bar, the lift will carry you back to the ground floor and spill you out into the delights of a gift shop bursting with Guinness memorabilia from T-shirts to Christmas baubles and Guinness chocolate.
The Guinness experience over, mellow from that first taste, we enthuse about our experience, as we head back to the city to continue our explorations of Dublin.
“Aaah!” says the cabbie, as he negotiates the Saturday afternoon traffic “If you can’t get a decent pint there, you might as well give up!”.