“Guinness doesn’t taste as yummy as it does in Dublin,” I told a girlfriend as we sipped on the dark frothy brew in one of Mumbai’s many hip beer bars. She rolled her eyes so hard that if it were possible, she would have sprained her optic nerve.
This conversation got me thinking of last summer, when V and I went traipsing around the Emerald Isle. A bulk of that week was spent in Dublin. While my wishlist for Dublin included seeing the Book of Kells & running into Bono and The Edge (fat chance!), all V wanted to do was drink ‘lots and lots’ of Guinness and visit their brewery at St James’ Street.
Lonely Planet calls the Guinness Storehouse ‘a beer lover’s Disneyland’ and considering V was bouncing off the walls, I guess they are right. We bought 18 Euro tickets at the counter (I’d recommend buying online. You’ll save both money and time).
For the next hour and a half, we made our way through the seven floors of Ireland’s oldest skyscraper. What was that about the Irish telling tall tales? But I digress. So, we are at the Guinness Storehouse to know everything there is to know about the legendary stout, and to drink as much of the good stuff as is humanly possible.
Before starting the self-guided tour, there is the atrium to admire. The glass structure, which rises up through the centre of the seven-storey building is actually a giant pint glass. If you fill it up, the atrium can hypothetically hold 14.3 million pints. Hic hic! The centrepiece of the atrium is a copy of the 9000-year lease that Guinness founder Arthur Guinness signed for an annual rent of just 45 pounds. Someone got himself a pretty sweet deal.
An array of interactive audiovisual displays on the first three floors take us on a journey back in time to discover the history of one of Ireland’s best-known exports.
(For the next paragraph channel your inner Pierce Brosnan and read it with an Irish accent coz it makes every thing sound so much more fun and oh-so sexy.)
If beer lore is to be believed, Arthur Guinness rode through the gate of an old and dilapidated brewery at St James’ Street on the last day of December 1759. Friends and family shook their heads in disbelief because not only was the brewery ill equipped, there were already many similar breweries on the street. Undeterred, Arthur started brewing. Apart from Dublin Ale, Arthur concocted a beer that contained roasted barley. Guinness, as we know it today, is the result of a happy accident. Legend has it that one day, the barley was over-roasted and the beer that it produced was exceptionally dark. Rather than throwing away the brew, he served it to his workers. And, thank God for that!
From touching and smelling the hops to seeing the waterfall and finally, tasting the finished product- the tour is an absolute treat for any beer lover.
And oh, did I mention that they train you to pour the perfect Guinness and then “confer” an honorary knighthood on you there and then? Ok, not quite – but V was told he could put ‘qualified Guinness pourer’ on his resume and he seriously considered doing it too! Our bartender took us through the six-step ritual (Hint: hold the glass at 45 degrees; it takes 119.5 seconds for the surge to settle and drink through the head) with the kind of respect usually accorded to religious ceremonies.
Floors 4 to 7 are what V called the real deal because each of them gave us an opportunity to really indulge. Whether we were learning to pour, eating the world famous Beef and Guinness stew at the Brewer’s Dining Hall or enjoying the gorgeous panoramic views of the city and the Wicklow Mountains beyond, the best pint(s) of Guinness in the world was just an elbow bend away.