I much prefer going off the beaten track whilst on holiday, however being a Guinness drinker in Dublin it seemed like a wasted opportunity to miss out on where the Guinness story began. So off we went cap hats and anoraks on, belongings in safely in bum-bags and cameras swinging from our necks (not really) to join the hoards or tourists at St James’s Gate.
We had ordered our tickets in advance so we could avoid queuing, these are not time-allocated and can be picked up from machines any time from 10am.
Stepping into the main atrium I was surprised at the amount that light that poured into the bottom floor of the tall building. Soon I realised that this was not your average factory floor and we were encapsulated within a huge pint glass. Though the same shape, this was not your average tumbler, it could hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. I was already pretty impressed as I felt like I was in Honey I Shrunk The Kids, a childhood favourite of mine; but this was only the beginning. Spanning from the huge glass interior were seven floors housing the story of Guinness.
The Starting point of our tour was the all important lease for the St. James’s Gate Brewery which we stood within, this piece of paper showed the passion and faith Arthur Guinness had for his product signing an agreement for 9000 years.
Leaving the central atrium we moved on to learn about the foundations of the beer: the all important ingredients
Water; though it is commonly assumed to come from the river River Liffey (due to the brewery’s location), it actually comes from the nearby Wicklow mountains
Barley; which is both roasted and malted creating the distinct dark red colour (not black).
Hops; using only the female variety of the plant and almost double the amount than most beers, for a more intense flavour and aroma.
Finally, yeast; the strain used descending from Arthur’s Guinness’s original brewing, is so valuable that a small reserve amount is kept in a safe just in case something happens to the main supply.
After an introduction to the Guinness family by a variety of locals in a talking portrait gallery, we moved on to follow was Master Brewer, Fergal Murray, as he guided us through the brewing process, showing how the key ingredients and technology come together to create the perfect pint.
This was done through a variety of displays using traditional equipment, projections, and video.
Now, with an understanding of how the drink was made it was time to see how it got from the brewery to the consumer, starting with the barrels. Master cooper Dick Flanagan demonstrated his craft in a black and white film, which I viewed inside one of the barrels and was strangely fascinated by. There was a vast amount of skill and precision in the making process, which is something that I previously did not have an appreciation for.
After being transferred into barrels and crates it was time for the Guinness to make it’s way across the world by horses, trains, barges, ships and road transport.
Having now learned the craft in creating and distributing it was time to enter the Tasting Experience with a new awareness of what we were about to drink. Walking through a long dark corridor we entered a futuristic room with columns of smoke, allowing us to take in the fragrance of each of the ingredient before grabbing a teeny sampling glass.
It was then onto much more old fashioned surroundings decorated with the brand colours , portraits of the founder and his family before learning how to taste, which as you can see by my face, was one of my highlights.
Now experts in brewing and drinking it was time to learn how a small family business spread the word about their product through advertising and sponsorship, viewing their award winning adverts in a large cinematic room, through displays…
meeting some of the characters…
and becoming a star of one of their vintage posters.
The only thing left to do was partake in a full pint (which is included in the price of the ticket), this could either be redeemed by pouring it yourself or grabbing a drink up in the Gravity bar where you can take in 360° views of Dublin.
Having never pulled a pint before, and always wanting to experience new things, we headed to the Guinness Academy where our instructor talked us through the process.
I was such a natural, I graduated and received a certificate (it was a proud day).
Having been gifted another pint from a fellow guest I was feeling a little tipsy so we headed upstairs for some food.
We could choose from a burger and chips at Arthur’s Bar whilst listening to live music.
Something a little more refined in Gilroy’s Bistro or The Brewers Dining hall which served up classic dishes in a casual canteen style.
As I am incredibly nosey, the long counter with displayed food and an open kitchen sold me on the dining hall option; there truly was something for everyone and all the options were of an incredibly high standard.
I choose the vegetarian quiche with two fresh salads and a side of Guinness which was truly delicious.
Now drunk, I picked up some classic tourist tat socks from the gift shop which marked the end of our 4 hour visit to the storehouse.
Having visited a few breweries around the world I have to say that this was one of my favourite experiences. It was educational, showcased the pride and seriousness taken in their history and brewing process, yet was also immersive, well thought out and fun – without being tacky. I do not tend to be an advocate for hitting the tourist trail, but this is one experience I would highly recommend if you find yourself in Dublin.
St James’s Gate,