The fourth entry in a series of installments from the travel diary of my journey through the Emerald Isle.
The bartender grabs a cool, dry pint glass and holds it firmly at a 45 degree angle under the tap. He then pulls the handle fully towards himself unleashing the distinctive hissing sound of the gases hitting the glass, bringing the beer to life. Slowly he straightens the glass and fills it three quarters full. The glass is suddenly teeming with a glorious caramel-hued combustion of gases—the unique surge, which as it settles creates the signature blonde creamy head, atop the beer’s dark ruby red body. The barman then tops up the glass, this time by pushing the tap handle away from him and stops when the head is proud of the rim. With a steady hand and the logo facing forward, he presents you with your very own, perfectly poured, pint of Guinness Draught. You grab hold of your pint, proudly lifting it up and swirling the glass to release the beers flavours and its intoxicating aroma. You breathe in the fragrant scent of hops and the rich notes of the roasted barley. Then, after patiently soaking in each step of this brilliantly orchestrated performance; you taste. You savour the long awaited bitter hint of the hops at the back of your mouth, the richness of the roasted barley in the middle and the heavenly sweetness of the malt at the front. After indulging in this beautiful age-old ritual, Guinness proves it is no regular beer, but instead a true experience for the senses.
With our tourist map vibrant against the overcast sky, Joanna and I walked through the streets of Dublin and with little trouble arrived at our next stop; the Guinness Storehouse. The home of Guinness is set in the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin and as it is known as Ireland’s number one tourist attraction it was hardly surprising that there was a large crowd lined up. Thankfully we had purchased our tickets online, so we bypassed the queue and headed straight for the automated ticket machine. Once it presented us with our tickets we set off for the entrance. Our experience began in the Atrium at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass, which rose through the centre of the seven-storey building. At our feet lay the 9,000 year lease that Arthur Guinness signed for the St. James’s Gate property on December 31, 1759. After a quick orientation we were free to start our self-guided tour.
Up the escalator we went, all the while scanning the naturally lit atrium with its exposed brick walls and sea foam steel beams. Up on the first floor the virtual master brewer guided us step-by-step through the brewing process. We learned how the brewers combine: crystal clear water from Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, domestic Irish barley, high quality hops and a special strain of original yeast used by Arthur himself and use age old traditions and state-of-the-art technology to craft the perfect pint of Guinness. Next, we learned about the highly skilled coopers and the wooden barrels they created to transport the famous stout across the world and of course the various transportation methods used to export Guinness. Also on this floor was a Tasting Lab where we were taught that to truly enjoy a Guinness you must use all of your senses. LISTEN for the gases as the pint is poured; LOOK at the renowned Guinness surge as the carbon dioxide and the nitrogen gases separate to create the creamy head; TOUCH the glass to ensure it is at the optimal temperature of six degrees Celsius; swirl the glass and SMELL the rich aromas that escape; and finally TASTE your Guinness!
After our chance to whet our whistles we perused the second floor’s colourful Guinness advertising gallery of: Toucans, Ostriches, Surfers, cabinets showcasing the various bottles used to hold Guinness and collages of all the bottle labels. The third floor had an interactive Drink iQ quiz, a show reel of Guinness Sponsorship from around the globe and it also gave the option to trace your Irish roots. As neither of us is Irish we walked on to the fourth floor where amongst a display of 250 years of Guinness milestones and a world map of Guinness’ worldwide achievements, we had the option of learning how to pour our own perfect pint of Guinness. However, as the storehouse was closing shortly we had no choice but to reluctantly walk past. Up on the fifth floor, we were greeted by the lovely wafting scents of Irish cuisine as this was where we found: Arthur’s Bar, Gilroys Restaurant and the Brewers Dining Hall. Fully satisfied from our meal at the Brazen Head we moved forward to not only what would be the end of our tour, but without doubt the highpoint of it as well.
Joanna and I reached the famous Gravity Bar, located on the seventh floor of the Guinness Storehouse, and marched over to the bar where we received our complimentary pints of Guinness. The bar was bustling with chatter and laughter and the quick tempo of traditional Irish music played overhead. Here we had a chance to relax as we quenched our thirst with our deliciously creamy pints and gazed out at the stunning 360 degree panoramic view over the city of Dublin and beyond. The clouds had begun to part, giving way to soft blue skies and beams of sunshine that cast their warm glow over the city below. It was in fact a lovely day for a Guinness!