A trip to Dublin absolutely cannot exist without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse.
In a city rich with history including Trinity College, the homes of James Joyce and Bram Stoker, Dublin castle, and Viking remnants, the number one tourist attraction is a visit to the Arthur Guinness's vision of beertopia. Why?
The Storehouse is about much more than beer. It's about the Guinness family, which has steep roots in Irish history, and also about the deep pride the people of Dublin have in their dark ruby-colored product.
Long before the enormous brewery comes into view, you'll get a whiff of hops and barley in the moist, chill Irish air. It's a wonderful scent that gets you giddy for the experience long before you enter the building.
Upon entering, you'll catch a glimpse of the actual massive Guinness compound in the mist. Indeed, the scene is straight out of the original Willy Wonka movie, with giant black iron gates opening to large brick structures and steel tanks spouting steam. Tourists take pictures, as jaunting cars (horse drawn carriages) offer rides around the grounds. It's a better theme park attraction than the ones at Universal. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has got nothing on this place.
Once inside, pay your admission fee (16.50 euros -- about $20, but there are tons of discounts), which includes a pint of Guinness or an orange soda for kids (yes, kids are most welcome here). The building, part of the working brewery from 1902 through 1988, was re-designed to include a glass atrium shaped as a massive seven-story pint glass. If full, it would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness. Now, look down. You're standing on the 9,000-year lease that founder Arthur Guinness signed on the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin. That's some forward thinking.
The first part of the tour walks you through the process of beer making. You're invited to stand under a waterfall, touch turn-of-the-century equipment, and "be the beer" as it goes through the boiling and fermenting processes.
A reminder that "everyone's Irish on March 17" greets you on the way to the tasting rooms.
Finally, your first taste of Guinness. The tasting room consists of two parts. First, you get a primer on what goes into the making of this Irish nectar, then you're given a mini-pint with the instructions not to drink it. Torture by this point. You're then invited into an Irish drawing room, where you're talked through the proper way to enjoy your brew. Much like wine tasting, first look at color, inhale the aroma, then take a sip --but not before a hearty group Sláinte!
Other exhibits include a hall of talking portraits with factory workers, bartenders, and members of the Guinness family sharing the history of the brew and the part it played in the lives of Dubliners; a walk-through of Guinness advertising campaigns; and a gallery of famous Guinness drinkers -- including many world leaders. Could beer be the key to world peace?
At the Guinness Academy, you're taught to pour the perfect pint. Do well, and you'll come home with a diploma and a graduation photo.
The perfect pint. Drink it with pride! Beer never tasted so good.
Enjoy your Guinness at the famous Gravity Bar and take in the awesome 360 degree view of Dublin.
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By the way, you're at the top of the giant pint glass, now. Even on a rainy day, the vistas are magnificent.
Hungry? There are several pubs and restaurants at the Storehouse where you can grab some Irish stew with freshly baked brown bread-- and another pint. Or two. After all, you're in Dublin.