This time last weekend I was at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, and it was a pretty awesome place to be.
Before we start, let me just put it out there that I don’t actually like Guinness. Nevertheless, when in Dublin, it’s sort of a necessary stop!
We went in the morning, around 11, which turned out to be a good idea, because when we went inside they have those canvas barriers making a winding queue long enough to rival something you’d see at Alton Towers. Fortunately, we could walk straight up to a ticket desk. (Tip: if you book online, your ticket is about €2 cheaper at €18, and if you book online for a weekend morning, you can visit for €16 – 2016 prices.)
You can take a free audio guide if you wish, but there is a lot of information in the exhibition regardless. Being Guinness in Dublin, they could have one room with a few posters about the making of it and people would probably still visit, but they have made a big effort here – it’s a really first-class attraction.
They use all sorts of multimedia, including videos to describe each stage of the making of Guinness. They have a massive pit full of barley, a mini waterfall, fully grown hops stretching from floor to ceiling and some of the yeast that has been passed down through the generations – these are the four ingredients that make up Guinness. The latter is so important that they keep some in a safe that the boss has to look after.
There was also a mini section dedicated to cooperage – the making of the barrels. The original coopers did a lot of their work by eye – they were so good that they hardly had to measure anything to create a perfectly sealed barrel. This bit made me think that making these might be more challenging than creating a perfect pint!
On the second floor there was a bar, which we would come back to. It was also home to the Guinness taste experience, around ten minutes where they summarise again the ingredients and tell you how to taste it properly – basically, take a massive gulp to ‘drink through the head’, as the foam is largely nitrogen and wouldn’t be that nice. Now, we had already had a sample of Guinness Foreign Extra at the end of the first floor, so this had been an unpleasant first sample, but it meant that the ordinary Guinness in the taste experience seemed heavenly by comparison.
The third floor was all about advertising: there were toucans, the Guinness harp, the snail with a pint, and massive TV screens playing some of the best. Guinness has had a fair few famous adverts, including ‘Surfer’, which was voted the best advert of all time back in 2002. (‘Tick followed tock’ / ‘Good things come to those who wait’ – referring to the two minutes – or 119.5 seconds, to be precise – that it takes to pour a Guinness and leave it to settle.) There were photo booths, so you could put your face in a famous Guinness advert, and then share them straight away via iPads to social media – a very smart publicity move.
Then on the fourth floor, it was time for the Guinness Academy – pour your own perfect pint! We learned the technique – a two-part pour – then poured our pints and got a little certificate as a souvenir. Of course, I would have found a pint of it absolutely impossible to drink, so I gave mine to my man and got a Fanta. I did end up wishing I had picked a Cola, as it would have stood out far less…
We headed up to the Gravity bar on the seventh floor for a look. The windows are floor to ceiling, and there is information on the glass about the famous sites within view. It was unbelievably busy though, so we got the obligatory photo, thought about getting food in the restaurant on level five, but instead went back down to the bar on level two, where we found a duo playing folk songs. It was so good, and then they started playing Caledonia and I think I loved them.
After a fun couple of hours, we had a quick look in the shop, which was full to bursting with T-shirts, rugby shirts, Guinness-flavoured chocolate, keyrings, mugs and so on. I somewhat regret not buying an extremely tacky (i.e. excellent) old-fashioned alarm clock with the Guinness toucan on it.
So that was the Guinness Storehouse! It completely exceeded my expectations and was one of the best put-together tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. (I used to work in tourism and visited a LOT of attractions, so this is high praise.) For someone who can’t even finish a pint of Guinness, it was still easy to appreciate a brilliant exhibition, and admire an incredible story of success.