Let’s face it, history is a lot more interesting to learn about when it involves beer. Fortunately, Guinness, one of the world’s most iconic brands in the field, is steeped in it.
Intricately entwined into the development and history of Dublin, Ireland, the Guinness family has created a recognizable legacy and grown a brand loyalty that holds strong today not just in Ireland, but around the world.
Founder Arthur Guinness had faith in his brewery from the start, signing a 9,000 year lease for the first brewing site, taking over the old building remnants from the previous owner who, oddly enough, also sought to brew beer in the heart of Dublin. Today, the Guinness Empire still retains a stronghold at the now famous St. James Gate and the former brewing facility has been transformed into the interactive Guinness Storehouse. So while the old brewery on site is no longer used for creating the Guinness, it has taken on a new, still important purpose: sharing the company’s rich history with over 1.2 million visitors from around the world annually.
Visiting the Guinness Storehouse
The decision to travel to Dublin is a good one and travelers around the world are taking note, describing Dublin as one of the top up and coming travel destinations to visit. Without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Dublin, often driving travelers both near and far, is a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Year after year a visit to the Storehouse has topped the to-do lists of visitors to Dublin who come seeking a warm welcome with a pint of the black stuff straight from the source. If you’re ready to incorporate a visit to the Storehouse, you can sign-up for a tour of the facility before you go (best option to bypass the lines!). If pre-planning isn’t your cup of tea (pint of Guinness?) you can also book your tickets on site. Once you have your ticket, you will be taken through the multi-level building with each floor offering its own unique experience showcasing the history of both the beer and the brand.
Starting out on the lower level, you’ll witness first-hand the original lease from 1759 that rooted Guinness within the heart of Dublin nearly 257 years ago. Here, you’ll make your way into the exhibition room on the ground level and explore the simplicity of the ingredients and how they come together to make the so-dubbed ‘black stuff.’ Next, continue your journey through the levels to learn about the historical ad campaigns run by Guinness in their enormous viewing room and enjoy the surrounding television screen as it encompasses you in one of the company’s most iconic ads: the surfer (and his wave-running horses, of course).
Not convinced yet? Check out these 5 things you didn’t know about Guinness so that next time you drink the black stuff, you won’t be left in the dark.
- Guinness isn’t just for drinking: Within the Guinness Storehouse, different restaurants offer you the chance to experience Guinness in more ways than one. You’ll discover that Guinness is also used as a marinade or staple ingredient in soup among other dishes and that there are even burgers marinated in the stuff, topped with a Guinness chutney at the uniquely and simply dubbed in-house restaurant, 1837. Not a burger fan? No problem. At 1837, they have found ways to integrate Guinness into other items on their menus, changing seasonally with their never-ending creative dishes. Just to give you an idea…you can opt for Guinness bread, Guinness sausage, Guinness garlic butter truffle oil, chicken wings with a Guinness based sauce, broccoli baked with Guinness and Irish cheddar sauce, beef and Guinness stew, or fries with a Guinness sauce for dipping. And for your sweet tooth, taste the Guinness chocolate mousse, Guinness tiramisu, or (my personal favorite option) try both! Additionally, the menu offers six different variants of Guinness to choose from. I recommend starting your meal off with the oysters and discovering for yourself why it’s the perfect appetizer for the occasion. In fact, Guinness is so confident in this pairing that a singing oyster became a staple in several advertisements. Don’t believe me? Make a stop at the advertising section at the Guinness Storehouse and witness for yourself the serenading skills of their singing oyster.
(2) Guinness goes global: Driven by the demands for beer that defined the 1960s, Guinness breweries were among the first ones to spring up outside of Europe. Today, Africa is home to the second most number of Guinness breweries in the word, with variants such as the foreign extra stout being made specifically for export to Africa. There is also a special beer exclusive to export for the USA, the Nitro IPA, with the Guinness Storehouse currently being the only place to taste it outside of the United States. The Guinness Storehouse is proud of this global reach and shares its international history throughout the tour with the added bonus option of tasting these other Guinness variants from around the word all in their tasting room (an inclusive stop on the tour where you can enjoy a fresh pint in house).
(3) New recipes are constantly being discovered: Mined by an active, forward thinking, and intelligent archival team, Guinness constantly unearths old recipes from the early years of Guinness by digging through their extensive archives and re-examining the original brew-book. Here, Guinness constantly revives old family-brew recipes that have grown to become the favorites of beer drinkers from ales to stouts. A visit to the Storehouse takes you deep into this history through a tour of the archives (must be scheduled in advance) and the tasting room allows you to taste their revived concoctions. For the unsure beer drinkers and those with a sweet tooth, I suggest the purple Guinness (regular stout with a shot of black currant cordial) or a black velvet (champagne and Guinness.) For the simpler taste buds, try a foreign extra stout on ice and see why this method for serving Guinness is one of the most popular in Africa. If you’re looking for more of a guided tasting experience, you can register for the connoisseur experience which offers you the chance to try out pre-designed pairings by a Guinness beer expert. During the connoisseur experience you can taste hand-picked beer choices all in the privacy of a luxurious old-fashioned bar, secretly tucked away in the Storehouse.
(4) Guinness isn’t like other drafts: When you order the beer on tap nitrogen is also being released in place of carbon dioxide, giving Guinness that smooth texture and taste it has become so famous for having. In fact, Guinness was one of the first brewing companies to use this method and it is obvious why they kept it around. Adding to the progressiveness of the company, Guinness always stays ahead of the game, tracing their dominant brews from pale ales for export, switching over into porters to accommodate their global popularity, and finally perfecting the famous Guinness stout in a move to stand-out amongst the plethora of porter brewers. It was a company risk that has certainly proven successful. Nowadays their progressive thinking can be seen in their environmentally conscious corporate policies that promote minimal waste, using excess products for other purposes such as barley for animal feed. The ground level of the tour walks you through this brewing process from start to finish, showing you the ingredients in Guinness, their source, and their cultivation process, emphasizing the company’s efforts to source their products as locally as possible. Alongside their active sustainability efforts, Guinness is highly involved in Dublin’s community development having financed the restoration and development of local churches and social housing. Learn more about this history on a pre-scheduled tour of the company archives.
(5) The label says more than meets the eye: It features Arthur’s signature, the Guinness name, and its iconic harp. Many years later, the Irish government also sought to make the state symbol the harp, however, Guinness had patented the harp symbol for their beers and so the government opted for a backwards facing harp. The advertising level and archives tour dives even deeper into this unique side of the relationship be tween Ireland and Guinness. As you can see, beer has a clearly important place in Irish culture.
Dublin is a city with a rich and sometimes tumultuous history and one in which Guinness has played an influential role in creating. Next time you make your way to Ireland, make sure to schedule a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and learn from the experts the way that their beer has helped to shape Irish history and learn why Guinness is so much more than beer.