Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 106 - The Guinness Storehouse

I have never been to the Guinness Storehouse. Luckily a midafternoon flight out of Dublin on the last day of our trip to Ireland gave Patrick and I a little flexibility to explore Dublin before we left the country. Considering the fleeting opportunity to visit the Storehouse and the fact that Patrick had never had a Guinness before, the decision to spend a chunk of our final moments in Ireland hanging out at a brewery and drinking Guinness was an easy one. In turn, Patrick and I woke early this morning to get to the Guinness Storehouse when the facility opened, which gave us ample time to take in the history, the craft, and the beer made famous by the lineage of brewers at the Guinness brewery.

A little bit of heaven in downtown Dublin

Upon arriving at the Guinness Storehouse, Patrick and I made haste in finding the start of the self-guided tour. After a brief introduction from a Guinness Storehouse employee, we were set free to explore the facility and engage in many of the interactive elements of the tour. At first, we took time to soak in the original 9,000 year lease signed by Arthur Guinness that granted him the right to brew beer on the property the Guinness brewery still sits today. With the lease positioned under thick glass in the floor of the Storehouse center, we took time to lean over the document and weigh its meaning at the heart of the modern complex. It was clear the history of the Guinness name was important to the more than 250 year old operation. In fact, our tour of the complex would show routinely that this history was a point of pride for the Guinness company and for the whole of Ireland, which made the overall experience all the more incredible as we wandered the Storehouse grounds.

The archive...
A sample of every guinness bottle ever produced

The lease

From this first experience, Patrick and I moved through the self-guided tour at a relatively brisk pace. Our early arrival meant we encountered very few crowds as we moved through the facility, which gave us time to navigate the complex as we saw fit. While to self-guided tour provided a lot of amazing information and amazing sights, the constant accompaniment of video screens and audio clips made aspects of the tour a little overwhelming for the two of us. As a result, we pressed on through the facility until we reached the fifth floor of the Guinness Storehouse. There we encountered a woman standing at a counter before a room with laden with Guinness displays and containing three bars with two Guinness draught taps each. Intrigued, Patrick and I approached the counter as we peered through the windows into the room. Acknowledging our interest, the woman at the counter promptly addressed us. “Would the two of ye like to learn how to pour a perfect pint of Guinness?” she asked with a smile. Patrick and I excitedly replied we would love the opportunity, which led the woman to inform us the facility was not quite open but would be ready in several minutes. Happy to wait briefly for the opportunity, Patrick and I chatted for a few minutes before the woman swung open the doors to the bar room and invited us in.

No water, no beer.

Liquid (black) gold

Over the 15 minutes the woman from the counter explained the six steps for pouring a perfect pint of Guinness, taking time to ensure we understood not only how, but why, each step was critical to the flavor and experience of each pint. Now, while reading that may come off as a gimmicky process meant to enhance the tourist experience, let me assure you this woman knew what she was doing and was deliberate in ensuring we knew each step before she let us get behind the taps. Once she was confident we had the process down, she asked me to come to the backside of the bar and make an attempt of the perfect pint. Happy to oblige, I removed myself from my barstool and moved to the other side of the bar.

All to ourselves!

Let's do this!
As I stood before the tap, the woman began directing me through each step as I poured.  I did my best to absorb her comments as I put my hands to work working the (clean, dry) glass and the Guinness tap. Continuing, I angled the glass at a 45 degree angle underneath the tap, opened the tap fully, filled the glass three quarters full, leveled the glass to fill it to the top of the harp emblem, and then closed the tap. As instructed, I set the nearly full pint down to “settle” for 119.5 seconds before I continued to the final step in the process. As we waited, the woman talked about the color of the beer and the changes occurring that would let us know when it was ready for the final step. Unbeknownst to the woman, Patrick was timing the “settling” period on a stopwatch as the woman spoke, which he promptly stopped when she instructed me to top off the pint with a final, restricted pour. A quick review of the stopwatch showed the beer had been settling for 121 seconds as the woman spoke. Without any knowledge of the exact time the beer had been sitting, the Guinness employee was off by a mere 1.5 seconds by judging the beer’s color alone. Patrick and I were floored by that discovery.

Working the 45


After topping off my beer and getting decent marks on my effort, the woman invited Patrick behind the bar to complete the process of pouring the perfect pint. Patrick carefully repeated the steps he had observed as the woman guided him through the process. Although we knew Patrick was pouring his first ever pint of Guinness (at the Guinness Storehouse!), the added pressure didn’t faze him. He completed each of the six steps flawlessly, which earned him high praise from the Guinness employee who proceeded to tell us, “Those ones are on us” before giving us a wink and returning to her duties at the exterior counter. Grateful for the generosity, Patrick and I grabbed our pints and sat down at a nearby table to enjoy our drinks. The smooth, creamy taste of the beer was welcomed and familiar experience for me, but the moment was particularly special for Patrick as he took his very first sip of the world famous Irish Stout. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time” he said as he lifted the glass to his lips and took a drink. Pulling the glass away from his face, he paused for a moment as he looked at the glass. “Well?” I said in anticipation, which prompted Patrick to crack a smile. “That’s damn good!” he exclaimed before taking another drink and setting the glass down. Sure, it was something simple in comparison to the amazing things we had seen on our trip, but that moment was a good one that will undoubtedly be a story both of us tell for some time to come.

Midway through Patrick's pour

Patrick and I sat for a while as we drank down the rest of our “perfect pints.” Eventually, another group entered the facility to get their lesson on the pour, which resulted in them having to give up their complimentary drink ticket we had been lucky enough to retain (Thank you, awesome Guinness employee!). With our pints empty, we decided to wander the rest of the facility before ascending to the Skybar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse. There we grabbed our second complimentary pint of Guinness and took in the views of Dublin and the surrounding Wicklow mountains one last time. As we drank, we were lucky enough to observe the Guinness master brewer, Fergal Murray, as he recorded a video shoot for what appeared to be an upcoming update to the tour footage. As he worked, the man poured pint after pint flawlessly, being careful to sample to flavor of each before he began the next take. As we took the last sips of our pints, it was the cap of an amazing experience at a highly historic brewery at the heart of Ireland. I can’t say there is any better way we could have spent our final moments in Ireland before making the long journey home.

The Skybar
Overlooking Dublin
After leaving the Storehouse, Patrick and I started our route to the Dublin airport to give us more than enough time to make our flight home. As we sat waiting to board, I reflected on our experiences over the past week and thought about our time at the Guinness Storehouse this morning. The magnitude of new experiences I encountered on this trip stunned me as I recapped each day in my mind. In a week’s time I had crossed off so many “I have never...” events it was hard for me to recall all of them. While there were some moments and experiences that stand out more than others, every moment of my first experience in this beautiful nation populated by amazing people will be something that resonates through the rest of my life. In a matter of a week, Ireland and its people have worked their way into my heart. I know I will miss this place greatly, but I guess that just gives me a reason to find a way back in the near future.

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