Newest Review: ... attraction and we went early to avoid the crowds. Note, this isn't the actual real brewery now so you wont see any brewing. On the grou... more
A Long Walk Up A Tall Glass.
Guinness Brewery (Dublin)
Member Name: jatkinson100
Guinness Brewery (Dublin)
Date: 20/02/05, updated on 28/02/05 (960 review reads)
Advantages: Learning about advertising history and coopering., 'Free' pint at the top., The view.
Disadvantages: Generally, poor., Lack of detailed information.
Costing E14.00, about £10.00, the Guinness Storehouse promises a history of the company and the product, as well as the founder, Arthur Guinness, not to mention a free pint when you reach the top. The storehouse itself is within walking distance from the city centre, about 20-30 mins, and is on many bus routes as well as all of the tour bus routes. It is shaped like a (very) large pint glass with the ‘head’ of the beer being the Gravity Bar where you get your free pint and a great view of the city.
You enter the large building, pay your money, and then take a self-guided tour up and up. Immediately, you are shown the process of brewing Guinness and each of the important ingredients. The large room is very dark and the rush of running water is ever present, showing its importance to the whole process; contrary to popular belief, it is not, and never was, the water of the Liffe that go into Guinness, but local water which was for the town’s use. Large glass pipes filled with the ingredients, such as hops, are situated all over with descriptions of how they are changed / used in the process. However, due to the darkness, you can’t really see what they look like, thus negating the need for the clear pipes. The information about them isn’t very detailed, is difficult to read, and connoisseurs of brewery tours or brewing will be disappointed at the lack of real information. You do learn little bits, but nothing of great value. The LED shows ans subdued lighting do little to help this, and, indeed, often hider the would-be reader.
Up another level is the history of St James’ Gate and the storehouse itself. The information, again patchy and of little depth, tells you about the Storehouse’s original use as, er, a storehouse. It shows where it was situated in the original brewery and includes a couple of machines that were used there. Walking inside the giant copper brewing kettle is interesting, giving a great idea of the scale and size of manufacture. You are promised that you can “inhale the fragrance of hops, which remains embedded in the metal,” but any discernable and distinguishable odours have long since departed. This trip down the history of brewing is interesting, but far from gripping, and the quality of the information and lack of depth is a constant bother. It is a shame that, with such a magnificent name, history and provenance, Guinness couldn’t do better for themselves.
Moving onwards and upwards the only gem of the Storehouse appears; the cooperage. This small area shows you the tools of the trade for coopers, or cask / barrel makers. Inset in barrels are TV screens showing a traditional cooper at the Guinness brewery making a barrel. This is truly a great thing to see. I never imagined the amount of time, skill and hard work that went into each and every barrel!
On the same floor is the history of St James’ Gate and brief, un-detailed accounts of how and when it grew. What is interesting is that some of the improvements and additions were of the Chicago school of architecture, which itself grew out of the great Chicago fire. And, if that’s the most interesting thing I can remember about this section, it show’s how ‘interesting’ the whole this was!
On the next floor is a twee, saccharine homage to Arthur Guinness. You see a video about his life, well, little bits of it, and how he founded and adapted the St James’ Gate site and the product much loved today. It makes him out to be a great philanthropist, social redresser and family man. Who knows, maybe he was, but, coming out of a large building dripping in emblems, logos and product placement, I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was a true, fair and well-balanced account. Of course, it also notes the most famous tenancy in brewing history; the 9,000 year lease at £45 per year that Arthur signed. It also tells of early difficulties, not least the city council trying to cut of his water supply! At the end, though, is the worst thing; a smooth, refined Irish accent appeals to you to “raise a glass to Arthur – he’ll appreciate it.” I was glad to leave that section after that, only to be confronted with those words in foot high letters on the wall as I went through to the next section.
Upstairs is, possibly, the second most interesting part of the tour. A whole floor is devoted to memorabilia from the Guinness company, from small, novelty giveaways to a great section on advertising history. It shows examples of TV adverts, including Rutger Hauer’s bizarre, although appealing, turn as “The Man with the Guinness,” and artwork, such as the toucan and zookeeper. Delightfully mainly free of the poor informative posters in other sections, the Guinness people had the good sense to let these little pieces of advertising and memorabilia history talk for themselves, and, compared to the rest of the displays, they shouted.
Next section: Irish bars and ‘interesting’ and ‘amazing’ ‘facts’ about them – rubbish!
Finally, we reached the top of the pint and the Gravity Bar. We partook of a tipple and experienced, arguably, the finest part of the tour; no, it had nothing to do with the Guinness, or the fact that we could now leave and rest our aching feet. The view from the Gravity Bar is excellent, and you can see for miles, even to some of the green fields that Ireland is famed for. With a near 360degree view, the city lays out in front of you, with small signs etched onto the windows pointing out various points of interest, though I was never sure which was which; “Is that St Patrick’s there or Trinity College?” Perhaps I’m not one for sightseeing at such sights.
Back down at the bottom is the gift shop – tons of memorabilia covered head to toe in Guinness logos, harps and, of course, toucans. The quality is, generally, good, but it is quite expensive, but no more so than other outlets stocking their wares. On a lighter note, and I swear this is true, we went to the Information Desk. We’d got off one of the tour busses getting there, but were going to walk back into town. “How long will it take to walk to the Gaiety Theatre?” I asked. “About 25 minutes,” the young lady behind the desk replied. “But if you walk quickly, it won’t take that long.” And, by the way, she wasn’t Irish.
All in all, the Guinness Storehouse was a disappointment. It promised much and delivered little. The best parts for me seemed to be things thrown in to take up space and the main features were of little or no significance or interest. You walk through a tall tower of branding and product placement, hearing how great the brand, people and company are, but are given little evidence or information on why, exactly, Guinness is great. They say, often, the Guinness is good for you; I’m guessing that’s only if you’re a chiropodist or share holder.
If in Dublin, well, you have to go, don’t you? But don’t expect it to be like they say in the brochure! You’ll get tired feet and a headache from reading in the dark, and when you are let out into the light, not even the view and free pint can make it all better.
For a review on Dublin in general, please see http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/ dublin-in-general/1004186/)
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