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Guiness Brewery (Dublin)
Member Name: jools30
Guiness Brewery (Dublin)
Date: 17/11/01, updated on 17/11/01 (1565 review reads)
Advantages: An intersting experience, a free pintof Guinness!
Disadvantages: none at all!
A trip to Dublin would not be complete without a visit to the home of the Black Stuff – the Guinness brewery.
So we headed off to the new Guinness Storehouse on the last Saturday in September to sample the Guinness experience (as well as the Guinness!).
There has been a brewery on the site at St James’ Gate in Dublin since at least 1670 when it was owned by Giles Mee (a brewer who later became Dublin’s Lord Mayor). 21 years later it passed to his son-in-law, Mark Rainsford, who continued to brew ales and beers. Rainsford’s son leased the brewery in 1715 to John Paul Espinasse. In 1759, Arthur Guinness – the 34-year-old son of a land agent from County Kildare – signed his name to a 9000 year lease, paid for with a legacy he had inherited, and so the Guinness legend was born.
The new Guinness Storehouse was only opened to the public in December 2000, after it was decided that the old Guinness Hopstore was having difficulty coping with the number of visitors. As many as 500,000 were visiting each year, although the store was originally designed to cope with only 70,000 per year. In 1996, architects were retained to convert the vacant fermentation plant at the St. James’ Gate Brewery into a world-class tourism venture – and they have succeeded. In just over 4 years they have completed the £30 million project and the new Storehouse opened in December 2000 with the capacity to cater for up to 1 million visitors each year.
The experience starts when you enter a massive glass atrium and purchase your ticket to the experience. The ticket is unique in that it is a clear plastic pebble with a small globule of real Guinness inside it. Do not lose this – it is your ticket to a free glass of the black stuff at the end of the tour (more on this later), and can be kept as a unique memento of your visit.
Off the central atrium is the Guinness Archive, where almost 250 years’ wor
th of records relating to the brewery, the people who worked in it and the local area are stored. It is one of the few company archives that is open to the public and contains not just the history of Guinness, but the history of Dublin and the history of Ireland as well.
Encased in the floor of the atrium is the original lease document signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759 – a fascinating memento of the founding of this great company. I felt it was a shame it was in the floor as many people rushed past in their haste to begin the tour.
The tour is self-guided and starts when you walk into a dark space that is supposed to resemble a vat of swirling Guinness – the noise of rushing water from a 7 metre wide waterfall is deafening as you enter the ingredients section. Hops fly around inside a glass case and a huge tray of barley resembles a giant sandbox for you to scoop up or rake into patterns. Whilst arrows on the floor and wall guide you round the experience, you have to keep looking all around as there is information everywhere for you to read and absorb.
The next section is a meeting with Arthur himself – an authentic Georgian room houses his desk and chair while audiotapes and pictures recount details of his dealings. This area seemed to be a haven for photographers as guests queued up to have their photograph taken in the great man’s chair.
Moving on to a section devoted to the brewing process, there are old brewing artefacts and large tubes containing the barley at various stages in the brewing process until it becomes the final product.
The ‘Cooperage’ section has video screens hidden in barrels where you can see old footage of coopers at work. This leads onto transportation and displays of the various methods used.
The advertising section contains lots of memorabilia from past advertising campaigns, together with a hall of fame showing classic ads.
The next f
loors house a learning centre where bar staff from around the world can learn how to pour the perfect pint. There is also a large circular display structure where guests can fill in a card and leave a memento for others to read. Up to the next floor and the Brewery Bar where you can purchase lunch, although most people bypass this on the way up as they are keen to get to the Gravity Bar and the final part of the experience – a free pint of Guinness. The Gravity Bar is a circular structure offering a wonderful panoramic view over Dublin. (If, like me, you don’t like Guinness, soft drinks are available instead.) It is a bit of a crush in the bar as there are only 4 pumps for pulling pints so you will have to wait your turn.
Throughout the tour every sense is stimulated, from the noise of the waterfall and the tapes of former workers recounting their experiences, to the sights on every available surface. You can touch everything from barley to machinery and smell the powerful aromas of hops and barley. And finally, the taste of the black stuff itself.
Back down to the ground floor and the obligatory visit to the retail shop where you can peruse a vast array of branded merchandise.
We arrived at the Storehouse at around 11am and walked straight in – by 12 o’clock people were queuing for the experience. Admission costs for adults were £9 (Irish Punts) each, although these are increasing to £9.50 from 1st December. Family, student, Senior citizen and child discounts are available – under 6’s enter for free.
The Storehouse is open from 9.30am to 5pm all year round, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Good Friday when it is closed.
Located at St. James’ Gate, it is easily accessible by bus (123 from O’Connell Street, 51B and 78A from Aston Quay). If you go on one of the hop-on, hop-off bus trips, they will stop right outside the gates and give you
a money off voucher for entry. Free parking is also available at the site. There is wheelchair access to the store, as lifts are available on all floors.
For more information and a virtual tour see the website at www.guinness.com.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Storehouse – it is a fascinating experience on the history of a great product. You can spend as much or as little time in the different areas as you want to – there is no rush. Some people go round in an hour; others stay all day and take advantage of the food from the Brewery bar before continuing their tour.
It is certainly somewhere I would recommend others to visit if in Dublin and if I am ever fortunate to go back to Dublin, I would probably visit again and I am sure I would see things that I had missed first time round.
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