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My husband is a beer drinker.

It’s one of the many things I love about him. He looks great in a suit; he taught me which fork to use at fancy dinners (when in doubt, start at the outside and move in towards your plate); and he can discuss 20th century art without sounding like a pedantic ass.

He also likes football, and Buffalo wings, and a really good beer. And he reminds me that in those things, there is poetry and elegance as well. So while in Dublin, despite Rand’s shouldn’t-have-been-but-actually-was busy schedule, I forced him to take a break and go with me to the Guinness Brewery.

Yes, I wanted him to relax (funny thing, though – a wife glaring at you, asking, “ARE YOU RELAXING?” will in no way help you relax. Just thought you should know). But I had selfish motivations, too: I knew that I couldn’t appreciate the brewery without him. And as angry as I was, I still wanted to see him.

That’s weird, right? I was a walking contradiction.

Not unlike, you know, a guy who is as in love with Ted Baker as he is Aaron Rodgers. But I digress.

There are two parts to the Guinness facility in Dublin. The Storehouse, which includes interactive displays and tasting rooms, and the actual St. James Gate Brewery, named after the neighborhood in south Dublin where it’s located.

There is also a chapel located conveniently nearby. In case you want to get drunk and then married.

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Guinness traces its beginnings back to 1759, when Arthur Guinness leased a plot of four acres at the price of 45 pounds a year. Ever a forward thinker, he signed a 9,000 year lease (I LOVE this fact. It is the greatest fact in the history of facts). Somewhat disappointingly, the lease is now irrelevant, as the land was purchased outright by Guinness some time ago.

A century or so ago, it was the largest brewery in the world. Though it no longer holds that title, it still covers more than 50 acres, and all Guinness sold in the U.K. and Ireland is made there.

So, in my husband’s eyes, it’s basically one of the most important spots in Europe.

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You can’t actually tour the brewery itself, but you can visit the exhibits at the Guinness Storehouse. You won’t see beer being made, but you can walk through the entire brewing process. And then you can drink beer.

Contrary to what this next photo suggests, the tour is self-guided (if you don’t speak English, you can pick up a translator. I mean a translating device, not a translating person. Though I suppose you could pick up a person, too, if you wanted. But the Storehouse doesn’t supply those for free.)

She was very pleasant; I’m not sure why everyone in this photo looks miserable.

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The self-guided tour begins with barley. Because to make beer, you need barley. And lots of it.

Note: this barley was there for display, and not used for making beer. So you can plunge your hands in it all you like, which is weirdly gratifying.

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Like, a hell of a lot of barley. So much barley, you can barely wrap your head around it. (Sorry. I just really wanted to use “barley” and “barely” together in a sentence).

In fact, two-thirds of all the malting barley produced in Ireland every year is purchased by Guinness.

See? WHAT DID I TELL YOU.

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What? I totally knew that fact before I saw the sign. Shut up. I did, too.

Ahem.

The first step to making Guinness is to mill the barley (that is, to crush it). The resulting product is called grist. -

And did you know that beer is mostly water? True story. The next stage of making beer is to add water to the grist and stir it up. Based on that, you’d think that drinking lots of beer would be a great way to hydrate.

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For the record, it’s not.

The water display at the Storehouse is kind of fantastic. I made Rand pose in front of it with me and pretend we weren’t angry with each other.

Look! In this photo you can barely see the rage (in the other photos, you can, though. So I’m not putting them up.)

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Once you’ve added hot water to the grist, you send it through something called a masher, which sounds rather violent. But all it does is mix up the concoction and release brewing sugars.

Since most people don’t like chunky beer (though I argue it’s only a matter of time until they do), the barley particles are then strained out of mix, and the resulting liquid is given the rather unappealing name of “sweet wort”.

Here’s where the hops come in.

Hops are another of the basic ingredients used to make beer. In the past, I’ve pretended to know what they are. I figured “hops” were some kind explosive (“Watch out … those HOPS ARE GONNA BLOW!”) or possibly an animal by-product (“Eww. These hot dogs are made from 90% hops.”) I was wrong.

Shocking, I know. (Especially after that bit with the barley before. I kind of figured I was on a roll.)

Turns out hops are a kind of plant. Nowadays, they are used almost exclusively in the production of beer, to give it that bitter taste I’m so not fond of.

Hops, in all their hoppy glory. (Note: they do not actually hop.)

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Hops are added to the sweet wort along with more barley (which has been toasted), and the substance is boiled for a bit. At this point, I would like to note that I have no idea how people could have looked at barley and hops and water and thought, “DUDE, I have a great idea for a drink.”

I mean, it seems like you would have to be drunk to come up with the idea of beer, you know? It’s a whole chicken and egg kind of thing.

Anywho, at some point, the hops and barley are strained off and yeast is added. For the record, seeing “YEAST” in giant letters is kind of hilarious. Behold:

Told ya.

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Since the early 1900s, a bit of yeast from each batch of Guinness is passed on to the next batch. And just in case something goes awry, they keep a sample of the yeast in a safe, to avoid a beer-tastrophe (Again, I’m sorry. I have no idea what’s wrong with me tonight. I swear I’m sober.)

I made Rand pose with one of the old yeast safes.

“This is the yeast-safe form of protection they could have used!” – Rand

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After the yeast has been added, fermentation occurs. I’m just going to let you make your own jokes about that.

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The mixture is then given some time to mature, after which it stops staying out late and getting way too worked up about the results of American Idol.

My husband’s feelings on maturation.

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It is then packaged, and depending on the type of Guinness, nitrogen or carbon dioxide are added.

The Storehouse walks you through this entire process, and gives you a bit of history about Guinness himself, who was somewhat of a beer pioneer (heh). He started making a light ale, but then switched to exclusively producing a darker beer. It became known as “porter” because of its popularity among the working class porters.

It is also popular among my husband.

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Older models of much of the machinery used to make beer are on display.

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I wasn’t entirely clear on what everything was, but I still made Rand pose for photos next to things. Which shall hereby be referred to as “beer-making doohickeys.”

“Stand next to that thing so I can take a picture of it.”/ “What is it?” / “I don’t know. Just stand next to it.”

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The Storehouse winds upward as it tells the story of Guinness. There are many, many escalators.

And excessively handsome men on escalators.

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Eventually, you reach the Gravity Bar on the top floor. Your admission ticket includes a free drink, which you can redeem up there (and several other locations throughout the building, but frankly, the 360 degree views from the top can’t be beat). On clear days, the panorama is amazing …

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And the place is packed to the gills …

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And there’s the occasional feuding couple trying to make peace with one another.

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Rand and I didn’t actually have time to enjoy a drink up there. We snapped a few photos, weaved our way through the crowd, and left. He needed to get back to the hotel to finish up his presentation, and I’d taken up enough of his time (later, we’d both learn that he had unknowingly missed an important meeting to be with me at the brewery. Which still pains me to think about).

We’ll have to go back again sometime. When Rand isn’t so swamped with work. When I’m not so angry at him for having to compete for his attention. Hopefully the views will be just as lovely.

And seeing the word “YEAST” in huge letters will still be just as funny.

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The Essentials on the Guinness Storehouse:

  • Verdict: Yes. I’m not even a beer drinker, and I thought this place was great.
  • How to Get There: If you are staying downtown, you can easily walk here (our hotel was across the water from Temple Bar, and we found that the stroll is nice if the weather cooperates). There are also plenty of opportunities to get there via public transport.
  • Ideal for: Beer drinkers, Irish history lovers, and anyone who isn’t up for an art museum but still wants to appreciate something created with passion.
  • Insider Tips: Give yourself a solid 90 minutes to see everything, as well as time to grab a drink at the Gravity Bar and mill around. Alternatively, you can use your drink ticket on a lower level bar, where they will teach you how to pour Guinness (again, we had no time for that, but it looked pretty neat). There is plenty to see, and rushing through this place is not fun (trust me). And try to pick a less-crowded day to tour (since it was sunny, we actually had fewer crowds to contend with, as no one wanted to be inside).
  • Nearby food: there’s cafes inside, which serve rather traditional pub fare (according to Yelp, the food varies), and there are also a huge wealth of restaurants in the Temple Bar area, which isn’t a terribly far walk.
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  • Good for kids: Children are allowed in the storehouse, but I suspect they would be bored to tears (those under 18 still get a complimentary drink, it’s a soda. Which is for the best.) I’d suggest leaving the little ones at home, unless you have someone who’s wee enough to fit in a stroller and will sleep through the noise and commotion.
Full list of categories:  Attractions » City Guide
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Comments (11)

  1. 04. Dec, 2012 / Mark:

    I think I shall now call my brewmaster friend a “beer making doohickey” Thank you for the inspiration.

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  2. 04. Dec, 2012 / Kayla:

    I was in Dublin for a week at the end of a month of gallivanting around Europe- and since I was pretty much broke by at time, I didn’t end up going in.
    But I drank a guinness in temple bar in the hopes that it would count instead.
    Thank you for all the Dublin pictures- it has definitely been my happy pill of the day. :)

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  3. 04. Dec, 2012 / Melissa:

    I did the lower bar thing when I was at the Guinness Storehouse last year and it was interesting to learn how to pull a proper pint. There are little tricks like the fact that the harp on an official Guinness glass is strategically placed so you know where to place the nozzle (put the nozzle on the harp and tip the glass forward until the other side hits the spout so that your glass is at the perfect angle).

    We went up to the Gravity Bar afterwards to check out the view and then had lunch in their cafe. Guinness and beef stew was a great first meal in Ireland.

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  4. 04. Dec, 2012 / Jen:

    If you want to see beer actually being made, come over to Kansas City! Boulevard gives tours of the actual brewery, and includes 4 drink samples. ;-) Plus, then you would be in my neck of the woods!

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  5. 04. Dec, 2012 / Luis:

    It’s a little clearer now what that fight was all about. Uuuuh, I’m taking his side, outie!

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  6. 04. Dec, 2012 / Andi:

    I think I took some of these exact pictures. Minus the adorable feuding couple.
    I loved the tour as well. The Jameson tour in Dublin is also really interesting and you get whisky so you really can’t go wrong ;)

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  7. 04. Dec, 2012 / Courtney:

    You two should come over and help make beer sometime. Also yeast reuse is pretty common. Since the fermenters are conical the yeast drops to the bottom and you just open a valve and pull a bunch out and then throw it in the next batch. It’s a money saver for breweries to reuse it. You can get 3-4 good uses out of it.

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  8. 04. Dec, 2012 / Kurt Varner:

    Although I had a fantastic time at the “Guinness Brewery”, I was definitely a little disappointed that you couldn’t tour the actually brewery. I think that is what most people would expect when going there. That said, they did a great job at making it a fun experience. Plus, you’ll never drink a better Guinness than the one poured from the Gravity Bar.

    Cheers, and thanks for sharing your story :)

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  9. 05. Dec, 2012 / julie:

    This is great! I’m planning a trip to Dublin in March with a good friend of mine and the Guinness Storehouse is on our to do list. We are also planning a literary pub crawl.

    Thanks for all the Ireland info lately. It’s getting me more excited for my visit!

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  10. 06. Dec, 2012 / Anisa:

    When we visited Ireland we did not do the brewery tour, just stopped by and took a few pictures. But we did go to the temple bar area and had a few pints of Guinness. ( and some cider!) I don’t know if you tried the Guinness when you were there, but it does not taste the same here in the U.S. as it does in Ireland. It tastes so much better in Ireland. And I am not a big beer drinker, but it does taste great in Dublin. I am loving your Ireland posts. Reminds me of my trips there.

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  11. 06. Dec, 2012 / Bryan Zug:

    Have you read much about what a trailblazer Arthur Guinness was on creating socially conscious company? Blew me away when I read it…

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2009-11-09-column09_ST_U.htm

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    As a Guinness who headed the brewery in the mid-1800s said, “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.”

    This was an exceptionally farsighted and compassionate sentiment for the industrial age, but it was just the type of pillar upon which Guinness built a lasting legacy of good.

    A century and a quarter after Arthur Guinness died, a worker at the brewery in Dublin would have enjoyed round-the-clock care from doctors, dentists, nurses and home health workers. There was even a masseuse. Retirees received pensions as a gift from the company, which also paid most funeral expenses.

    There were classes on nearly every enriching topic, reading rooms, savings banks, exercise facilities and educational benefits for both workers and their families. Concerned about the detrimental effects of city life upon its employees’ health, the company even paid workers to take their families – or their dates – to the country periodically.

    And, nearly as important to some weary laborers, the company gave every employee two pints of the lovely dark beer every day, free of charge.

    All of this was true in 1928, not a particularly enlightened time for employee care.
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