Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guinness is Good for You

Top a' tha marnin' toe ya. Heather and I just recently got back from Ireland as many of you know and we had a fantastic time. One of the Highlights of our trip was visiting the Guinness storehouse. Don't get me wrong. Heather and I know how touristy a thing this is to do, but if we didn't go it would be like going to India and not seeing the Taj Mahal. (Side note: The Irish might consider the storehouse a thing of equal beauty and spiritual significance.) We trekked through the rain and wind to the west side of the city center to get there and we arrived just in time to grab a departing tour. Or should I say intro to a tour because the tour is self guided.
The first two things they tell you are equally ridiculous. They start by showing you a copy of the lease that Arthur Guinness signed to build the brewery at St. James's Gate. The lease is for nine thousand years. This was in 1759. This is the eighteenth century equivalent of saying elevendy billion years or perhaps saying forever and ever and ever. The second thing they tell you is that the interior of the storehouse is built in the shape of a giant pint glass. He then goes on to tell us how many pints of Guinness it would take to fill a pint glass that size. I don't remember the number because I didn't care. It's not like they would do it. That would be foolish--entertaining but foolish. Hearing that made be think that perhaps the Irish think in those terms on a daily basis. If an Irishman were to see the Grand Canyon, do you suppose his first thought would be "I wonder how many pints of Guinness..."
The ground floor gives you a rundown of the ingredients used to make beer and how Guinness's ingredients are better than everyone else's. It then goes on to say that the fifth ingredient is the founder himself, Arthur Guinness. I'm not sure whether they're saying that his interminable spirit brought the company to fruition, or if they're saying that his ashes were scattered amongst the ingredients thereby making him the fifth ingredient. You know, like a soylent green situation. Also, because the brewery was founded shortly before the American revolution, the portraiture of Arthur Guinness makes him look like a founding father or something. It might be that in Ireland, brewing a decent beer is as important as founding a nation. Then moving upward there are little videos and displays showing you how Guinness is made. There's even a little tray of roasted barley to taste. Eating roasted barley is a lot like eating coffee grounds--interesting until about two second into chewing. Then you just have to deal with it until swallowing.
There are lots of little videos about how Guinness was transported through the years. The tone of the videos makes the mission seem so noble--like this is God's work. Don't get me wrong, I love Guinness, but I don't think the motives were entirely altruistic. The highlight of the floor is the tasting lab where we both got a free taste of Guinness. A little something to tide us over until our free pint at the top.
The next floor is a tribute to advertising throughout Guinness's history. Man is there a lot of it. Much of it includes dubious health claims like "Guinness is good for you" or "Guinness makes you strong" spoken by virile men with handlebar mustaches. They even pulled a publicity stunt at one point in which thousands of bottles were dropped into the ocean each containing a message from king Neptune telling you to drink Guinness. Apparently they are still being found today. I will say that these ads, despite being false and environmentally unfriendly, were effective because I really wanted my Guinness. We blew through the next few floors because they didn't have as much stuff on them.
We got to the penultimate floor and it's perfect pint display. This is where they have a bunch of taps set up and you get to try your hand at pouring the perfect pint. You have the option of either getting your free pint this way or going upstairs to the gravity bar and having them pour it. Heather didn't want to be put on the spot--also she's lazy--but I'm all in. I waited patiently in line until it was my turn where I was instructed to start pouring with the glass at a 45 degree angle, straighten it out and stop at mid-harp (the Guinness glasses have a harp logo near the top.) Then I was told to wait two minutes and then fill up the rest by pushing back on the tap (rather than towards me) to top it off with only Guinness and no nitrogen. Very scientific stuff, I won't bore you. My performance was good enough to earn me an honorary certificate.
I had my pint; the only thing left to do was get Heather hers. We headed up to the gravity bar, got her pint and sat down. The bar has a 360 degree view of Dublin. It would be a really cool place to hang out again if we didn't have to pay eleven euros (student rate--because we're liars) to get in. The view was rainy but pleasant and a great way to enjoy our well earned stouts.
Before we left we hit the gift shop where I got my dad chocolate in the shape of a Guinness pint and we got ourselves two bottles of Guinness Foreign Extra--one of their original recipes with extra hops designed for foreign travel. I've never had it before and I didn't know if they sell it in the U.S. We only got around to trying it two nights ago and it was pretty good. It was nice and hoppy and not as thick while still maintaining its Guinness-ness. I think I like the draught better but sometimes it's nice to live life on the edge. I'm glad we went to the storehouse. It gave us something fun, interesting and uniquely Irish to do on a crappy day--which there are a lot of. I would recommend it highly.


Laura said...

Glad you had such a great trip to Dublin and I would second your recommendation. I think that was the best Guinness I've ever had, at the top in the Gravity Bar. I now fully appreciate how Guinness is health food just a little bit more every time I drink it since I've seen its birthplace. Great post :)

Steve said...

The best pint in the country is pulled in that bar at the St. James Gate. I haven't been back since 07 and I'm well over due. I sure hope you didn't miss the best fish and chips in all Dublin just up the street a block from Temple Bar....

Anonymous said...

I just posted a recipe using guiness which is one of my favorite braising liquids! I'm also in love with Guiness floats...a crime in Ireland to be sure but really good. Here's the link if you're interested:

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