Yes, that’s right, this is part 3 and not part 2.
If we go in chronological order, my second post about vacation should be about our trip to Cork to go to Blarney Castle. But I decided to go ahead and cover the rest of our time in Dublin with the Guinness Brewery and the Old Jameson Distillery first.
The Guinness Storehouse is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin…and probably partly because it comes with a free pint of Guinness. I’m not a huge fan of beer but I can appreciate the novelty of touring the brewery and I can certainly appreciate the allure of free beer. Plus, in May of 2011, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visited the Storehouse as part of a state visit to Ireland. So, if it’s good enough for the Queen, I suppose it’s good enough for me.
In 1759, Arthur Guinness was 34 years old when he signed the lease on a brewery at St. James Gate, Dublin for an annual rent of 45 pounds. Arthur was apparently an eternal optimist because the term of the lease he signed was 9,000 years. You have to really believe in your product to sign a lease that long. In 1833, with plenty of years left on the lease he signed, Arthur’s beloved Guinness brewery officially became the largest brewery in Ireland.
Another interesting fact about the brewery is that before 1939, if a Guinness brewer wished to marry a Catholic, his resignation was requested. If you read my first Ireland post, you know that Trinity College required attendees to accept the Protestant faith. I think these two examples illustrate the tension historically present between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.
The Guinness Storehouse is an impressive seven story building and it surrounds a glass atrium that is supposed to resemble a gigantic Guinness pint glass. Michael and I both thought the resemblance was rough at best. The tour is self-guided after an introduction by an employee on the ground floor. We had time stamped tickets to the Old Jameson Distillery after the Storehouse so we kind of rushed through the tour part.
At the end of the self-guided tour, you have two options. The first option is to ascend to the top floor which is Guinness’ famous Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is a round room with windows that provide a 360 degree view of Dublin. It is here that you can enjoy your free pint of Guinness. On this particular day, the Gravity Bar was mobbed. So, we decided to obtain our free pint by attending the Guinness Academy instead.
The Guinness Academy is where you are schooled in the art of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness. I had no idea that there was a specific procedure to follow but Killian (yes, that was his name) taught us the proper way to pour a pint of Guinness… and now I know. I won’t bore you with all the details but the procedure is very specific. From using the correct glass, to holding it at the perfect 45 degree angle, to tilting the glass at the right moment, to patiently waiting through the full two-minute “surge,” to topping it off so that you get a perfect dome of foam, the procedure is explained in detail in the Guinness Academy. And while I mastered the art, I can assure you that if you order a Guinness in a bar, there is little chance that they’re following the proper pint pouring procedure. Does it impact the flavor? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’m not a fan of beer and certainly not a big fan of stout. I was only able to drink about half of my pint before I got that uncomfortable “too full” feeling beer always gives me. Michael heroically stepped in and finished my pint for me.
After Killian approved our Guinness-pouring abilities and awarded us our diplomas (not kidding, we really did get official certificates) certifying us as excellent Guinness Pint Pourers, we did head up to the Gravity Bar to rub shoulders (literally) with the bajillion people trying to take in the views of Dublin and take shelter from the pouring rain outside. We declined to have another pint and once we snapped a few pictures, we headed to the Old Jameson Distillery to partake in the REAL magic of Ireland: Whiskey.
Despite the fact that Jameson is no longer made in Dublin and the current distillery is located in Cork, I enjoyed the tour of the old distillery more than the self-guided Guinness tour and not just because I like whiskey more than stout. I thought the tour was informative and interesting and I actually learned a lot about whiskey. I understand what makes Jameson different from American Whiskey or Scotch or even other Irish Whiskeys. I’d explain it to you, but if you’re really interested, you can Google it.
I was also selected to participate in the taste test at the end of the tour. And even though the goal of the test isn’t to identify which whiskey is which, I was able to identify all three by smell alone before even tasting. I received an official certificate identifying me as a whiskey taster but my boss still hasn’t agreed to let me add that title to my business card. Not sure why he’s resisting. I have this official whiskey taster certificate that I could frame and hang alongside my diploma and my engineering license.
So, even though I blogged out of order, I hope you enjoyed this post. I assure you that the best is yet to come. My next post will be about our trip to Blarney Castle outside of Cork. We actually did this the day before visiting the Guinness Storehouse and Old Jameson Distillery and it was amazing. There are so many pictures to go with that post that I’m not sure I can fit them all into one post but I’ll try my best to be selective and only show you the best ones. It was just such an amazing place that it was virtually impossible to take a bad picture.
Until then, I leave you with this picture of “mini Guinness shots” prepared for us by the bartender at the Bloody Scream our first night in Ireland. You may remember this as the bar where the bar fight broke from my first Ireland blog. These are actually shots of Kahlua topped with Irish Cream. They look like tiny little pints of Guinness but they taste like chocolate milk – and I definitely prefer them to Guinness.