With more than 15 million pints of Guinness consumed each day in more than 150 countries, the popularity of this Irish beer spreads far beyond its home country. Yet Guinness remains synonymous with Ireland and for many visitors, having a few pints tops their list of “must do” activities on the Emerald Isle. Another must do: a visit to the home of Guinness, the Guinness Storehouse.
Opened in 2000, the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s top attraction, and there’s good reason that more than four million people have visited in the last decade and a half. The working brewery is a seven-story monument to “the black stuff” that's part history museum and part interactive multi-sensory experience, rounded out with plenty of opportunities to learn about, understand, and -- of course -- taste Guinness.
While you might be tempted to take a quick stroll through the museum portion of the Storehouse before making a beeline for the 7th floor Gravity Bar for a cold pint, it’s worth taking your time to make your way slowly through the building and check out some of the add-on activities. In fact, you could easily spend the majority of your day here -- and you should, even if you don’t consider yourself a Guinness enthusiast (you might be one by the time you leave). After all, Guinness has been the quintessential drink of Ireland for more than 250 years; there’s a lot of history to cover.
Here’s how to spend the perfect day at the Guinness Storehouse:
The Guinness Storehouse is laid out on seven floors surrounding a glass atrium in the shape of a pint glass. As you start on the ground floor and work your way up, you’ll get an overview of what it takes to create Guinness, with insight on the interplay between each of the beer's four ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and barley (more than 75 percent of Ireland’s entire barley crop is used in the production of Guinness). You’ll learn how Arthur Guinness negotiated a 9,000 year lease for the brewery, and how he built eight miles of railroad track and even his own barges to help distribute the beer. As you explore the various exhibits you’ll see what it was like to be a cooper -- an artisan who crafted the wooden barrels used to store beer before metal kegs were invented -- and learn all about the brewing process, which takes 9-10 days.
On the 2nd floor, step into the Tasting Experience, a multi-sensory, interactive exhibit that highlights the flavors found in Guinness. In each of four metal drums, a scented mist contains scents and flavors found in the beer; take a deep breath and then compare the scents to those you detect in a small sample pint.
Then head up to the third floor to check out the World of Advertising, which displays more than 80 years of Guinness advertisements, posters, and vintage Guinness bottles. Guinness held the world’s second patent and ran its first ad (which is on display) in 1929.
There’s a fine art to pouring a pint of Guinness. In fact, it’s officially a six-step process that should take exactly 119.5 seconds. While that may sound arbitrary and pretentious, there’s a method and reasoning to the ritual, which is explained in the Guinness Academy. In each session, a Guinness expert explains each part of the process and the reasons behind the rules, and then each person gets to try their hand at pouring a pint. Those who succeed are presented with a certificate to commemorate their mastery of the skill. And of course, you get to drink your perfectly poured Guinness.
There are three restaurants located on the Storehouse’s 5th floor; each offers creative dishes with Guinness-based ingredients. There’s the casual, quick-service Brewers' Dining Hall, the cozy Arthur’s Bar, and the 1837 Bar & Brasserie, which takes its name from the year of the first printed mention of the now-iconic pairing of oysters and Guinness. Traditional pub dishes get a modern twist with rich and earthy mushrooms served on toast, or spicy sausage wrapped around a soft-boiled egg -- and many dishes, such as a hearty lamb stew or a rich chocolate mousse, are infused with Guinness. There are also several varieties of the beer on tap and in bottles. And if you’re surprised to know that there are, in fact, several varieties of Guinness, you won’t want to miss the next experience.
Step behind a hidden door into an exclusive, private space: the Connoisseur Bar. Set in a small room lined with photos of the Guinness family, you’ll belly up to long bar lit from below for the intimate Connoisseur Experience, a small-group tasting of several Guinness varieties. And yes, there are several. While the Guinness Draught most people know and love makes up 40 percent of all Guinness sales, it’s actually one of the newest beers. The first beers brewed by Arthur Guinness were ales and the original Guinness Extra Stout, followed a West India Porter that was made with more hops (which act as a preservative) to endure long sea journeys.
Guinness Draught was added to the mix in 1959. At other points, varieties including Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Dublin Porter, and Nitro IPA were added. In addition, the brewery also makes several limited edition beers, such as the Guinness Milk Stout.
The Connoisseur Experience starts with a lesson in how to properly taste Guinness, just as the professional tasters at the brewery do every day, with every batch of Guinness. From there, a Guinness expert walks guests through each of the varieties, sharing history and trivia about Guinness along the way.
If you’re not Guinnessed-out, cap off your day at Guinness with a stop in the 7th floor Gravity Bar, which offers beautiful 360-degree views over the brewery grounds and Dublin. Every admission ticket to the Storehouse includes a ticket for a free pint of Guinness, and though you can use the ticket in one of the restaurants, the view makes the Gravity Bar the best place for your final taste of Ireland’s iconic beer.