I’m back in Europe, capping off my first day in Dublin at the Guinness Gravity Bar.
(If I sound a little loose in this video clip, it’s probably fatigue. After not sleeping a wink on the nine-hour Vancouver-Dublin flight, I landed at 9 a.m., dropped my bag at the hotel, and dove right into Dublin — the best way to deal with jet lag.)
The Guinness Tour is a pilgrimage for many. But while some love it, others are disappointed. It’s expensive, very crowded, and not really a “brewery tour.” If you’re planning a trip to Dublin, a good guidebook — one that accurately describes the tour without promoting or condemning it — will help you make an informed choice.
After my visit to the Guinness Storehouse, I wrote an update for my Ireland guidebook. Here’s a sneak peek at how the Guinness Storehouse listing will appear in the upcoming 2018 edition of Rick Steves Ireland:
A visit to the Guinness Storehouse is, for many, a pilgrimage. But over time, the historic artifacts on display have been replaced by glitzy entertainment, and many of its 1.5 million annual visitors find the vibe to be more like a Disneyland for beer lovers. Don’t expect conveyor belts of beer bottles being stamped with bottle caps; rather than a brewery tour, you’ll find huge crowds, high-decibel music, and dreamy beer commercials on wall-sized screens.
Arthur Guinness began brewing the renowned stout here in 1759, and by 1868 it was the biggest brewery in the world. Today, the sprawling brewery complex fills several city blocks (64 acres busy brewing 3 million pints a day). You’ll visit the towering Storehouse.
Cost and Hours: €20, includes a €5 pint; daily 9:30-19:00, July-Aug until 20:00 (last entry 2 hours before closing, last beer served 45 min before closing); enter on Bellevue Street, bus #123, #13, or #40 from Dame Street and O’Connell Street; tel. 01/408-4800, www.guinness-storehouse.com. All Hop-on Hop-off buses stop right at Guinness (your HOHO ticket gives you a €1 discount here). Lines can be horrible at peak times, both outside and at various stops within (that’s why online bookings are 20% discounted from 9:30 to 10:45).
Visiting the Brewery: The exhibit fills the old fermentation plant used from 1902 through 1988, which reopened in 2000 as a huge shrine to the Guinness tradition. Step into the middle of the ground floor and look up. A tall, beer-glass-shaped glass atrium — 14 million pints big — soars upward past four floors of exhibitions and cafés to the skylight. Then look down at Arthur’s original 9,000-year lease, enshrined under Plexiglas in the floor…and you realize that at £45 per year, it was quite a bargain.
As you escalate ever higher, you’ll notice that each floor has a theme: 1st floor is the Cooperage (with 1954 film clips showing the master keg-makers plying their now virtually extinct trade); 2nd floor for the Tasting Rooms (described below); 3rd floor for Advertising (including a theater with classic TV ads); 4th floor, where you can pull your own beer at the Academy; 5th floor for Arthur’s Bar. The top floor is the “Gravity Bar,” providing visitors with a commanding 360-degree view of Dublin, with vistas all the way to the sea.
The tasting rooms (on the 2nd floor) provide a fun detour. In the “white room,” you’re introduced to using your five senses to appreciate the perfect porter. Then, in the “velvet chamber,” you’re taught how to taste it from a leprechaun-sized beer glass.
Your admission includes a ticket for a beer. There are three places to use it: On the 4th floor, you can pull your own pint. On the 5th floor, at Arthur’s Bar, you have the most choice, including extra stout (4.2, carbonated); Dublin Porter (3.8, 1796 recipe); West Indies Porter (6.0, toffee flavor, 1801 recipe); Hop House 13 (4.1, a hoppy lager); and Black Velvet (half sparkling wine and half Guinness). And on the top floor is the Gravity Bar, where there’s the most energy and fun, but drinks are limited to the basic stout or soft drinks.
This is Day 64 of my “100 Days in Europe” series. As I travel with Rick Steves’ Europe Tours, research my guidebooks, and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences across Europe. Still to come: England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, and more. Thanks for joining me here on my blog and via Facebook.