When I Say Arthur, You Say G… Arthur. G. Arthur. G. | 24 hours in Dublin with Guinness
Forget Honey G, in Dublin it’s all about Arthur G – and the G is for Guinness! After our whistle-stop trip, I appreciate the Guinness brand more than ever. Whether or not you’re partial to a drop of the black stuff, it’s almost impossible to ignore the impact that Guinness has had on Dublin and on Ireland as a whole. Even if you don’t like the world’s most popular stout, The Open Gate Brewery and The Guinness Storehouse are two of the city’s must visit attractions.
My love for Guinness started in my late teens due to ‘medical’ reasons. After a bout of pre-exam stress and heavy post exam partying, I had to see the doctor about a stomach ulcer that I’d developed. My doctor asked what’s my tipple of choice to which I replied cider. ‘Way too acidic’ he said, ‘try drinking Guinness instead’. So, under doctors orders, I switched – maybe the old ads stating that Guinness is good for you is not too far from the truth after all (not that the company endorses this view anymore).
Anyway, enough of my distant youth and on to our actual trip. After a short flight with Ryanair and an even shorter taxi ride from Dublin airport to The Morrison hotel on the bank of the River Liffey it was time to have a swift half (or six) at the Open Gate Brewery.
The Open Gate Brewery has only been open a year and can be a little tricky to find. Even our taxi driver was a little confused to where it actually was. It’s not The Storehouse (all taxis know there) it’s just past Guinness’ famous big black main gates on James Street.
This slight difficulty in finding the Open Gate Brewery only adds to its feeling of exclusivity, you can’t just rock up on the night and expect to get in. As it’s only open on Thursday and Friday nights (from 5.30pm–10.30pm) you must book in advance. Tickets are only €6 and for that you get admission and a beer tasting board of four 1/3 pints. And these aren’t just any old beers these are ‘experimental’ beers.
There has been an experimental brewery at St. James’s Gate for over a hundred years and during the day this is a real working brewery where the brew masters work their magic exploring new recipes, reinterpreting old ones and experimenting freely to bring exciting new beers to life. As the website says ‘Some of these beers will end up at your local pub or the far side of the world, others will NEVER leave these walls’, but as we were in those walls we planned to make the most of it.
These beers change and rotate regularly so what we sampled may not be on the chalkboard but just in case it’s available you must try the Antwerp Imperial Stout, we were lucky to try an extra special exclusive version that had been brewed in an old whiskey barrel. It was incredible, sweet with dark fruit flavours punching through – lucky Belgians! The Milk Stout is also a must, again quite sweet (because lactose, a sugar derived from milk cannot be fermented by beer yeast) but with a slight caramel taste.
While at the Open Gate Brewery, make sure you take advantage of the beer specialists whom are on hand to pour you the perfect pint and talk you though the beers. What our specialist, Aaron, didn’t know about Guinness wasn’t worth knowing. As we sipped on our drinks, we feed on Aaron’s knowledge and listened intently as he explained with such passion and enthusiasm that even after six or so different beers I could still remember the facts. Why couldn’t my teachers have been more like Aaron, I might have actually learnt something at school.
As mentioned before the Open Gate Brewery has a real feeling of exclusivity. It didn’t seem touristy, in fact it seemed to have more Dubliners in than overseas visitors. We got chatting to a friendly local father and son duo with whom we ended up sharing drinks and stories.
We could have stayed all night, well at least until closing time. But as we were only in Dublin for 24 hours we thought it best that we actually saw a little of this vibrant city and sample what the restaurant scene was like. After a wander around the Soho-esque Temple Bar area and a hearty meal at Fade Street Social it was time to head back to our hotel and to bed – for there were more Guinness adventures to be had early the next morning.
After a great night’s sleep and breakfast (including Guinness bread, you really can’t get away from the black stuff) it was time to jump in a taxi and head back to St. James Gate. This time it was The Guinness Storehouse‘s turn to keep us occupied and this time it definitely was touristy.
The Storehouse – winner of the top attraction in Europe, had over 1.5 million visitors last year. After our visit you can see why, there are seven floors packed to the heavy steel rafters with interesting facts, interactive experiences and, of course, the odd tipple of Guinness. Looking up the whole building is designed in the shape of a Guinness glass – genius!
Standard adult tickets start from €14 (including a free pint) but there are other options, we especially liked the sound of the Connoisseur Experience – a five-star tasting experience, an intimate session that takes place in their luxurious private bar.
Every display, around every corner, on every floor is so brilliantly produced. A stuffy museum this is not, The Storehouse has a real buzz about it – a fun atmosphere that makes you want to learn. And learn I did, every fact was ‘wow, I didn’t know that’ moment. At least I know my specialist subject if I were to ever go on Mastermind (or if there ever happens to be a Guinness round in a pub quiz.)
There was so much to see and do and so many facts and figures that I could spout out. But don’t worry, I won’t! Firstly I don’t want to spoil it for when you go and secondly this post is getting long enough already.
The Guinness journey started on the ground floor where we saw the original lease that Arthur signed in 1759. He had the incredible foresight and belief in his abilities to take a 9,000-year lease on the 4-acre site at St. James’s Gate for an annual rent of £45!
On this floor you learn about exactly what it takes to make stout the Guinness way. Brewed using just four natural ingredients – water, barley (malted & roasted), hops and their famous strain of yeast. There’s also a gift shop on the ground floor but we ran out of time to check out their range of gifts and goodies – gutted!
Half of the first floor is dedicated to the main man and his family. Arthur Guinness fathered 21 children (of which only 10 made it to maturity) which meant his wife, Olivia, was pregnant for 16 years of her life. If nowt else it seems that Guinness puts some lead in your pencil. The Guinness family run the brewery right up to 1997 when the company merged with Grand Metropolitan to form the drinks giant Diageo (imagine just how well stocked the bar is at their Christmas staff party!).
The other half of the first floor is given over to cooperage and transport. Today Guinness is brewed in 49 countries and sold in over 150, with an incredible 10 million glasses enjoyed every day around the world. A lot has changed since May 1769 when Arthur first exported his ale – a very modest six-and-a-half barrels across the Irish Sea to Great Britain.
Up the escalator to the second floor and it’s all about the tasting experience. This multi-sensory journey brings the distinctive flavours of our iconic stout to life. Back in 1959 Guinness was the first stout to use nitrogen in the pouring process, creating the ‘surge’ of three million bubbles giving it its smooth, creamy taste.
To be honest we sped through this floor as who knew that we had a special Guinness food pairing session planned up on the fourth floor – more on that later. Plus I wanted to spent more time on the third floor, the Guinness World of Advertising.
We’re graphic designers and I started my career at a central London advertising agency so obviously this was a subject close to my heart. The artwork of Guinness’ beer bottle labels fascinate me, apparently the new labels for the West Indies and Dublin Porters are inspired by their older designs. What I wouldn’t give to spend some time flicking through all the creative artwork in their archive.
We got to Immerse ourselves in over eighty years of groundbreaking print, digital and TV campaigns. We saw their first (ever so modest) printed advert from 1929 right through to their latest award-winning TV ads.
The fourth floor is all about drinking the black stuff itself. We were really lucky and were treated to a mini food pairing session, who would have thought that Guinness was so versatile? We already knew about the established pairing between Guinness and oysters – former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli described a satisfying day in an 1837 letter to his sister: “I dined off oysters, Guinness and broiled bones. Thus ended the most remarkable day hitherto of my life.”
But who knew that draught Guinness went so brilliantly with chocolate or that original bottled Guinness is a pallet cleanser so great with fatty foods. As for the Porters, well the Dublin variety is perfect with a comforting veggie soup and the West Indies Porter, made with lots of hops and roasted barley, pairs surprisingly well with a Thai green curry.
After a quick tutored pint pouring lesson it was time to make our way up to the 5th floor for a bite to eat. We’d booked a table at 1837 Bar & Brasserie and we were so glad we did. Saff’s Guinness and beef stew with mash was a tad on the dry side, not very stewy but improved when drowned in some extra sauce.
I was more than happy with my mushrooms on sourdough toast with Guinness garlic butter, truffle oil, rocket and Parmesan cheese and a side of skin on fries topped with a delicious Guinness sauce and more Parmesan. We were full to bursting but we couldn’t resist a Guinness chocolate mousse washed down with, yes you’ve guessed it, a pint of the black stuff.
Being up on the 7th floor (not sure what magic happens on the 6th) is the highlight for many visitors because that’s where the Gravity Bar is. It’s the highest bar in Dublin that allows breath-taking 360-degree panoramic views of the city. Our 24 hour whittle stop was drawing to an end, we didn’t even have time for our complimentary pint of Guinness as there was a taxi waiting to whisk us back to the airport.
Whether or not you like Guinness, The Storehouse and especially The Open Gate Brewery are must visit attractions. Wait a minute, I’ve just re-read this post to help me sum up and write a closing paragraph when I realised that in this blog post I’ve mentioned the word Guinness 47 times! I wonder if I can get that into the Guinness book of world records – oh best make that 48 mentions.
I will finish with my favourite Guinness fact – In 1991, Guinness’s widget was given 1st prize in the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement and in second place? The internet.
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Opening hours: 7 days a week 9:30am – 7pm (last admission is at 5pm)
Late opening during July and August
9am – 8pm (last admission is at 6pm)
Reserve a slot online
Opening hours: Thursday and Friday 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Last entry at 9:30pm, last orders at 10:00pm
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We visited as guests of Guinness, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.