The Guinness Storehouse – The (Second) Happiest Place on Earth
21st March 2020
This Saint Patrick’s Day hit a wee bit different. Normally, Will and I like to visit our local Irish pub and celebrate over a nice bowl of shepherd’s pie and a pint (or two) of one of our favorite beers – Guinness, o’course! After all, we both have a strong Irish heritage. In light of recent events and the outbreak of COVID-19, we responsibly followed our government’s recommendation of practicing social distancing and celebrated at home this year. Since we’re homebound for the time being, I figured there was no better time to reminisce on our 2018 trip to the Guinness Storehouse.
That first sip…
The first time I ever ordered a Guinness was back in college. I had decided to make my way through the summer beer list at the local pizza joint weekly and got down to the “G’s.” I’d certainly heard of Guinness but never knew anyone who drank it. I had absolutely no clue it was going to come out so dark. Once I got past that, it was love at first sip! Guinness is also one of the things Will and I bonded over early on.
Ireland – July 2018
Fast forward a few years to our Ireland trip in the summer of 2018. We flew into Dublin and spent a few days there in the city. I knew I just HAD to see where the magic happens. The Guinness Storehouse tour was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had – it’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory but for adults! The building itself is a giant 7-story pint glass (true to form). The storehouse has had over 20 million visitors since its opening in 2000. It is Ireland’s top tourist attraction. And it is SO worth the trip!
The winding factory takes you through more than 200 years of beer-making history. The self-guided tour culminates with the enjoyment of a complimentary glass of Guinness in their Gravity Bar which offers a 360° view of Dublin from the very top floor of the Storehouse.
Tour the Guinness Storehouse
The tour starts in the middle of the ground floor where they display the lease that Arthur Guinness himself signed in 1759. The lease outlines an annual rent of an at-the-time abandoned warehouse for a whopping £45 (currently $52.42) for 9,000 years. The ground floor walks you through the history of Arthur Guinness’ life. It also features interactive displays of the four ingredients in Guinness beer: water, barley, hops, and yeast. The Guinness Retail Store is also on this floor and it has the world’s largest collection of Guinness merchandise. You can shop tax-free, ship anywhere in the world, find a range of exclusive items, and even have authentic glasses engraved here.
One thing to clear up: Europeans start counting floors from the ground level up. This means if you are ever staying on the second floor in Europe, it’s not just one flight of stairs, it’s two (important to remember if there’s no elevator and you have a lot of luggage)!
The first floor of the Guinness Storehouse takes you through the history of the coopers. A cooper was someone trained in hand-making wooden barrels. First, they would make timber staves by shaping thin strips of wood with an ax to taper the edges. Then they would group them inside of a metal hoop and steam them to heat them up and make them more pliable. Next, they would fit more hoops around the barrel to shape it. They would then char the inside of the barrels to seal the wood. Finally, the edges were sanded down and the hole for pouring was carved.
The coopers were major players in the distribution and storage of Guinness. Each barrel of Guinness was handmade in the above fashion for almost 200 years. Without them, Guinness would not have been as widespread throughout the world as it is today.
Otherwise known as the tasting floor, this was my favorite floor. You first walk into the “aroma room.” It’s an all-white room, white floors, white walls, white ceiling. In the center of the room are four white barrels with steam coming from them. Each barrel has a distinct aroma – malted barley, beer esters, hops, and roasted barley. They encourage you to familiarize yourself with all four smells. There’s a bar at one end of the room where they offer little tasting glasses of Guinness. In the all-white room, you can clearly see the deep ruby red color of Guinness – don’t make the mistake of thinking Guinness is a black beer!
The journey doesn’t stop here! This room is only for looking at your Guinness sample. They walk you into the adjoining room, the Velvet Chamber. This is a very stately looking room, with black and gold walls and portraits of the Guinness family. It is here they teach you the best way to taste your Guinness.
This floor takes you through the World of Advertising exhibit. Guinness is arguably the best-marketed beer in all of history. It is here you see the story of how the fish on a bicycle, the sea lion, the toucan, the turtle, the ostrich, and many more all became mascots for the most widely marketed beer of all time. I mean, think about it: how many Guinness slogans can you come up with on the spot? My goodness my Guinness! Lovely day for a Guinness! A Guinness a day! Guinness is good for you! Guinness for strength! Maybe these are only so well known in my house… I have the toucan poster below hanging in my kitchen! So many catchy phrases and quirky mascots.
The fourth floor is dedicated to Guinness Academy. Here they teach you the exact science of pouring the perfect pint of Guinness. The process takes 119 seconds – which is why they say “good things come to those who wait!” They teach you the art of the “two-part pour.”
First, you hold the glass at a 45° angle and pull forward on the tap until the glass is 3/4 full – until the beer is level with the tip of the harp. Then you let the glass rest until the surge is settled. Do not touch it until there is a distinct separation in the head and the body of the beer. Then, hold the glass under the center of the tap straight up. Push the tap away from you to pour more slowly and top off your Guinness. Let the beer rest again until fully settled. The finished product should have a head of about 18-20mm.
According to Irish legend, drinking an incorrectly poured Guinness will kill ya!
You get one complimentary Guinness during your tour. You can get it at the Gravity Bar, the fifth-floor restaurants, or here. My recommendation: pour your own Guinness here, then take it up to the Gravity Bar to enjoy – they don’t care where you take it. There are some tables in the Academy room, but the view upstairs is SO much better! And you can always buy another round later!
There are three restaurants on the fifth floor of the Guinness Storehouse. Arthur’s Bar is a contemporary Irish pub with traditional Irish music and surprise performances of Irish dancing. I was so excited I cried a little bit. Brewer’s Dining Hall has traditional Irish food and other Guinness inspired recipes (like the Guinness Beef Stew – to die for!). 1837 Bar and Brasserie is a more casual spot with small plates and appetizers. The fifth floor also features the “Choice Zone.” This is part of Guinness’ commitment to promoting responsible drinking habits.
Seventh Floor – Gravity Bar
Ah, the Gravity Bar. The pièce de résistance. A 360° view of Dublin and the surrounding Wicklow Mountains (like in P.S. I Love You!!) from 144 feet above. The entire walls of the floor are made up of floor-to-ceiling windows.
From here, you can see Saint Patrick’s Cathedral! It’s not the green-roofed church as most people assume, that’s actually the Church of St. Augustine and St. John. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the other spire seen in the picture to the right of the words on the window. Fun fact: Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, the grandson of Arthur Guinness, donated £150,000 towards the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
The sixth floor is for employees only and is not included as part of the tour.
Regular Season: 9:30am to 7:00 pm (last admission at 5:00pm)
July and August: 9:30 am to 9:00 pm (last admission at 7:00 pm)
Closed December 24-26
€19,50 – €25,00 for adults
€18,50 – € 21,00 for students (18+) and 65+
€16,00 for children 13-17
€5,00 for children 6-12
Free for children 5 and under
If you book directly from their website, you can get up to 25% off tickets depending on when you decide to go.
The factory IS wheelchair accessible and can even arrange an assistant to guide you if necessary.
The Storehouse IS accessible to children, anyone under the age of 18 will need to be accompanied by an adult and will receive a complimentary soft-drink instead.
They also have other options for experiencing even more of the Guinness legend. The Connoisseur Experience is an hour-long event in which the staff takes you through the different types of Guinness on a more in-depth level. The Brewery Tour is “the ultimate 3-hour Guinness experience.” You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the Roast House, Brewhouse 4, and the underground passenger tunnel. They also offer a food and beer tasting – you can even try some of their limited-edition brews! The Guinness Storehouse is one of the coolest museums I’ve ever visited. We spent four hours here for just the self-guided tour and could have easily stayed for much longer! I can’t wait to go back and do a Brewery Tour!