Let’s play some word association. I write one word, you say whatever pops into your head first. Got it? Ready?
Let me guess: Leprachauns, potatoes, shamrocks, Guinness, green, rain. Am I close? I know, psychic abilities right?!
The drink that speaks for Ireland – whether or not they want it to – is Guinness. The dark ruby (not black!), heavy, creamy, malty, meal-in-a-pint-glass beer that everyone drinks once a year in Australia (we do love St Patrick’s Day don’t we?) that is recognisable worldwide.
Naturally, any trip to Dublin isn’t quite complete until you take a tour of the factory, despite the multitude of museums, churches, and pubs to visit. A fair way from the main drag by foot – I figure I would need a good walk to make room for my drinking that afternoon – the site is impresively large. And it needs to be, as the factory produces over three million pints a day. There are guided tours, but let’s face it, meandering around is always the best way to go.
It’s a multi-level interactive experience at the factory. You walk through exhibits demonstrating the ingredients needed to brew beer, and the process of actually turning water, barley, hops, and yeast into delicious, refreshing, glorious beer (if you don’t know this, please take five minutes to find out, and then come back). They have short films telling you about Arthur Guinness, how he came to brew, his influence and battles with authorities and learn about the 9000 year lease he signed (a tad excessive, but certainly business-savvy). There’s tutorials on how to properly taste Guinness – you need to slightly elevate the glass to drink through the thick head – and perhaps best of all, the pouring process.
Ah yes, the Guinness Academy. Perhaps the ultimate school for beer enthusiasts. The pouring process is explained (but really, like you should need assistance), and the 120 second trial begins. Everyone passes no matter how badly you go – and there were some shockers – and you giddily sip your hand-poured, fresh-from-the-brewery Guinness.
A brief jaunt through the historical advertising section later and you head up to the Gravity Bar, allegedly the highest point in Dublin, and deliverer of panoramic views of the city. But who cares, there’s Guinness to drink!
Yes, it is Ireland’s ultimate tourist experience, yes it is gimmicky, and yes the admission price is more than it needs to be, but it is so easy to look past this. It’s a beer which has spread hugely, a brewery with an insane output of pints, an experience for every beer drinker, sipper, skoller, enthusiast, or nerd, and even for those not sold on the beverage.