As someone with a long line of Irish ancestors on the family tree (as in, I’m Irish all year round and not just on St. Patrick’s Day), you might say I’ve got Guinness running through my veins.
In my thirty-odd years on this planet, I’ve found there’s nothing quite as good the perfect pour of a pint of the Black Stuff. That’s why, on our recent family heritage trip in May 2017, we knew we’d need to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Grail of Beer Lovers — er, I mean the Guinness Storehouse — in Dublin, Ireland.
After spending six hours (!) at the joint, we’re here to share what to do — and not do — on your visit to the Guinness Storehouse.
What Exactly is the Guinness Storehouse, Anyway?
The short version: Guinness Storehouse is the ultimate beertopia for Guinness fans around the world — a veritable paradise where you can eat, drink, and be merry.
The long version: Guinness Storehouse is Dublin’s number one tourist attraction, which is perhaps unsurprising given that the city’s oldest pub dates back to 1198 (yes, you read that correctly — the Irish have been knocking back pints for well over 800 years, so they know a thing or two about good beer). In fact, the Guinness Storehouse, which opened in 2000 at St. James’s Gate Brewery, welcomed 1.65 million visitors from around the globe in 2016.
Throughout your experience at Guinness Storehouse, you’ll learn about the brewing process, the history of Guinness advertising, and sample some of the world’s best beer. That’s not all you can do there, of course, but we’ll get to that in just a bit.
Where Can I Find This Guinness Nirvana?
Guinness Storehouse is located at St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin 8, Ireland. You can zoom in on the handy dandy interactive map below to see exactly where it is. (No, if you type “Guinness Beer Heaven” into Google Maps, it won’t work. I may have done this while drinking a pint of Guinness earlier this year.)
How to Tour the Guinness Storehouse Without Totally Losing Your Mind
Let’s get this out of the way early: there are seven floors to
get absurdly lost in explore at the Guinness Storehouse. Siete. Sept. Sieben. As in the number of Snow White’s dwarves, days of the week, or times it took me bashing my head in front of the computer to actually get Hamilton tickets.
The typical Guinness Storehouse experience — or standard ticket — is a self-guided tour. Their website suggests allowing at least 1.5 hours to meander through this beer labyrinth, but let’s be real, you’re going to need waaaay more time than that. (This was a valuable lesson I learned earlier this year at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.) Ninety minutes divided by seven floors is 12.86 minutes per floor, and you’re gonna need at least half an hour at the bar…
Sorry, I digress.
So sure, you can wander around the 3D Guinness Storehouse maze like a rat who’s trying to find the liquid refreshment reward at the end of the tunnel. But since you are definitely smarter than the average rat, you can start things off the right way by signing up for the Connoisseur Experience.
What’s the Connoisseur Experience Like?
The Connoisseur Experience is marketed toward proving yourself to be a diehard Guinness fan (the website calls it “[a] five-star Guinness® tasting experience for the ultimate Guinness connoisseur”), but if you’re going to shell out money to visit the place, you might as well go all the way.
The Connoisseur Experience (€48) is a special 90-minute guided tasting session in the exclusive Connoisseur Bar, and it was hands down the highlight of our time at the Guinness Storehouse.
There’s a Secret Entrance
I’m a sucker for anything remotely resembling a speakeasy, so when we were led to the “secret entrance” to the Connoisseur Experience, I was already pretty stoked. Technically, it’s not too hard to find the door if you know where to look, but who cares? It’s still a hidden bar where you get to drink beers that the masses don’t, so it’s a win-win for me. I also appreciated that videos weren’t allowed inside, since they wanted to keep it as a genuine face-to-face experience without too many digital distractions.
You’ll Learn Guinness History 101
Colm, our expert guide for the Connoisseur Experience, led us through the history of Guinness from its founding until the present. Turns out that brewing is “all in the family”: Arthur Guinness, the legendary founder of the Guinness brewery, had a father who was a brewer as well. Arthur was not only a prolific creator of beer, but of progeny, too: he and his wife, Olivia, managed to have 21 kids (though only ten survived to maturity).
In what is either the smartest or the dumbest move in the history of real estate, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for St. James’s Gate Brewery, where he had been brewing ales, in 1759. He was 34 years old at the time. In my thirties, I can barely think ten years ahead, let alone thousands! Dude must have been pretty confident that his brews were gonna be a hit.
You’ll Sample Four Different Guinness Beers
After regaling us with tales about Arthur and brewing, Colm led us through how to savor the perfect pint of Guinness: observing the beer’s color, taking in its aroma, and finally tasting the glorious Black Stuff (which, ironically, is more red in color than black).
- Guinness Draught — 4.2% ABV. First flavors you get are sweetness, caramel and toffee; next you’ll taste barley, coffee, and dark chocolate. There’s a reason that this beer accounts for almost 50% of global sales of Guinness — it’s really damn good.
- Guinness Original Extra Stout — 4.2% ABV. Rudy red color; carbonated, fizzy; more malt and roast flavors, with a dry finish. Pairs well with shellfish, oysters, and mussels.
- Guinness Foreign Extra — 7.5% ABV. Recipe from 1801. Darker and yellower in color than previous two. Hints of dried fruit and raisins; also licorice and some pepper. Longer finish and very well balanced.
- Guinness Brewers Project Dublin Porter — 3.8% ABV. Lighter in color; carbonated and crisp. Big seller in the summer. Very refreshing.
You’ll Learn How to Pour the Perfect Pint
After tasting our way through four beers, each of the 16 of us learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. For some reason, this stressed me out at first (I hear the word “perfect” and am instantly nervous that I’ll @#$! it up), but Colm was patient and helpful in explaining the six steps involved. Hint: the ritual takes precisely 119.5 seconds and involves holding the glass at a 45-degree angle.
Once you’ve poured the perfect pint, you’ll get a cute little certificate saying that you mastered said pour. The overachiever in me kept that gratifying piece of paper and toted it all the way back to New York City.
You Even Get to Take Beer Home With You!
At the end of the Connoisseur Experience, you have the opportunity to take some Guinness beer home with you. We chose the Foreign Extra and the Dublin Porter to go in our goodie bag. While we sincerely tried to bring it back home, we wound up drinking it on our last night in London. Sometimes the pull of a good beer is too irresistable.
Would We Do the Connoisseur Experience Again?
Overall, the Connoisseur Experience was definitely worth it for us. Colm was clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about Guinness, and the beers we tried were fantastic. As a history and science buff, I loved learning about things like the retronasal technique and how Guinness is brewed in 49 countries. Plus, the Connoisseur Experience turned my mom into a true Guinness stout devotee — which, as someone who’s worshiped at the Temple of Stout for years and attempted to convince her to no avail, is priceless.
The only thing I would change is possibly offering some food during the tasting (such as cheese or something light to sop up all the beer we’re imbibing). That being said, there are restaurants located inside the Guinness Storehouse (I told you the place was freaking HUGE), so perhaps it’s wise to eat before you go inside the Connoisseur Bar!
What Else is Inside the Guinness Storehouse?
Once we finished the Connoisseur Experience, we explored the rest of the Guinness Storehouse mega-museum. While I won’t go into too much detail about what’s on every floor — we have to leave some surprises for your actual visit — here’s a taste of what you’ll see.
The Guinness Retail Store: Or, Where You’ll Fall Into the Guinness Shopping Wormhole
The Lower Floors: For People Who Want to Learn How Guinness Is Made
The self-guided tour kicks off on the ground floor, which is actually the bottom of the “World’s Largest Pint Glass.” It’s large enough to hold 14.3 million pints, which is completely mind-blowing. The lower floors cover the ingredients and processes involved in brewing Guinness, including the waterfall (see below) where 8 million liters of fresh water from the Wicklow Mountains flow into the brewery every day.
The Third Floor: For All the Don Drapers Out There
You’ll learn all about ads and marketing on the third floor, called “World of Advertising.” One such gem is this letter from Guinness to America right after Prohibition was repealed in the US, in which the younger generation is hilariously asked to not put ice in their Guinness (Ah mon Dieu – sacrilage!).
Floors 2, 4, 5, and 7: Or, Where The People Who Want to Drink Beer ASAP Go
Some people will zip straight on up to the second floor
because that’s where you can drink to learn more about tasting Guinness. The entrance to these tasting rooms looks straight out of some intergalactic sci-fi movie with its bright neon lights.
Once inside, sniff the aromas of each ingredient that goes into Guinness. You’ll get a small sampler of the Black Stuff and enter into another room (which honestly reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland) where you’ll toast to each other and sip your beer.
On the fourth floor, you’ll find the Guinness Academy, where you can learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Since there’s usually a super long line to do this, however, you’re better off doing the Connoisseur Experience so you don’t have to wait for a really long time.
The fifth floor features restaurants like 1837 Bar & Brasserie and Brewers’ Dining Hall, which is a key floor if you want to maintain your drinking stamina. You’ll find everything from small plates to hearty mains… and the opportunity to buy more beer with your meal, of course.
The seventh floor is where the famous Gravity Bar is located. With its breathtaking 360-degree views of the city of Dublin, it’s not hard to see why most people redeem the pint included in their admission ticket here. The Gravity Bar is truly a fitting grand finale for your long, Guinness-packed day.
Guinness Storehouse 101: Need to Know Before You Go
Guinness Storehouse is open 361 days out of the year. It’s only closed on Good Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and St. Stephen’s Day (December 26 in 2017).
General Hours: Guinness Storehouse is open every day of the week from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM, with last admission at 5:00 PM.
Summer Hours: During July and August, when days are longer and parties are hoppin’, it’s open from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, with last admission at 6:00 PM.
Be sure to verify hours on the Guinness Storehouse website in the event of any changes.
Standard tickets for the Guinness Storehouse are €14 and up for adults ages 18 and over; it includes admission and a complimentary pint of Guinness. The Connoisseur Experience costs €48 for adults and €46 for students or seniors.
You can save time and money by purchasing your tickets in advance online by going here. Be sure to verify ticket prices on the website in the event of any changes.
Connect With Guinness Storehouse on Social Media
You can connect with the Guinness Storehouse on the following social media platforms:
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A huge thank you to Guinness Storehouse for providing us with a friends and family rate for the Connoisseur Experience. While we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Guinness Storehouse, all opinions are my own. Not even a delicious cold beer can change that.
Also, some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!