Dublin Day 3 – We go to Guinness, We Drink Guinness, and More Guinness – Did I Mention We Had Guinness?

10Oct12

We had gotten all of our arrangements finalized with Guinness and the contest people the day before. Guinness would have a whole day’s itinerary for us when we arrived there and I asked us what time we would like to arrive. Michelle and I both agreed it might be good to get there earlier so then we might have some time later in the day to fit something else in (little did we know…) so we suggested 10 AM. Guinness said great, we’ll see you at 10 in the morning.

We had a comfortable night’s sleep and got up and had a much smaller breakfast than the day before. I stayed with yogurt, fresh fruit and a croissant while Michelle had some cereal. We walked over to the bus stop to wait for the tour bus, which has a stop at the storehouse. The weather seemed pretty good this day, although it was a little breezy. I wasn’t wearing my braces again today as my legs were still healing, and I knew we were in for another long day of walking, but I wanted to try it anyway. My legs were sore from the walking, but other than that I felt pretty good so far.

The bus arrived at the Storehouse (which is huge by the way) and we walked in and up to the information desk. We told them we were here and were contest winners and the gentleman at the desk made a call and said someone would be right down. There was already a line for people to get into the storehouse for the tour. Since it was Arthur’s Day, they were expecting quite a crowd. After waiting for a minute or two, we were greeted by someone who brought us in upstairs and into the storehouse where we had to wait for someone else. Again, we waited for a couple of minutes before someone walked us over and greeted us. They said congratulations to us for winning and since we had said we were going to be there at 10 AM they were adding something special on to our day. We would get to sit in on the daily sampling of yesterday’s batch with some of the select employees who do this as part of their job. We were to meet the master brewer, Fergal Murray, who would take us over to where it takes place. It seemed pretty exciting to us.

Fergal came over a moment later and introduced himself to us. He said he had been working for Guinness for 28 years. He apologized for being a few minutes late but he was doing an interview with the BBC and had to take care of it. They brought us upstairs, where we were issued VIP passes and vests and we had to sign some paperwork. We were then joined by a public relations person for Guinness and a photographer from the BBC who would be following us around for this portion of the tour. Fergal then led us out of the building and across the street to the other part of the factory. We found out the entire complex encompasses a staggering 55 acres of land in Dublin and they are building new, more modern facilities as we were there. We did see some the old original buildings from the 1700’s that are no longer in use but are too old to be torn down. This included the old flaking silo where barley was stored and flaked as it was at that time unprocessed when they received it. It was a long walk over to the other side of the complex where the other offices were located and we had to traverse some old cobblestone steps so I was treading very lightly.

We finally reached the offices where the sampling would take place. We were seated at a table with 7 or 8 other people, all who are employees of Guinness in one department or another who gather every morning for the sampling. Everyone id give 6 half pints of Guinness from the batch processed of the previous day. They are also given a ratings sheet where they are asked to rate each sample to see how it is for quality, aroma, bitterness and several other criteria. The expectation is that every sample will be between a 7 and 8  out of scale of 1 through 9. If the samples are deemed to be bad, then they will not process and ship that batch. We were told that occasionally they will sneak in a bad sample on purpose to make sure everyone is paying attention and rating properly. They asked us to taste a control sample and then taste the other 6 samples and rate each one. They then went around the room and asked for our opinion on each sample. I felt all of the samples tasted very fresh, a couple were a little more bitter than others, and one actually tasted more carbonated than the rest of them. We all went through each sample, which added up to about 2 whole pints of Guinness I imagine over the course of about an hour.

We were then asked if we had any questions they could answer. I asked we had long heard that Guinness in the U.S. tasted different from that in Ireland and if this was true, why is it? Fergal answered that there shouldn’t be any difference at all where the taste is concerned. The problem lies in several areas. One, the optimum time for a batch to reach the U.S. is 10 days, which isn’t always possible under perfect conditions. Two, many bartenders in the U.S. do not know the proper technique of pouring a Guinness and if it is not poured correctly, it will taste different. Third, and this I was not aware of, but the pubs in Ireland use certain pint glasses only for Guinness and they are washed separately with special detergent designed for Guinness glasses and this can help with the way it tastes. Many bars in America use glasses that are washed in a dishwasher, which glasses for Guinness shouldn’t be in. It was a very interesting experience. Even the employees present that this was unusual because no one, not even most people who work there, get to do what we did and it was nice for them to have outsiders sit in to see what they thought of the process and the beer.

We both felt pretty honored to get to experience that. After the sampling was done, Fergal took us back across the street to the Storehouse where he said goodbye to us and thanked us for coming. He had more interviews to do, this time with American television. I was grateful that he took so much of his time to spend with us doing this. We were then met by someone else from the staff who gave us the rest of our agenda for the day. For now, we could tour the Storehouse at our leisure, go over to the gift shop and then they gave us some vouchers for lunch. After lunch they had sett up for us the connoisseur’s experience at the “secret” bar in the Storehouse for some special instruction and tasting. When that was done, we could be done for the day at the Storehouse. They also gave us two passes and bracelets for entry to Whelan’s Pub that night for the Arthur’s Day show. At that time, they did not even know who would be there to perform that night.

We stopped over at the gift shop and bought some souvenirs and they slowly toured the Storehouse. They take you through the entire history of the brewery and the process they use to make Guinness. We saw the lease Arthur Guinness signed for the property – a 9,000 year lease at 65 pounds a year. We learned that Guinness buys 2/3 of all the barley grown in Ireland in a year. Of course, they had a free pint sample for you on your way up the Storehouse (the design of the storehouse is like a big pint glass, it gets wider as you go towards the top) and on the top-level is the Gravity bar, where you could get another free pint of Guinness. So we had another 2 pints before lunch, bringing our total to 5 or 6. When we went to lunch I had another pint at the bar where we had lunch on the fifth floor.

We the walked over to the “secret bar” where there were about a dozen other guests at the bar. The bar was lit underneath and we were there for a lesson on how to pour a Guinness draft and how to properly drink it and the three other types of Guinness they make – Guinness Stout, Guinness Black Lager and Guinness Foreign Extra. I had never had the Foreign Extra before, and they told me it is hard to find in the United States sometimes, but you can get it. Of course, we got full samples of all 4 versions, so add 4 more Guinness to list, bringing me up to 10 or 11, I kind of lost count. Either way, it went up one more when they told us we could each have one more of any type we choose (I went with the Foreign Extra). It was interesting to learn that there are actual ways each beer should be drunk in order to get the proper flavor from it and it was fun to learn to pour one the right way (it should take exactly 119 seconds to pour, by the way).

After all of that, we were done with Guinness for the day. With left there with the experience of a lifetime, something most people never get to do. We took the bus back to the hotel and had about two hours to rest up before the rest of the evening, and we needed the rest! My legs were tired, but hanging tough. I was glad to get back to the hotel to rest for a bit and we napped before we started our second leg of the day’s adventure.

I think that is enough writing for one night. I’ll cover the adventure at Whelan’s Pub tomorrow as I begin to wrap up our little adventure. I hope you all are enjoying the ride. It was so much up to this point it’s hard for me to put into words and it just got better from here. Check back tomorrow to see how the evening’s fun went and enjoy some of the pictures from the Storehouse. To see more, you can always check my Facebook page for all of the pictures from our trip. Until tomorrow, enjoy the rest of your night!

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