Guinness! You’d have a hard time to find someone who hasn’t heard of the famous black stuff. Love it or hate it, Guinness is a massive success story and one of the most well known breweries in the world. There’s no better place to learn all about this famous beer and the man who started it all, than in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – the official home of Guinness.
When Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for his brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin he was probably thought of as a madman. It didn’t take him long to prove his worth though and nowadays he’s considered something of a genius!
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So why is the Guinness Storehouse so popular?!
While the Guinness family knew what they were doing when it came to making beer, the success of this famous brew is definitely the result of some genius marketing too. It’s no accident that the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most visited attraction and since opening it’s doors in 2000 it has become a must-do for anyone visiting Dublin’s fair city.
It’s not a question of whether you like the taste of Guinness or have even tried it for that matter. A trip to the Guinness Storehouse is an enjoyable few hours for anyone (well maybe more so for anyone over 18!). Whether you’re a local or visitor, whether you even like Guinness or not, you’ll take away something from your visit.
As a born and bred Dublin lass, I have visited the Guinness Storehouse more than a few times now. It’s mainly been when I have friends visiting, as it’s always top of their list of things to do in Dublin. But I always enjoy the experience, which is why I end up going along each time instead of just meeting them afterwards!
The Guinness Family is at the heart of this iconic brand
Although Guinness is now part of the Diageo company following a merger in 1997, the Guinness family has retained 51% ownership of the brewery. And it’s not just the drink but the family behind it that makes the Guinness story special too.
At the Guinness Storehouse you’ll learn a little about Arthur and his family and how they have helped shaped the city of Dublin. There’s also a lot more behind the scenes that has resulted in Guinness having a special place in the hearts and minds of Dubliners.
Employee Welfare at Guinness
The brewery provided work and income for many working-class families in Dublin’s inner city and by all accounts they looked after their staff well. One of the earliest employee perks was an allowance of 2 pints of Guinness a day (only for male staff though it seems)! However employees also had the option of exchanging their free pints for goods at the co-op store.
Guinness also provided health care schemes, holiday and sickness benefits and pensions before it was the norm. Wages were typically 10-20 percent above the average in Dublin too. I can only imagine that getting a job at Guinness was a cause for celebration!
It may surprise you that many of buildings and parks in Dublin have links to the Guinness family. Thanks to their generosity most of them are still being enjoyed by locals and visitors to this day.
In the 1860s Arthur’s grandson Benjamin Guinness paid for a major reconstruction of St Patrick’s Cathedral. At the time is was feared that the cathedral was in danger of collapsing.
Benjamin’s son Edward Guinness contributed to further restorations at the Cathedral too. He also established the Iveagh Trust to provide affordable housing for the poor in both Dublin and London. Another of his sons, Arthur, purchased St. Stephen’s Green, paid for the landscaping and ensured that it became a public park to be enjoyed by the people of Dublin.
How to make your trip to the Guinness Storehouse more enjoyable
But let’s get back to the building you’re interested in right now! The Guinness Storehouse has seven levels dedicated to the history of Guinness and here’s how you can make the most of your visit.
The best advice I can give is to go early. It gets packed, really packed and I’m not a fan of long queues! Another benefit of visiting early in the day is that you can get cheaper tickets. You can save up to €6.50 per ticket by booking early morning tickets on the Guinness Storehouse website.
Even if you do end up going later in the day book in advance for skip-the-line tickets. This will save you A LOT of time! Otherwise, you’ll need to join the queue which often resembles the line for airport security (at peak time!) and stretches along the pavement outside.
Try to allow enough time to enjoy it, instead of having to rush through
At a minimum allow 1.5 hours but you can expect to spend 2 to 3 hours here, possibly more if you are going to eat here too. On our most recent visit we spent 4 and a half hours there. That was including lunch.
Do add extra time if you visit later in the day as there will probably be queues for the tasting rooms and the Guinness Academy. Otherwise, be prepared for the fact that you may have to skip them if you’re in a hurry.
Don’t forget your complimentary pint!
I know, as if you would right! Your voucher for a complimentary drinks is on your entrance ticket, so make sure you don’t lose it. You can use it in the Gravity Bar or the bar or restaurants on the fifth floor. Alternatively you can use it learning to pour the perfect pint in the Guinness Academy on the fourth floor.
The last time we went, it could also be used in the Arrol Suite on Level 2 to sample the collection of Guinness beers. I think there were three or four different glasses of beer on the tasting paddle from what I saw.
While most people generally do the self-guided tour through the Storehouse, there is the option of getting a guided tour and also of doing the Guinness Connoisseur experience in a luxurious private bar! You can also purchase online tickets which include a presentation gift box with an exclusive Guinness Dublin glass and fridge magnet.
Your self-guided adventure through the Guinness Storehouse
Still wondering what to expect when you actually get inside the Guinness Storehouse? Here’s a little more info for those who like to be in the know before they go!
The tour begins here with an orientation, which only lasts a few minutes. It takes place in the middle of the ground floor around the the 9,000 year old lease for the brewery which is encased in the floor below. After that, you are free to self-guide through the other floors so you can take it all in at your own pace.
You’ll start with an introduction to the four magic ingredients that go into making a pint of Guinness: barley, hops, yeast and water. Contrary to popular opinion you’ll find out that the water used in the brewing process comes from the nearby Wicklow mountains and not the River Liffey. If you’ve ever walked along the Liffey, particularly at low tide, you’ll realise why this is a very good thing!
You’ll also discover pretty early on that although it’s commonly called the black stuff, the true colour of Guinness is actually a rich ruby red. I guess asking for “a pint of the rich ruby red stuff” was too much of a mouthful!
You can take the opportunity to get some cool photos beside the blue water fountain. I have sometimes described the Guinness Storehouse as an adult version of the Willy Wonka Factory. However, if that was really the case this waterfall would be flowing with Guinness but hey, we can keep drinking (I mean dreaming!)
On Level one you’ll be taken through the brewing process, including the all important addition of nitrogen which was introduced to the process in 1959. This is what gives Guinness its smooth and creamy consistency.
The Craft of the Cooper
There is also a section dedicated to the Guinness coopers. You can watch a video of one of these highly skilled workers in action. Spoiler: it’s very impressive! Coopering is a very precise craft and yet the coopers were so skilled they worked by eye, rather than by following set measurements.
Wooden casks were used to transport and store Guinness for more that 200 years. The coopers who made those casks learned through apprenticeships which could take from five to seven years. The trade often passed down from father to son.
While around 300 coopers worked at Guinness in the 1920s, there were only about 70 by the start of the 1960s. At St. James’s Gate, wooden casks were no longer used after 1963.
With the introduction of aluminium and then stainless steel kegs, these are unfortunately skills that have now been largely lost.
From barges and ships to planes and tankers, learn about how Guinness has been transported around the globe. There are lots of models and artefacts on display. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, particularly for the S.S. Carrowdore. In 1941, the ship was hit by a German bomb. The bomb ricocheted into the water but the tail of the bomb remained stuck in the ship. A model of the large 550lb German bomb, including the original tail or fin is on display.
There’s also a small cafe here if you’re in need of some sustenance at this point.
The Tasting Rooms
I always enjoy the tasting rooms. I think it’s probably just because of the super cute baby pint glass of Guinness you get! It’s a two step experience. First you enter a stark white room with a small bar at the top and four white pods with what looks like dry ice coming out of them. It’s all a bit sci-fi but don’t worry, they’re just aroma pods so you can have a whiff of the ingredients and prepare your senses for the tasting.
Then you take your cute baby Guinness to an adjacent room where you’ll all get to savour the flavours together. And no, you don’t get to keep the little glass I’m afraid. Just to be clear, you don’t have to use your voucher for the tasting rooms. The little baby glass of Guinness is a bonus one!
This level is all about the advertising and marketing campaigns used by Guinness over the years. It’s good but I feel like it could be better! Maybe I’ve just been too many times now as everyone else seems to love it.
We’re going back quite a while but when I first visited the Storehouse, you could flip through all the old posters. I know that’s not easy with the huge volume of traffic now but I loved it. You could also see a lot more of the old ads. Now there are just a few tablets in one corner, with a very small selection of ads to choose from.
Last time, I was keen to show our friends the Anticipation ad which shows a customer doing some quirky dance moves while he waits for his pint of Guinness to be poured. The add was very successful in Ireland and the music used in the ad, Guaglione by Pérez Prado, even reached number 1 in the Irish music charts. I couldn’t find that one in the selection of ads though which was disappointing. So here it is from You Tube. Sorry about the quality!
There is a large space with a massive panoramic screen but it’s kind of wasted. A few ads play on repeat but they weren’t particularly good or well known ones and most people wandered off without watching. Hopefully this will be improved.
However, there are still some pretty cool things to see on this floor, including lots of pieces based on the works of artist John Gilroy. He created the famous “My Goodness, My Guinness” campaigns featuring a hapless zookeeper and his bunch of unruly animals. Many, like the famous Toucan, are still very much associated with Guinness today.
This is what our friends usually enjoy the most, getting to pour their own pint in the Guinness Academy. Yes it’s totally touristy (you’ll even get a certificate at the end!) but it’s a bit of fun. Where else are you going to get the chance to get behind a bar and pull a pint of Guinness?
After you’ve been shown the six-step process to the perfect pint, you’ll get the chance to have a go yourself. You can also get the opportunity for some great photos here. Afterwards you can sit and enjoy your perfect creation!
If you’re like our friends, you’ll find yourself watching every barmen for the rest of your trip to make sure they’re pouring properly. There’s a new army of quality controllers out there!
After all you hard work, you’ll probably be in need of a feed when you get to level 5! Luckily for you, food is exactly what you’ll find. There are three restaurants here to choose. The Brewer’s Dining Hall, 1837 Bar & Brasserie and Arthur’s Bar. Each one had different options on offer so you can pick whichever suits your craving!
Last time we opted for the 1837 Bar & Brasserie and everyone was really happy with their food, which included a Guinness twist on the classic Reuben sandwich, some pork belly boa buns and a generous and yummy serving of veggie nachos for me. Prices were pretty reasonable too, by Dublin standards anyway!
The Gravity Bar
Once we’d sorted out the hunger pangs we were ready to move on up to the Gravity Bar. With it’s floor to ceiling 360 views of Dublin it is a highlight of the Guinness Storehouse experience. However, prepare for it to be very packed. If you manage to get a seat count yourself lucky!
Even when the bar is packed you can still manage to make your way around to see the views. Many of Dublin’s landmarks are highlighted on the glass panels, so you can spot them a bit easier.
If you’d like to check them out in comfort, plan an early visit to the Guinness Storehouse. Maybe even head straight up to the Gravity Bar before it gets too busy. Then you can always go back through the other floors. You can then return to the bar later for your drink if you’re not a Guinness for breakfast kind of person!
If you don’t fancy a full pint of Guinness, fear not. You can now choose Guinness, beer, cider or a soft drink. There’s also a non-alcoholic lager on offer, though it states on the bottle that it contains 0.5% vol. The barman even checked if José was driving before giving it to him! You would think it would be called low-alcohol instead but not so. It seems that anything up to 0.5% vol is considered alcohol free.
Will the Guinness Storehouse be on your list of things to do in Dublin?
If you’re still reading, I’m very impressed! Hopefully this has helped you decide if the Guinness Storehouse should be on your list of things to do in Dublin. If I haven’t made it clear already, I’d highly recommend it. Oh and just in case you were wondering, I’m not a regular Guinness drinker although I do like the taste now. It has taken me a while to get there though!
Looking for more things to do in Dublin?
A wander Along Dublin’s Great South Wall
Malahide Castle & Gardens – why you should visit
Dalkey and Killiney Hill – enjoyable short walks in Dublin