Despite being just a 45 minute flight from Edinburgh, Dublin is a city I had never had the pleasure of visiting before. Last weekend, that changed with a family trip. The weather was excellent, and we planned some alcohol-related excursions, making a perfect combination.
No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the iconic Guinness Storehouse. With seven floors, the building is massive, with sections dedicated to the production of the dark stuff, its ingredients, barrel-making, transport, tasting, marketing, plus a large gift shop and a selection of bars and a restaurant.
The first floor is very informative, with videos and displays showing the four ingredients – water, barley, hops and yeast. An astonishing two-thirds of the barley grown in Ireland is purchased by Guinness to make its beer! The marketing level has large models of characters used in its adverts and promotional campaigns, including an ostrich with its head in the ground, a kangaroo, and my favourite: a mechanical fish on a bicycle!
As we progressed up the levels, we had a few tasting experiences. First was a sample of their Hop House 13 lager, talked through by their master brewer, which was as nice and refreshing a lager as I had tasted (Although I haven’t tried all that many!) A trip to their tasting room then followed, where we got to smell the aromas of hops and malted barley being produced from four pods pumping out gases, before tasting some standard Guinness.
At the Guinness Academy, we were shown how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness (which takes 119.5 seconds), and then had the chance to pour our own pint, gaining a certificate in the process! Finally, we visited the Gravity Bar at the top of the building, a circular glass bar giving stunning views across the city.
We followed up our Guinness tour with a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery at Bow Street. Although no longer a functioning distillery, the building is now a visitor centre, recently refurbished and just reopened last month. Although not as large as Guinness, this tour is maybe one more for alcohol enthusiasts, with our enthusiastic guide Lorna talking us through the history of the distillery, and an explanation of the process.
The room also had tables with samples for us to smell, showing the difference between pot and column still whiskey, un-malted and malted barley, and sherry and bourbon casks. The tasting room let us compare Scotch Whisky (Johnny Walker Black label), American Whiskey (Jack Daniels) and of course Irish Whiskey (Jameson). Finally, our ticket included a trip to the bar, where we tried a refreshing glass of Jameson, ginger ale and lime.
Despite the expensive drinks prices, a weekend in Dublin is highly recommended, with lots to do, and a great atmosphere in traditional bars. We had dinner at O’Flaherty’s at the Old Storehouse, which had excellent food, with live Irish music and dancing.
Honourable mentions must also go out to an Irish cider, Orchard Thieves, which was deliciously crisp and juicy, plus the Guinness soda bread which I tried in the Trinity Bar – something I’m planning to make at home!