Our extended stay across the pond was always going to involve a trip to Dublin and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. I obviously needed to look into the widely speculated rumor/myth/fact that Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Hopefully you’ve already gathered from the title of this post that I did indeed find this to be the case (if not it’s you, not me). I also find Guinness to taste better in London than in Vancouver, and better in Dublin than in London. Why might this be? I think the answer has to be freshness.
Beer is like food and the same principles of freshness apply (although Guinness isn’t a meal in a glass; it has the same calorie content as most other beers and it’s the nitrogen bubbles that make you feel full). The differences in flavor I tasted I would describe in terms of freshness and staleness. The Guinness over here has a deeper roasted malt flavor than the Guinness at home and just tastes fresher, where the latter might have something to do with the oils contributed by the hops not yet breaking down. Guinness in Vancouver tastes like a mere shadow of what I tasted in Dublin.
When you consider that Guinness is brewed in Dublin and is widely consumed in the British Isles (meaning kegs don’t sit around for long), it makes sense that the majority of the Guinness consumed here is fresh as can be. Whereas Guinness in Vancouver has taken a boat trip across the Atlantic, a train trip across Canada, and then sat in a BC Liquor Cartel warehouse or shelf for a while. Had I any foresight whatsoever, I might have brought a can of Guinness over here to consume along side a fresh pint from the Storehouse in direct comparison. In addition to being fresher, Guinness over here is much better taken care of. Bars carrying Guinness have Guinness representatives coming into clean their keg lines quite frequently. Bars are supposed to clean their lines regularly anyway, but most don’t. Dirty lines can sully a good beer, but no Guinness in Ireland is subjected to such shame.
This past year we were contacted by Guinness’ PR firm in Canada and asked to write about why Guinness was so remarkable for it’s 250th birthday. I wasn’t so sure Guinness was that remarkable, from a beer perspective at least. Now, having visited the Guinness Storehouse, I know why Guinness has thrived for 250 years, marketing and branding. The Storehouse itself is all part of the experience and the most impressive piece of beer tourism I’ve ever seen. You are ushered through five floors of Guinness history, from how it’s made to Guinness adverts of ages gone by. And what happens at the end? A free pint of fresh Guinness in the rooftop bar with panorama city views of Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse is a must see for anyone, not just beer lovers. You will surely feel more affection for Guinness having completed the tour, sheer marketing brilliance.
There’s more to Dublin that just Guinness though, and we made a point of checking out one of Dublin’s microbreweries. We actually ended up at Porterhouse Brewing Company’s Temple Bar location more than once. This maze like pub spanning several floors was packed out on both Friday and Saturday nights. They had the most amazing Guitar player on Friday night too (he put my Guitar Hero dominance on medium to shame). The beer was phenomenal too, way better than Guinness, we’re talking top quality microbrewery stuff. I particularly enjoyed their Oyster Stout and the Temple Brau lager. This is a great pub and another must visit.
We also did a Literary Pub Crawl of Dublin. It was really fun, not for the beer, but for the story telling and literary history. Turns out every famous Irish writer was a massive drunk. But we were only in Dublin for two days and did our fair share of drinking, so who are we to judge?