Monthly Archives: July 2010

Guinness Tastes Better in Dublin

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.

Gate to Guinness Storehouse in Dublin

Gate to Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, other tourists taking pictures

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.

Brew Kettle in the Guinness Storehouse

Brew Kettle in the Guinness Storehouse

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.

Barrels in the Guinness Storehouse

Barrels in the Guinness Storehouse, they show you the whole industrial beer making process

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.

The bar on top of the Guinness Storehouse

The bar on top of the Guinness Storehouse, pouring Guinness is an art

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.

Do you remember when lying was okay in advertising? Oh wait, it's still okay.

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?

Cheers,

Chris

Canada Day in Trafalgar Square

Turns out there is a giant Canada Day celebration in Trafalgar Square every year.  It’s an all day event featuring a road hockey tournament during the day and a raucous concert in the evening.  They even had Canadian beer!  What beer did they choose to represent all of Canada to London?  Sleeman‘s honey brown and genuine draft.  Not what I would have chosen, but probably the most popular beer available nation wide in Canada.  It was all gone by the time I showed up anyway and I had to drink Carlsberg, gross.  Also on hand was Tim Horton‘s coffee and doughnuts, Mission Hill wine, and Bison burgers.  This was no slouch of a party either, the concert featured Jully Black and the Hawksley Workman, among others.  It was one of the better Canada Day celebrations I’ve ever been to, which is a bit sad.  As a nation, we’re more interested in the day off than truly celebrating our nation.  We’re just too polite to make a scene…

Canada Day in Trafalgar Square

Canada Day in Trafalgar Square

The most amazing part of the evening for me involved one of the Canadians we were meeting turning up in a circa 1994 Gino Odjick Canuck jersey.  There were thousands of drunk Canadians in Trafalgar Square that night and a good portion of them, most of the ones from BC at least, all stopped by to hug, pose with, or otherwise worship the Gino jersey.  The first incident I saw involved an extremely attractive woman practically throwing herself at the Gino jersey.  If you are a young single Canadian, I recommend showing up next year in a Gino (or suitable 1994 Canuck hero, Linden, Ronning, Mclean, Momesso, Adams, Babych and others not including Bure might do the trick) because you’ll be the toast of the town.  I always knew the 1994 Canuck run was a big deal, but it pretty much defines my generation.  If nothing else, we have that in common.  It’s a bit embarassing though, what with us not even winning.  Ginooo!

The Power of Gino is immense

The Power of Gino is immense

After the celebration we decided to go to the Maple Leaf, the one Canadian bar in London.  Guess what? So did everyone else and we didn’t get in.  I’ve yet to check out the Maple Leaf, but I’ll get there and let you know how it goes.

Cheers,

Chris

Hops and Glory is a good book

Hops and Glory by Pete BrownErik bought me the book Hops and Glory as a Christmas present last year and I just recently finished it.  The book is written by a man, Pete Brown, who endeavors to take India Pale Ale by boat from England to India.  Not only this, but he plans to take his beer the long way around the Cape of Good Hope.  He reckons the journey hasn’t been made this way since the Suez Canal opened in 1869 (I’m sure he’s right, why would you bother?).  Despite only hearing good things, it took me a while to get into this book because I sincerely doubted there was enough material on the topic of IPA to fill a book.  I was wrong, this book is a fascinating journey through not just the history of IPA, but also of British colonial rule in India and of the British brewing industry.

The first part of the book describes (and laments) the dilution of the IPA style from a good, strong, hoppy beer to a mere shadow of its former self in England.  Having lived in England for a while now, I can confirm there is very little India Pale Ale that we West Coast hopheads would deem up to snuff.  Greene King IPA is the most common IPA you’ll find around these parts and it more closely resembles Alexander Keith’s IPA (blah) than anything good.  Side-note: I have seen Sierra Nevada Torpedo multiple times around town.  Not to give the book away, but Pete does his research and brews his IPA as it would have been brewed in Burton for export in the early 19th century.  It sounded delicious.

The book then alternates chapters between Pete’s voyage and the story of that historical voyage.  Knowing nothing about international shipping, I was just as enthralled by the journey as I was with the history.  I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but it’s crazy to think there is so much of this globalized world that remains so foreign to us city dwellers.  As for the history, I found the details of British rule in India and the history of English brewing very illuminating in understanding aspects of modern politics and commercial brewing.  I had no idea that Bass was the UK’s first registered trademark and was once the world’s largest brand.  I was also taught in school to think the British were benevolent colonists, misguided in trying to help modernize their territories.  I was wrong, the British were a big bunch of jerks.

This book is not as much about beer as you would think and would appeal to all those interested in interesting things.  I recommend giving it a read.  There was one very profound quote in the book that I particularly wanted to share with you, but now I can’t find it.

Cheers,

Chris

Pubs that used to be banks

Having lived in London for a few months now I’m getting pretty used to hearing that this or that pub is hundreds of years old and Charles Dickens just happened to go on a bender with William Wallace here.  Okay, that’s a bit of stretch, but I have been to pubs that Dickens frequented when he was writing his horribly depressing books (I’m looking you right in the eye Hard Times).  Anyway, we had some friends visit recently who wanted to check out some pubs that used to be banks.  Rick Steves tipped them off and it’s true, more than a few old bank buildings have turned into pubs.  Turns out ATMs and some crisis that recently happened have negated the need for fancy old buildings in the banking industry, but the depressed bankers that remain still need to drink.

We ended up heading to the Counting House, which was built in 1893 as Prescott’s Bank, but is now a Fuller’s pub.  They carry the whole Fuller’s line on tap or in bottles and I was pleased to enjoy a delicious Fuller’s London Porter (or five), which is surprisingly not readily available in London.  The building itself was quite ornate for a pub, typical of the over the top opulence on display near the Bank tube station.  If you’ve never been to London’s financial district, it is impressive.  We’re talking fancy cars, everyone in suits, and people running around making deals that actually affect fluctuations in currency and the price of petrol (British for gas).  As such, I really enjoy heading to the area in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops.  If you enjoy drinking tasty beer in a pub that is a product of the financial industry’s well deserved misfortune, I recommend checking out a pub that used to be a bank.

Conversation over a pint at the Counting House

Conversation over a pint at the Counting House

Cheers,

Chris