Thanks to Guinness, Ireland’s winning of Rugby’s Grand Slam in England on St Patrick’s Day was even more special than my Graham could possibly have imagined.
In his latest ‘Beside the Hilda’ guest blog post, GG tells of an unusual way to celebrate Ireland’s national saint’s day.
A couple of weeks earlier, I had entered Guinness’s international ‘Global Homecoming’ competition (it is sold in 118 countries worldwide, it seems). It related to an experience of drinking the famous black stuff in Italy, of all places, on a skiing trip some 15 years ago and the efforts we made to show the local barman how to pull the perfect pint.
Guinness liked my story and so invited me (and a guest) to their inaugural ‘Global Homecoming’ as their ‘Ambassador to Italy’!
In the company of good friend and Guinness aficionado Ronnie Lowther (below left), we made our way to the St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin after the rugby was over and for the next four hours were treated royally as VIPs.
First stop was a guided tour around the actual brewery, something which the general public don’t get to see, and our guide Colm filled us in on the brand’s history.
The founder, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000-year lease 259 years ago for the original 4-acre site and stout was clearly not his only vice – he fathered 21 children too!
Today, Guinness occupies over 50 acres of the cityscape, brews millions of pints of its renowned products on site every day and also brews some 30 other brands of beer, lager and stout. Who knew it brews Carlsberg and Budweiser under licence, for instance?
We learned that Guinness also supports a wide diversity of businesses, organisations and local community groups, and relies on 600 Irish barley growers to supply consistently good quality crops for stout production.
Our next stop was to the Archive Department where we saw samples of old advertising material from around the world, bottle labels of old, bottle types and original hand-written recipes for beer and stout production, among other things.
Then it was a tour by Aine around the Guinness Storehouse, once the brewery’s fermentation plant but opened in 2000 as a 7-floor visitor centre telling the whole Guinness story.
It is now Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction with millions of visitors every year – indeed, they were just celebrating their highest daily attendance of 10,256!
After that it was off to the ‘Guinness Academy’ where expert barmen were on hand to show us how to pull the perfect pint and inviting all the guests to try their hand.
Thankfully, Ronnie and I have some experience in this regard and suitably impressed the demonstrator!
Food then followed, with a series of four small but delicious courses, each paired with a Guinness beer or stout. We even had a brass band come in to entertain us while we ate.
The night ended with a visit to the ‘Gravity Bar’ at the top of the building, Dublin’s highest pub with spectacular views over the capital city, with a DJ keeping the mood going.
No rushing anyone out the door – the Guinness personnel on duty were superb and really pulled out all the stops!
It was a really special way to celebrate an already special day.
You can learn even more by visiting the Storehouse and by checking out the Guinness website here.