It was St Patrick’s Day this week, so it seemed fitting to return to another Irish cultural icon: Guinness.
July last year was wet in Ireland, and it rained much of the short time we were in Dublin. So, we visited the Guinness Storehouse: it was a good way to learn something about local history, while staying dry for a few hours.
As a bonus, we each got a “pint of black” with our entry price.
The Guinness dynasty has left an indelible mark on Dublin. Our open-bus tour took us past the house in which Arthur Guinness (1724/1725 – 1803), lived. Billed as an entrepreneur, visionary and philanthropist, in 1759 Arthur founded the now-famous brewery at St James’s Gate. An Irish Protestant, Guinness was deeply influenced by John Wesley’s theology of social ministry. He started (and funded) the first Sunday schools in Ireland; he gave vast amounts of money to hospitals and charitable projects for the poor; and he payed his workers about 20 percent more than other employers. More importantly, he passed his reformist ideology down to his heirs: “If you had worked for Guinness in 1928, a year before the Great Depression, you would have had 24-hour medical care, 24-hour dental care, on-site massage therapy.”
The original brewery at St James’s Gate is the centrepiece of the Guinness story. Inside the thick brick walls, what was once the old brewery and storehouse is now a museum built in girders and glass. Rising up the centre of the seven-story building is the world’s largest pint glass. At the base of the glass is a special document: the original 9000-year lease for the St James’s Gate property.
As well as explaining the brewing process, the museum looks at distribution and transportation. My great-grandfather was a cooper, so I was particularly interested in watching the short film about the Guinness Master Cooper, Dick Flanagan, making barrels.
A large section of the museum displays sponsorship and advertising over the years. Who can forget “I like to watch” or other famous Guinness ads from years gone by? There are also sections on health and responsible drinking, tracing family who might have worked for the company, and even cooking with Guinness.
In keeping with the mythology of the perfect beer, there is an entire section instructing you how to pour a pint: a six-step process, achieved in two stages and taking exactly 119.5 seconds!
I confess: I don’t actually like Guinness, or any other beer.
I did my best to down my pint: I managed a quarter and gave the rest to my husband.
Outside it was still wet. Oh well – that’s Ireland.
Happy St Patrick’s Day ~ Sláinte!