There is no beer – maybe no beverage on Earth – more immediately identified with its land of origin than Guinness Stout.
Fermented in the center of Dublin since 1759 when founder Arthur Guinness first signed the 9,000 year lease on the original brewery, the distinctive red brown ale is essential to Irish and Dubliner identity within and outside The Emerald Isle.
Guinness is such an Irish institution that Arthur’s Day – a recently-founded celebration in honor of the visionary Brewer behind every foaming pint – has quickly become an “unofficial official” holiday of almost St. Patrick’s Day-ian proportions in Dublin’s fair city. Established in 2009 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the beer and its creator, and visitors to pubs across Ireland and the UK had such a good time, all parties decided to keep the party going.
I was a guest of Guinness during the most recent Arthur’s Day and enjoyed a tour of the Guinness Storehouse – The West’s beer HQ outside of Milwaukee and St. Louis. The Storehouse rises high above a working brewery putting out 3 million pints per day. Designed in the sloping shape of a signature Guinness pint glass, the seven story Storehouse holds a Guinness museum downstairs and the Gravity Bar up top with a 360 degree view of surrounding Dublin.
Crave Online was treated to a tour of the Guinness Storehouse by a local celebrity and beloved figure of ale drinkers everywhere, Master Brewer Fergal Murray. Murray has been crafting Guinness since the 1980s and treats every drop with the care and attention to detail you might expect from a scientist or an artist.
Murray displayed a dry, even self-deprecating sense of humor as he led the tour through the brewing process from the selection of water and the growing of hops to the roasting of the barley and the fermentation process. But, he displays a scholarly seriousness and reverence for the finishing product.
As Murray explains the finer points of studying a glass of Guinness Stour before consuming it, he holds it out as though admiring a Faberge Egg:
“If you ask more people what color a (Guinness Stout) is, they’ll often say it’s brown,” Murray explained. “But, if you examine a pint more closely, you’ll see it’s actually a much deeper red.”
Murray urged the Guinness lover to let his or her nose linger a bit over the head before the lips tough the pint glass. And, it’s a good idea to breath in slightly as you take you drink as the aroma of the ale adds to the taste.
The Master Brewer insists you drink from under the head, not through it – taking a healthy swallow without sipping or chugging. A proper swallow from a clean glass of Guinness should leave rings from the head documenting the number and amount of ale consumed. A properly ringed glass shows you’re drinking in a proper pub with pristine glassware – and you know how to enjoy an ale properly and responsibly.
Back on the tour, Murray is especially proud of Project Phoenix – the construction of an additional brewing facility next to the current Storehouse and Brewery. Murray led the way to the original brewery’s roof – offering a rare, restricted view of the ongoing construction. Once finished, Project Phoenix will be able to run 24/7 and may be used to produced more barrels of Stout or any mix of Guinness seasonal, specialty or experimental ales.
The tour concluded in one of the Storehouse’s professional tasting rooms. These are not for the general public, so forget any image of pretentious, beer-sniffing tourists standing around a cheese tray. This isn’t Napa. Guinness brewers, engineers and executives come together in the tasting room to sample the day’s output and carefully rate its taste and adherence to Guinness standard. If anything goes wrong an entire day’s production could be scrapped until all hands figure out the problem.
Murray made it clear that never happens because men and women like him dedicate their lives to making sure Stout lovers around the world enjoy the same experience pint for pint and barrel for barrel.