Whiskey Before Beer

Traveling to Ireland for most people means a tour of Guinness. For many it also means Irish whiskey.

The Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse has an incredible view of Dublin.

In Dublin we were able to take a Skip the Line tour that included both experiences through GetYourGuide. Our guide acquired tickets for Jameson’s Irish whiskey distillery and the Guinness Storehouse tour, then walked us between the two sites sharing a bit of Irish history.  This was one of the highlights of our trip, not only for the ability to try these two staples of Ireland but also to hear some incredible stories from our guide.

Of note, the tour was originally sold out for the date we wanted. Because the company has a flexible cancellation policy, my husband checked diligently for weeks until two tickets for the time and date that we wanted were suddenly free.

The World’s Irish Whiskey

Around the world, most people have heard of Jameson. While I usually gravitate toward more obscure and family-owned businesses, it’s nice to sample something that we can purchase at Costco. Our guide met us at Jameson’s former distillery location for the start of our tour.  Today the building houses a ticketed museum, tasting experience and a bar open to the public. 

We walked around the entry which has its own features, such as the original foundation of the building, until the tour began. We were given a ticket to receive a choice of Jameson beverage before being allowed into the museum area. The choices are Jameson on the rocks, Jameson straight or Jameson and ginger. I chose the latter and it was scrumptious. I wish I’d been drinking it our entire trip, but it’s certainly something I’ll need to remember for future bar visits when a cocktail menu isn’t available.

We tasted three types of Jameson whiskey (with plenty of water on the side).

The tour then moved into an auditorium for an interactive presentation. Our group learned about Ireland’s history and how the distillery fit into the timeline. Our guide was very humorous, possibly helped by the tipple we were all served but it was topped by a great script and delivery.

After learning about the start of whiskey in Ireland, the distillery’s place during the Easter Uprising in 1916 and how it was a city within a city, we were marched to the tasting room. We enjoyed three different types of Jameson, all of which were delicious.

A Trek Across Town

The distance between Jameson’s distillery and the Guinness Storehouse is roughly a mile. Our group walked together from the north side of the river to the south side, learning about the River Liffey as we went and hearing a number of stories along the way. Many of the more awful tales involved drunks robbing or desecrating graves and churches.

We also learned a bit about Ireland’s complex history between Protestants and Catholics. It’s a subject that I’ve struggled to understand.

The Brazen Head

Some of my education has come from Downtown Abby, and a bit more was grasped from Derry Girls, but that barely scratches the surface of the hatred between the two quite similar Christian religions. It’s something that’s hard to understand for someone who didn’t grow up with that same perspective. I can only compare it to those who grow up in a Purdue household learning to hate those from Indiana University, or growing up in Georgia learning to dislike Auburn without any rhyme or reason. Only this hatred is far deeper.

Our walk led us through the streets of Dublin with a quick stop at The Brazen Head, certainly one of the oldest drinking establishments in the world and definitely the oldest in Dublin. It’s debatable whether it’s the oldest in Ireland but I’ll share more on that in a future post.

The Gates of Saint James

I’m not a beer drinker. I would have been perfectly happy to sit comfortably at Jameson with my new favorite drink. But my husband is a fan of Guinness. In fact, once the St. James’s Gate came into view he stopped for a moment to take it in. Our entire group posed for a photo in front of the gate, a symbol of the brewery’s success. We then were taken inside the Guinness Storehouse and witnessed the 9,000-year lease signed by the original Arthur Guinness.

Because the facility is a self-guided tour, our personal guide gave us a brief summary of each floor as we entered. He suggested that we return on our own, taking time on each floor in reverse, but gave us an idea of where it would be beneficial to stop based on our interest.

Guinness Gravity Bar

We had special tickets for the Gravity Bar where we each had our own poured Guinness waiting for us. While I wasn’t a fan of the beer, I was thrilled with the view. It was a glorious look of the entire area, and although it was our first day in Dublin and I didn’t quite have my bearings, I took a moment to appreciate every angle. The bar was very crowded so we didn’t spend terribly long there but stopped on each floor before we exited to see the spots we missed.

ISO the Perfect Pour

When people heard we were heading to Ireland, many spoke of the perfect Guinness.

“No one in America really knows how to pour a Guinness,” they said. “Wait until you have your first sip there. It will be amazing.”

And since day one my husband had been anticipating that perfect pour. And since day one he’d been disappointed. He declared that every single spot, including the Guinness Gravity bar, was no different than having a Guinness in the States. The trick that used to make a difference – waiting at least a minute between the first pour until its topped off – is now well-known around the world.

After our Guinness tour we met a business colleague for dinner and heard him order a Coors at the bar. As I teased him about selecting an American beer, he noted that he’s a Guinness snob. “There are only a few places it’s really good,” he said.

He cited the YouTuber, the Guinness Guru, who rates the locations of the perfect Guinness. He ranks the best pour as being a location that was a cab ride away from downtown Dublin. So the next day we decided to try to second-best Guinness in Ireland which was only a short walk.

Bowe’s – the second-best Guinness in Ireland

We took a seat at Bowe’s with crossed fingers, ordering a Guinness and Jameson and ginger. After the first sip of the Irish beer, my husband declared it was the best he’d ever had. He wondered if perhaps it was his mind playing tricks, so he ordered a second one which was equally good. We asked the bartender for his secret. He told us there are four factors that contribute to his superior Guinness quality: cleaning the lines with water and not chemicals, limiting the number of taps so beer is continually running, cleaning beer glasses together and keeping kegs close to the tap.

In the end my husband had the best Guinness he’d ever tasted even though it wasn’t at the location of the Saint James gates. And despite not learning to love Guinness, I found a new bar drink. All-in-all our tour of whiskey before beer was one that I’d recommend to anyone.

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