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The Guinness Storehouse tour is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Dublin, if not the most popular. The ruby red drink is almost synonymous with Ireland, and Dublin, more specifically. (Did you think Guinness was black not red? Me too, until we took the tour and they said it a million times…) As one of the most popular sites in Dublin, planning your Storehouse tour is an important part of any Dublin preparation.
Before adding this to your itinerary, you need to accept that it will be crowded. While we obviously we there on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the amount of times I saw special deals on tickets that include fast track queuing tells me that the crowds aren’t abnormal. I highly recommend that you get some form of fast track tickets and there are a few different ways to get those tickets in advance. The most obvious choice is the Guinness website, which sells advanced tickets. We got ours through the Dublin Pass , which also let us jump the regular line. Whether you choose one of those two methods, or another, I wouldn’t show up without tickets. The line outside was absurdly long, and there’s no reason to wait if you don’t have to.
Upon walking in, I was already overwhelmed. The Storehouse is five floors of beautiful designed and eye-catching stimulus. There’s wall-size visual exhibits on how the beer is made. Interactive representations. Technological sections. This place felt like a cross between a mall and a rave and is obviously designed to create Instagram-able moments to ensure that visitors harness the free advertising of social media. Now, I don’t begrudge them their meticulously designed building or desire to take advantage of the current ubiquity of social media. But it does make for a different style of user experience than your usual brewery tour.
My biggest compliant is probably the lack of a tour guide and the chaotic feel that follows this omission. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but one of my favorite parts of visiting a tourist site is the guide. There’s nothing that makes these places more fun than an enthusiastic and knowledgeable docent. I’m sure the Storehouse is self-guided due to the sheer number of visitors every day. Trying to organize and coordinate tours would not only mean restricting visitors, but it would also be a logistical nightmare. Of course, a benefit of the self-guided model is that time spent on the Guinness Storehouse tour is flexible. Depending on how much of the exhibit you want to read/experience and how busy it is, you’ll probably end up slowly winding your way through.
Besides not having a tour guide to help direct your time, I also felt like there was a lack of signage and explanation throughout the entire place. We did not realize that our ticket only included one free drink, which could either be redeemed at that Tasting Room, the Perfect Pour bar, or the Gravity Bar. Reading this, you may think that should be ridiculously obvious. And, looking back, it does seem that way. But based on all of the other conversations we overheard, we were not the only people confused by this system. That being said, I have my own personal recommendation as to how I would navigate the different options.
Tasting Rooms Tips
The Tasting Room is the first option you’ll encounter as you make your way to the top of the building. If you don’t want a full pour of Guinness, then this might be the place for you to use your drink ticket. As the name implies, you can get three different tasting sized-samples of Guinness and other beers brewed on sight. They will also hand out free, even smaller, sized samples to guests who just want to sit and take a break from their tour. As it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend when we were there, they also had a rotating cast of Irish dancers.
The Perfect Pour
The Perfect Pour bar is one floor above the tasting room and, if you’ve ever seen people with certificates saying they learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, this is where they do it. While we didn’t see any signs announcing this, the Perfect Pour Bar only accepts drink vouchers (the one that came with your ticket) or cash. Seriously. Somehow the most popular site in Dublin that seems to accept credit cards everywhere else in the building, does not accept them at this one spot.
Was learning to pour the perfect pint one of the top things on Alex’s Ireland Bucket List? Of course it was. Did we wait in line only to then find out that, having used our drink vouchers in The Tasting Room, cash was our only option? Of course we did. Did we have cash? Of course we didn’t. This led to one of my proudest moments, where I found a middle aged American man in the Gravity bar who took my $20 USD and exchanged it for 20 Euros. (While I didn’t get his name, he remains the true hero of our trip.) I think this is the best place to use your drink voucher and then, if you want another drink, you can purchase it either at the Tasting Room or upstairs at the Gravity Bar.
The Gravity Bar
Based on photos I’d seen of The Gravity Bar, I was so excited to sip my beer and look out on the city. Remember when I said the Guinness Storehouse tour is crowded? The Gravity Bar is no exception. It was so hot in there that the windows were slightly fogged. Yes, I said fogged. Gross. And we were there in March when you couldn’t be outside without a coat and a scarf. While you can get a drink directly from the bar up there, you can also bring your Perfect Pour beer upstairs. (You also don’t even have to buy anything to go up there and check out the view.) Unfortunately, I thought the crowds turned this from a unique and scenic experience to one that was just plain uncomfortable. Maybe you’ll get lucky and visit on a day when the bar isn’t quite so crowded.
All in all, I think describing it as a mixed experience is fair. (Alex would like it to be known that he thought it was awesome.) I understand that the beer is quintessentially Irish and people probably go on the Guinness Storehouse tour because they feel like their trip would be incomplete if they didn’t. (Which is master marketing at its finest.) But, honestly, while I was there, I felt like I was in an overpriced tourist trap. I don’t feel like they care about my experience as much as they cared about getting money out of me. I’m not telling you not to go. (Although I’m also not telling you to go.) I think you should be clear about what you’re getting into and what they are giving you in return and go in with clear expectations. If it is important to you to see it, then by all means – enjoy!