Beer in Dublin is synonymous with Guinness. A visit to the brand’s Storehouse, voted Europe’s number one tourist attraction in 2015—suspiciously besting the Eiffel Tower, The Roman Colosseum and La Sagrada Familia—makes it clear that the brand isn’t just any old brew, but a part of Irish history. (At one point during the 1800s, one in thirty people in Dublin relied on Guinness for some form of income.)
Tour guides at the Storehouse are well-versed in brewing patois, stressing the quality of each ingredient: barley, hops, yeast, and 8 million liters of natural spring water a day. Their emphasis is on terroir and an artisanal methodology, so much so that you could forget they send over 50 million barrels of beer out their front door every year. One room along the tour, a decidedly Kubrickian white box entered through a disorientingly long tunnel, asks visitors to waft in the essential oils of each ingredient. “The most important thing is to just enjoy the beer,” says our tour guide as he leads us through a primer in retronasal breathing.
All of these earnest attempts to make beer-tasting into more of a showpiece than a drinking exercise add up to a distractingly didactic experience. By the end of the day I half expected to turn a corner and espy a gang of actors dressed as gentlemen farmers running their fingers along the rims of so many warped barrels, plunging their hands in only to pull out a single barley kernel to inspect it for flaws. The Storehouse annually attracts over a million beer enthusiasts, and it feels like it. It would be right at home if airlifted into Times Square, and I can’t think of a spot in NYC where you’re less likely to catch me on the hunt for good beer—except maybe the airport.