12 months ago
“Arthur Guinness was ahead of his time,” the driver says unprompted on the way to Dublin Airport. It’s worth remembering that, before Guinness was a product, there was a person. And even today Guinness remains a family as well as a beer. As Guinness spread across the globe (while remaining inextricably linked with Ireland), those individuals made a lot of money. Today, Guinness is a brand valued at $2.5 billion. It’s not recent wealth either: Guinness Archivist Fergus Brady notes its value reached the equivalent of a billion well over a hundred years ago.
The Guinness family has been generous to its workers and highly charitable. (In particular, they’re largely credited with saving Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where construction was begun in 1191 and which serves as the final resting place of Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift.)
Yet even accounting for how much they’ve given away, there’s still loads of loot left over. With that in mind, this is a quick guide to having an Irish experience worthy of a Guinness.
St. James’s Gate Brewery
This is where it all starts. On New Year’s Eve of 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease.
“The Guinness company is older than the United States of America,” declares Brady. (He also says that, while “Ireland had been through a really turbulent period” around that era and consequently favored lengthy leases to ensure stability, 9,000 years is still an inexplicably massive amount of time—the next highest figure he has located is 999 years.)
Of course, it still stands today. St. James’s Gate Brewery has been dubbed a city within a city, as it stretches roughly 55 acres at Dublin’s center. It’s large enough that a plan to redevelop less than a quarter of it could provide space for 500 homes. (Which would in a way restore an early Guinness tradition: Arthur himself had a residence on the property, which still stands.)
Today, the Guinness Storehouse is a popular tourist attraction. More than popular. People from all around the world want to see it, though it does hold a special allure for Irish Americans.
Here are four ways to make the most of your visit:
–Choose Connoisseur. The one downside to the Storehouse is that it gets crowded, particularly the top floor Gravity Bar with its 360-degree views of Dublin’s skyline. Beer expert Kevin Egan—who is continuing a family tradition of working for Guinness—urges getting the 55 Euro (roughly $68) Connoisseur Experience. This grants you a “tasting experience” of Guinness products in the private bar—it’s an excellent way to escape the masses. (If interested, Egan urges booking in advance.)
–Head to the Open Gate. The Open Gate Brewery is an experimental brewery that has only recently been opened to the public. Brews that prove popular there may be further tested at other Dublin bars before reaching the greater world. (While there, I tried the Shore to Be Shore Seaweed Stout.) Again, it’s worth reserving a slot in advance.
–Access the Archives. The Archives are by appointment only: definitely get in touch ahead of time. Those who get permission can access over two centuries of ads, labels, records and other materials. “We are the custodians of the entire documented record of Guinness history from 1759 to the present day,” says Brady. You can see how Guinness first reached America. (John Heavy had eight hogheads—about 52-and-a-half gallons—sent to South Carolina in 1817.) Or learn about extremely quirky corporate policies from yesteryear, such as merchants found to have “sold as your Extra Stout, Stout which was not your Extra Stout” being forced to publicly express their remorse in newspapers. (“I hereby tender to you my unqualified apology.”)
And if there’s a family connection to Guinness, this is your chance to track down that employee. It’s all proof Guinness can hold your attention even when you’re not drinking it.
While this next one isn’t currently an option…
–Buy Out the Gravity Bar. Between the view and the pints, it’s the perfect place to unwind. At least, it would be if seemingly every other visitor to Dublin didn’t have the same idea. (I stopped by early evening on a Monday in late March and still found it mobbed.) In 2017, Guinness and Airbnb let one lucky bastard occupy it for the night. There are currently no plans for a repeat, but a Guinness drinker can dream. (And for the eagle-eyed literary fan, the quotes in the picture below are from James Joyce works and positioned so that you’re actually overlooking what he describes in his writing.)
Now you’re ready for more of the Guinness clan experience. These options lie beyond Dublin, but remember—Ireland is surprisingly navigable. (From Dublin, it’s only a two-hour drive to Belfast in the north and a four-hour haul brings you to Killarney in the southwest. In short: The entire country is always within reach.)
Guinness Golfing. Golf requires land and that is something the Guinness family has traditionally had in abundance. Take their former 567-acre walled estate of Luttrellstown. Located less than eight miles outside of Dublin, it’s now the site of Luttrellstown Castle Golf. 18-hole greens fees range from 30 to 45 Euros (roughly $37 to $55).
Of course, Ireland is home to other golf courses without direct Guinness links but with much to recommend them. The most celebrated is likely the Royal Portrush Golf Club, which is three hours to the north from Dublin and will host the Open Championship in 2019. Both Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington have named it of one of their 10 personal favorite golf courses on the planet. Green fees for the Dunluce course can reach 205 Euros (roughly $252) per person per round, plus you’re “expected to be members of a recognised Golf Club and to hold a bona fide current Playing Handicap.”
All right, you had a full day and need a place to rest your head. Assuming you can’t book the Gravity Bar…
The Call of a Castle. Ashford Castle is the rare Irish icon predating the Guinness family: it’s about 800-years-old. The Guinness family did own it for eight decades (during which they did a good deal of work on it) before letting it go. Today, it’s one of the most celebrated resorts in Ireland and the U.K. (Visiting it may be an oddly familiar experience for John Wayne fans, as The Quiet Man was shot nearby.) Rooms start at 350 Euros ($430.45). Located on the west coast of Ireland in County Mayo, it’s still less than a three-hour drive from Dublin.
Sadly, every visitor to Ireland must head home. Unless, of course, you pull the ultimate Guinness maneuver and just buy a large chunk of the country.
Latch on to Luggala. Less than 30 miles south of Dublin, the Luggala estate (and former Guinness family home) in County Wicklow is currently selling for 28,000,000 Euros (roughly $34.6 million). It offers 5,000 acres. RCL attempted to put this property’s sheer size in perspective once before and described it simply as “six times bigger than Central Park.” The house itself is similarly overwhelming, as the 19,099-square-foot residence has 27 bedrooms and 18 full baths. Watch the video below and say to yourself: “It’s good to be a Guinness.”