Painting the Town Black

28 Oct

Arthur’s Day Thursday, 26th Sept. 2013

 From all the hype about Arthur’s Day, you wouldn’t guess that the holiday that had just gained unofficially established itself in ’09 to commemorate no other than Mister Arthur Guinness himself.  This annual music and culture festival basically take the form of a smaller scale St. Patrick’s Day celebration set in the Fall. Musicians and bands make appearances at surprise venues in the city, and this year the line up included The Script, Janelle Monae and Emeli Sande amongst many other well-known artists.

If I were to describe this year’s Arthur’s Day in a word or two, it’s description would easily be categorized as “utter insanity.” Even that is an understatement. There has never been a more chaotic night here since I’ve been in Dublin like this, as I felt the city had turned upside down. The streets of the city center were swamped with quite a mix of younger and older crowds alike; people were exerting their alcohol highs far more openly than usual, and it was out of control. Temple Bar created a claustrophobic atmosphere filled with people stumbling with half filled pints in hand; small side streets were packed with people huddling to catch glimpses of bands playing; fights erupted on every corner with bouncers chasing after troublesome drunkards; and people were falling and laughing into the middle of traffic. Yellow cabs queued for miles throughout all the main streets. It was crazy.

Guinness Storehouse Friday, 27th Sept. 2013

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Just one day after the celebration of Arthur’s Day, I took a trip to the Guinness Storehouse to learn about the history of this famous Irish liquor. The Storehouse itself is the world’s largest Guinness pint glass shaped structure, a seven story building that if filled, would hold 14.3 million pints of the world famous “black stuff.”

The Storehouse used to be a fully functional Fermentation Plant from 1904 to 1988 for the St. James Gate Brewery, when the fermentation plant was moved to a new location near the River Liffey. The Storehouse takes its visitors on a self-guided tour of 250 years of history — each floor exploring different aspects of the iconic brand, bringing its visitors behind the scenes.

The format of the Storehouse is so impeccably designed, as it tells the brand’s story through its structured interior design and architecture. With quotes and facts lining the walls and floors, everything ebbed cleanly into the next section of the exhibit; the building itself made the tour an interactive experience, and made the world of Guinness truly come to life.

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The Ground Floor, “Orientation/Ingredients,” holds the famous 9,000 year lease signed 31st Dec. 1759 by the man, Arthur Guinness, himself. As I stepped into the first exhibit room, I was introduced to the four ingredients of Guinness: water, barley, hops and yeast learned their origins and each of the elements in their rawest forms.

The First Floor, “Brewing. Cooperage/Transport,” brings visitors through the process, which the beer is created, the different machinery used for brewing and the different forms of transportation used through centuries. First the barley is malted, roasted, milled, mixed & mashed with hot water. Then the liquid mix is filtered & boiled with hops, and then yeast is added for fermentation to begin. Lastly, the beer clarified, matured and prepared for packaging to shipped to different pubs and bars across the globe.Image

On the Second Floor, “Taste Experience,” or as I like to remember it as the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Experience,” led a group to a brightly lit white room containing four short columns, each containing the scent of each of the four ingredients. Each column wafted with the distinct aroma of each ingredient, the vapor spilling over and disappearing over the floor. After we learned to properly recognize the smells of each ingredient, we moved on the Tasting room where we learned how to properly taste Guinness. Inhale, fill your mouth with the Guinness, and exhale as you swallow.

On the Third Floor, “Guinness Advertising,” one of my favorite parts of the tour, visitors explore media and marketing of the brand throughout the decades displayed on televisions corresponding to the time period, with the first commercial premiering in 1929. I also got to star in my own Guinness ad, by striking a pose on a set.

On the Fourth Floor, “The Guinness Academy,” I learned the art of pouring the perfect pint and had the opportunity to pour my own. Since we were at a sort of time crunch, we skipped over the Fifth Floor and nonexistent Sixth Floor up the glass elevator all the way to the top at the Seventh Floor; The Gravity Bar concluded our tour with a 360 degree view of Dublin on a beautiful sunny day.

Through the seven floors of the Storehouse, each section told a bit about Guinness; a facet of its story was held in each tier, which concluded, lastly, with a panoramic view of the vast population that enjoys the drink. As I enjoyed my pint in the Gravity Bar overlooking cityscape, I could only reflect on the impact of the brand on a consumer empire that stretched far beyond the horizon.

-Julia Le

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