First photo – Terry and I in the Guinness foam; Photo Two – Terry and her “small” glass of Guinness. Photos courtesy of Carl Kanowsky.
So, naturally after falling in love with Guinness Draught while in Dublin, we had to visit where it is made. (Actually, the beer is not made in the Guinness Storehouse, the site of the tour and tasting, but it used to be. Also, you are surrounded by the buildings housing the actual brewing process.)
The Storehouse is a six- or seven-story structure, with each floor providing more information about the brewing process or the Guinness family story or the history of how the process of making the beer has changed and developed over the past 200 years.
It is a self-guided tour (we were disappointed that no guided tours were available). The benefit is that you can take as long as you want. We were there for about three hours (admittedly some of it spent drinking and eating — they have pretty good restaurants there).
If you take the time, the tour enlightens you as to how Guinness is made. Now, some of the guests were there mainly (more likely, simply because) to enjoy the free pint at the end of the tour. But, if you take the time, it’s like a college course in chemistry, baking, economics, labor relations and advertising all wrapped into one.
For instance, I learned that Guinness’ main ingredients feature barley (both plain and malted), hops, yeast and water.
They use 140,000 tons of Irish barley every year. And to keep the quality consistent, they use the same Irish farmers. Now, frankly, I got a little lost after that. I know they soak some portion of that barley in water for a few days until it sprouts. This is the malting process. The malted barley is then dried. I’m unclear as to whether all of the barley (malted and unmalted) or just one or the other is then roasted to 232 degrees (any hotter and the barley catches fire).
Hot water is then added to the barley to create a mash, to release the barley’s inherent sweetness. Then the mash is filtered to remove the solids, leaving a substance called wort.
Hops (used as a preservative and to add bitterness) sadly can’t grow in Ireland. Instead, they source their hops from growers in the U.S., England, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic.
The wort is boiled in a large kettle and the hops are added. After that comes the yeast. Guinness has its own proprietary yeast that they actually keep in a safe, which you see while on the tour. The goal, like the barley, is to maintain consistency from one brew to another. The yeast then joins the wort and hops to begin fermentation, which takes about three days. The fermentation creates alcohol and CO2. Then, cutting to the chase, you have Guinness!
Near the end of the tour, we enjoyed the Stoutie Experience, which begins with a photographer getting your best portrait. We then sat at a table where two Guinness glasses were brought to us. Now, this is where I get truly lost. Sitting on the foam are pictures of Terry and me. How do they do that? But, you know what, drinking the picture of myself was quite tasty.
As you can see from the photo, I was able to make a Guinness convert of Terry. Just another reason why we enjoyed Ireland so much.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.