|The Jameson chandelier!|
In fairness, my cousin Liz and I only went on two alcohol-related tours on this trip to Ireland, so to proclaim one “the best alcohol related tour” isn’t quite right. They were both good–if anyone reading this goes to Ireland, Guinness and Jameson are must-gos.
The stereotype is that Irish people like to drink, yeah? And they do, for the most part. But that’s not the whole story, which is why it grates on my nerves when St. Patrick’s Day is used as an excuse to get sloshed.
But Ireland is known for several brands of alcohol and they’re quite proud of them (and being Irish-American, Liz and I encounter Irish alcohol at home and at family gatherings), so on our first day in Ireland, Liz and I were taken on a tour to the Guinness Storehouse in St. James’s Gate, Dublin.
Basically, as you walk through the building, you see the ingredients that go into making beer, you learn some of the history of Arthur Guinness and his beer (and his yeast), you see some of what the brewery used to look like. There are advertisements that Guinness has put out over the years–a lot of it in audio-visual form.
The ads are amusing; there’s a display of all the animals Guinness has used in its ads over the years, like the toucan, seals, bears, lions, turtles…
Guinness has a bar where you can pull your own pint of stout, but it was super crowded (the entire building was extremely crowded that day), so Liz and I opted to go up to the Gravity Bar, where you can see 360-degree views of Dublin and get a complimentary pint of Guinness poured to perfection.
I finished half the pint, which, considering the size of a pint and the size of, well, me, I think I did pretty well. It’s definitely the best Guinness I’ve had.
|Gravity Bar, Guinness Storehouse|
(You get the complimentary drink ticket upon the admission into the Guinness Storehouse, I think. Our tour company handled all that.)
But actually, I liked the other alcohol-related tour we went on better. We went to the Jameson Old Distillery in Midleton, County Cork, where we went to learn all about the process of making Jameson triple distilled Irish whiskey–mostly how they did it in the old days.
Jameson’s tours are done in smaller groups with a tour guide, so our tour group of twenty was its own group with our own Jameson guide. She took us through the nineteenth century Jameson buildings, where they used to malt the barley and mix it with water and let the malt ferment.
|A very large water wheel at Jameson’s|
She went through the entire process of how the whiskey is made, how the whiskey is barreled (Jameson buys a lot of its barrels from American bourbon makers and lets the whiskey age in them). It was really fascinating and the old equipment, machinery, and the barrels (I swear, I was getting buzzed from smelling them) enhanced the experience.
|Whiskey at different stages. The second one from the left is 3 years.|
Irish whiskey has to legally age three years to be an Irish whiskey, though Jameson tends to age theirs until six years before bottling them.
At the end, our guide took volunteers to try three different whiskeys as a comparison test. After that, we were let loose in the Jameson bar to drink plain Ginger Ale for the under-agers and non-drinkers, straight Jameson for the brave, and Jameson and Ginger Ale with a wedge of lime cocktail for the rest of us.
The cocktail’s quite good, btw.
I think, for me, the difference in crowd size contributed to my overall experience, though I’m more likely to drink Guinness than whiskey. (My father is slightly incredulous at this: “Guinness is like drinking a meal.” Guinness, however, does not give me the hangovers that whiskey does.)
Also, because we’d arrived early on the morning of the Guinness visit, Liz and I were both slightly out of it by that time of the afternoon, which may have contributed to overall enjoyment levels. I enjoyed Guinness, but I was way more energetic at Jameson.
That may have been because I ate an entire bar of mint chocolate before Jameson, bought from the Blarney Chocolate Factory.
Both gift stores were cool. There was a lot of Guinness-infused food at Guinness Storehouse. Liz bought some Guinness fudge things, which we snacked on for the next few days. Pretty darn good.