You can find an Irish pub in just about any city around the world. But there’s nothing like cosying up in a pub in Ireland. The atmosphere is jovial, the conversation stimulating. New and old friends huddle around the fireplace drinking Guinness (Guinness fans should mark the Galway Oyster Festival on the calender) and when the fiddles begin to play you know you’re in for a good craic. Ireland’s pub culture is alive and kicking. It all started with the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Pubs in Dublin
Dublin’s pubs range from small cosy corner pubs and traditional pubs to sleek designer pubs and trendy hangouts. Dublin’s literary pub crawl combines the craic with a crash course in Irish literature (Dublin is the only city in the world to produce three Nobel Prize-winning writers; Beckett, Shaw and Yeats).
Some of the country’s best music can be heard in Dublin’s pubs. O’Donoghue’s launched the career of folk and ballad group the Dubliners and Whelans is the place all up-and-coming musicians aspire to play at. Irish-born Damien Leith (Australian Idol 2006 winner) spent much of his life playing music in pubs in County Kildare and Dublin.
“Ireland’s first musical sessions started in old man’s pubs back in the days when old men went to get their pints and tell old stories,” says Leith.
One of Leith’s favourite pubs is The Long Hall, with its long bar and ornate Victorian fittings. “Every pub in Dublin claims to serve the best Guinness but this one is great and just around the corner from where we lived,” says Leith.
Leith also likes The Porterhouse in Temple Bar which has its own micro-brewery where you can watch the brewers behind a glass wall. But his fondest memories of singer songwriter nights are at Molloys in Christchurch. “I discovered that drinking Guinness before singing wasn’t good for my voice. But does wonders to sooth the throat after singing,” he says.
Popular stand-up comedian Jimeoin favours The Temple Bar in Dublin for its snugs and red frontage. Located in the famous Temple Bar area, the pub won the award for Irish Music Pub of the Year in 2009 and has a daily changing roster of live performances.
Pubs in Belfast and the Galway Oyster Festival
Jimeoin is partial to pubs in Northern Island where he grew up. “The Crown in Belfast has the best booths and the best windows ever,” he says.
The snugs in The Crown are private booths with the original antique bell system used to summon the waiters and gun-metal plates for striking matches.
Jimeoin also recommends The Top House in Portstewart (Northern Ireland). “This is where I grew up and they haven’t changed it at all which is great as it’s like walking around your memories,” he says.
The Irish do love to party. Almost one out of two pints consumed in Ireland is a pint of Guinness. And no Irish shindig would be complete without Guinness. A few years ago, I went to the Galway Oyster Festival.
My half-hearted attempt to drink wine went unappreciated by the crowds of Guinness drinkers. Needless to say, I hastily switched to drinking the black stuff and discovered that it’s not a bad drop.
Guinness Storehouse in Dublin
The St. James’s Gate Brewery is one of the largest stout-producing breweries in the world and the Guinness Storehouse, which was the fermentation house, is an iconic Dublin tourist attraction.
It’s impossible to imagine an Ireland without Guinness (that would be as disturbing as an Australia without Vegemite).
When Arthur Guinness signed a 9000-year lease on the St. James’s Gate brewery for £45 a year most people thought he was mad.
At the time there were over 70 breweries in the city of Dublin. His son Arthur II perfected the recipe for Guinness which now sells 1.8 billion pints around the world each year.
Today you can drink Guinness in 150 countries and it is brewed in 49 including Malaysia, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. Over 10 million glasses of Guinness stout is consumed each day around the world. The biggest-selling markets are Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, USA and Cameroon.
Legend has it Australian adventurer Douglas Mawson packed a few bottles of Guinness to sustain himself on his expedition to the South Pole in 1909.
The Guinness Storehouse is a seven-storey journey through the history and brewing process of Ireland’s top drop. The self-guided tour begins on the ground floor with an overview of the ingredients used to make Guinness (water, barley, hops and yeast).
On the first floor, Master Brewer Fergal Murray leads visitors through each stage of the brewing process – from barley malting and roasting through to the boiling of the ingredients – with state-of-the-art audio visuals and computer-generated imagery.
You can taste Guinness, learn how to pour Guinness, and look at historic photographs, posters and multimedia exhibits.
By the time you make it to the Brewery Bar on the fifth floor, most people will have worked up an appetite for Guinness stew and Guinness chocolate mousse.
The visit always ends at the Gravity Bar on the seventh floor with a free pint (included in the entry fee) and a 360-degree view of Dublin.
The idea for the Guinness Book of Records came about at a hunting party when Guinness’ former Managing Director Sir Hugo Beaver became involved in an argument about whether the golden plover was faster than the grouse.
A pint of Guinness has approximately 198 calories. Looking for a true Irish experience? Try staying at one of these Irish castles.
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