A brew to last the ages

A visit to Dublin re­veals just how in­grained Guin­ness is in the cul­ture of this city.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By MICHAEL CHEANG star2@ thes­tar. com. my

“IS this your first trip to Dublin?” the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer asked. “Yes,” I replied. “What do you do?” “I’m a jour­nal­ist.” “What are you here for?” “The Guin­ness.” “Oh, all right then. Have a nice stay in Ire­land!”

It was at that mo­ment while clear­ing im­mi­gra­tion at the Dublin Air­port that I re­alised that the Ir­ish re­ally do take their Guin­ness se­ri­ously.

Dur­ing a me­dia visit to the Guin­ness Store­house in Dublin cour­tesy of Guin­ness, we got to see first hand just how in­grained Guin­ness is in the cul­ture of this city.

Ev­ery­where you go around Dublin, you’ll see signs proudly ad­ver­tis­ing the iconic black brew.

Spend some time in the lo­cal pubs, and you’re bound to hear at least one de­bate about which pub serves the best Guin­ness pour.

“Peo­ple here are so proud of their Guin­ness that they can tell a bad pour im­me­di­ately,” says one of the bar­man we met at a lo­cal pub called John Ke­hoe ( or Ke­hoe’s), which pur­port­edly serves one of the best Guin­ness pours in Dublin. “I’ve even heard peo­ple de­bat­ing about a par­tic­u­lar batch of Guin­ness, as if each batch of Guin­ness they brew is dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous ones.” ( It’s not.)

Ke­hoe’s is a typ­i­cal Ir­ish pub just a stone’s throw away from the pop­u­lar Grafton Street shop­ping area. Af­ter walk­ing through the hus­tle and bus­tle of the trendy shop­ping street to get to it, step­ping into the pub feels like I’m step­ping into a time ma­chine that, in­stead of tak­ing one back in time, seems to make time stand still.

The first thing you no­tice is the lack of mu­sic. The only sounds you hear are the chat­ter of the pa­trons, glasses clink­ing, and best of all, that sweet SWOOOSH of beer be­ing tapped.

Pubs in Ire­land are treated as sanc­tu­ar­ies of sorts. One goes to a pub, not just for a Guin­ness, but to meet friends, have a good chat, or maybe read a book. Ev­ery Ir­ish per­son I met spoke of their “lo­cal” with a swelling pride – it is THEIR place, the place where ev­ery­one knows your name, and they’re al­ways glad you came.

Back to Ke­hoe’s. Af­ter a pint, the con­ver­sa­tion inevitably turned to what pub serves the best Guin­ness. An­other quirk I no­ticed was how hardly any bar­man would trum­pet their own pub as hav­ing the best, mod­estly sug­gest­ing other pubs in­stead of their own. But one place that al­ways seems to get a men­tion, un­sur­pris­ingly, is the Guin­ness Store­house.

Store­house story

One of the most vis­ited tourist spots in Ire­land, the Guin­ness Store­house is a seven- storey at­trac­tion where vis­i­tors can im­merse them­selves in the world of Guin­ness. Here, they can learn about the his­tory of Guin­ness, learn how to pour a pint, see how Guin­ness ad­ver­tis-

ing has changed over the years, and fi­nally, head up to the Grav­ity Bar on the top floor where they can en­joy a pint of Guin­ness while ad­mir­ing the Dublin sky­line.

Look­ing at the mod­ern, touristy at­mos­phere of the Guin­ness Store­house, with its swanky gift shop and state- of- the- art dis­plays, it’s hard to imag­ine that 257 years ago, this was where it all be­gan. On Dec 31, 1759, Arthur Guin­ness, the founder of Guin­ness signed a 9,000 year lease for the then un­used St James’ Gate Brew­ery in Dublin, and started brew­ing his own beer. Yes, that’s NINE THOU­SAND YEARS. Only 8,743 years left to go then.

From a small four- acre brew­ery site back then, the brew­ery has grown to an over 50- acre site. The Guin­ness brewed back then wasn’t the Guin­ness we know now though. Ac­cord­ing to Guin­ness Ar­chiv­ist Eibh­lin Roche, the early Guin­ness beers were mostly ales, not stout.

Roche, who has worked as an ar­chiv­ist for Guin­ness for al­most 15 years and is con­sid­ered one of the world’s most knowl­edge­able au­thor­i­ties on all things Guin­ness, then showed us a large book that was one of Arthur Guin­ness’ orig­i­nal brew­ing recipe books, dat­ing back to 1796.

In that 220- year- old book are the recipes for all the beers that he brewed back then. “This book shows us that they were brew­ing ale and porter at the time,” she ex­plained. “He wasn’t brew­ing just one type of beer – he was brew­ing dif­fer­ent types of beer con­sis­tently, and even in this book, we can see the amount of porter he brewed, which is the dark beer that Guin­ness is now known for.”

Back in Ire­land in the late 1700s, ale would have been the most com­mon type of beer drunk here. “The dark beer we now call Guin­ness started as a style of porter, which was in­vented in the early 1700s in Lon­don, when the mar­ket porters who car­ried the goods all over the city started to drink a new dark beer made with roasted bar­ley. Arthur Guin­ness may not have in­vented porter or stout, but he took the recipe and made his own.”

In 1799, Arthur de­cided to stop brew­ing ales, and con­cen­trate in­stead on his ver­sion of a porter recipe, and that’s how the Guin­ness we know to­day be­gan.

the best black

“The best pint of Guin­ness in the world you can have is right here,” de­clared our host and bar­man at the Con­nois­seur’s Bar in­side the Guin­ness Store­house, as he poured each of us an im­pec­ca­ble pint of Guin­ness.

As he passed the beers around, he con­tin­ued, “This is prob­a­bly the fresh­est Guin­ness you will ever have. It’s a fresh keg, brewed right here, and opened es­pe­cially for you guys.”

One of the fre­quently asked ques­tions I’ve got­ten since I re­turned home from Dublin is, “Is the Guin­ness in Ire­land re­ally bet­ter than the one in Malaysia?”

While it is hard to tell for sure with­out a side by side com­par­i­son, one thing is cer­tain – that glass of Guin­ness that was poured for us at the Con­nois­seur’s Bar was with­out doubt, one of the best pints of Guin­ness I have ever had in my en­tire life.

Ap­pear­ance- wise, it looked tan­ta­lis­ingly per­fect, with a head of foam so im­mac­u­late that it seemed al­most a shame to have to dis­turb it in or­der to drink that dark liq­uid un­der­neath it. But drink we did, and boy did it hit the spot.

The sweet aroma of malt, the creami­ness of the foam, that first touch of the liq­uid to the lips, the rich malti­ness of the beer, the smooth sen­sa­tion of the beer go­ing down the throat, and that warm, fuzzy feel­ing in­side your tummy... that was what the per­fect Guin­ness tastes like, in my mind.

And for what it’s worth, it’s still the one thing I re­mem­ber the most from my trip to Dublin.

Pur­chase five glasses or bot­tles of Guin­ness at par­tic­i­pat­ing out­lets through­out March and stand a chance to win one of 12 pairs of tick­ets for an ex­clu­sive hosted trip to Dublin. Also look out for the Guin­ness St Pa­trick’s ‘ Friendli­est Fridge’ at se­lected Malone’s out­lets ev­ery thurs­day this month – for lo­ca­tions and more de­tails, visit face­book. com/ guin­ness­malaysia

— MIchAEL chEANG/ the Star

the Guin­ness Store­house is a seven storey tourist at­trac­tion that im­merses you in the story of Guin­ness.

roche is con­sid­ered one of the world’s most knowl­edge­able au­thor­i­ties on all things Guin­ness.

— Pho­tos: An­dres Poveda Pho­tog­ra­phy

Prob­a­bly the best Guin­ness in the world. Ac­cord­ing to the writer, that is.

A page from an old Guin­ness brew­ing recipe book,back to 1799.

— MIchAEL chEANG/ the Star

Ke­hoe’s is a typ­i­cal Ir­ish pub in dublin that is said to serve one of the best pints of Guin­ness in the city.

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