We had arrived in Dublin. We would soon be pouring the perfect pint. After dropping off the van we caught the bus to my friend Sam’s house, where would be staying for the next two nights. Feeling cheap and energetic, we skipped the second bus to her house and decided to walk the rest of the distance. With 15kg backpacks on, this quickly proved to be a bad idea.
Eyeing a shortcut on Google Maps, we walked up a driveway into a school. It was now around 5pm, with teachers and students both already gone for the day. It was eerily quiet and the odd respectable adult that we did pass looked at us with distrust. I’m sure to the casual onlooker we looked like ruffians, about to pitch a tent in their luscious well-kept gardens and refuse to leave. Whilst this wasn’t on our to-do list, shaving a few minutes off our walk was. Unbeknownst to us, this was going to be difficult.
The shortcut ended at a gated car-park, with large gates that would only open with an access card. A pedestrian access sat next to the gates, but we soon found that this also was locked and ready for the apocalypse. There was no way we were getting out. With our shortcut quickly turning into a twenty minute misadventure and exhaustion setting in, I was less than impressed. Ben being the handyman that he is, tried to jimmy the gates open. Despite our intentions, we were turning into ruffians. We were now breaking and entering… well at least breaking and exiting. I wonder if it suffers the same punishment. Luckily for me, Ben’s jimmying eventually suceeded and the door opened. Not so good for an apocalypse after all. I could see security cameras above the gate and I suspected we were very shortly about to get into trouble. So off we ran through the gate and down the street like the ruffians that we had become.
I was reunited with Sam, a friend from my student exchange program in Calgary from ten years earlier. Despite the time that had passed, we shared a bottle of wine and laughed about old times. It seemed the thing that had changed the most over the decade passed was our tolerance for drinking alcohol.
The next day we set out to achieve a life goal, to visit the Guinness Storehouse. I don’t even particularly like Guinness. I also don’t smoke, but that doesn’t mean that smoking a cigar in Cuba isn’t on the list too. I feel like “when in Rome” would fit in well here. Nonetheless, we set off for the factory on foot and roamed the streets of Dublin to get there. We seemed to pass every dodgy neighborhood in the city, or perhaps there are just a lot of them.
Then up ahead we saw the factory standing tall. The main museum section is in the shape of a giant Guinness glass, with the observation deck at the top being the foam on the beer. The exorbitant price didn’t stop us this time, and we marched in to complete the self-guided tour. No expense had been spared in the museum and it was easily one of the best museums I had ever visited. The first floor begins with the beer making process, a large sandpit of barley and an indoor waterfall symbolizing the key ingredients of the brew. The next floor taught us the history of the factory in the Dublin area, from a Harry-Potter-like talking frame. We then traveled through the history of the marketing campaigns, completing with a mechanical whistling oyster.
As amazing as the museum and tour is, I did begin to realize that there wasn’t a whole lot to learn about beer. I don’t know how many times I saw that the roasting went to 232°C. I get it. It is very cool (or, perhaps, hot), but don’t you have anything else to share?
The tour then teaches you the correct method for tasting a Guinness using a Willy-Wonka-esque tasting room. The whole room glows heavenly white, with futuristic smelling pods located around the room to isolate the key smells in a Guinness. You then progress to the next room where you learn to let the flavour roll smoothly down your throat. I was quickly becoming a Guinness lover.
The final, and most important, part of the tour is where you learn to pour “the perfect pint”. Obviously, it doesn’t take a degree in chemistry to pull the lever, tilt the glass a little, and then stop pulling the lever. However, when five other sets of beady eyes, including the master pourer himself, are watching you it certainly feels like you are completing a complex chemistry experiment. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty sure my pint pouring skills were perfect. When a fellow student walked away with my pint, I was more than a little devastated. Short of chasing her and tackling her (and ruining my perfect pour) I had to accept that I was left with her inferior pint. However, I now have a certificate to prove that I’m a qualified Guinness pourer. This will be going straight onto my resumé.
Accepting my less-than-perfect circumstances, I carried my pint up to the viewing area and admired the vista. Dublin stretched out in all directions and my pint was decidedly delicious. The viewing room was crowded, with more Guinness than I’ve seen outside of St Paddy’s Day. However, this was just a standard weekday for the beer factory. I could have sat there all day, but the constant influx of people made me conscious of sharing our prized seats with other thirsty onlookers.
The rest of Dublin passed in a blur. We visited the Dublin Castle and the popular Temple Bar area. I reunited with another fellow school-mate, Grainné, and reminisced of times passed. The beer flowed and the food was delicious. Before we knew it was time to pack up our belongings and hit the road again. I said goodbye to Sam, with hopes that we wouldn’t let as much time pass before we met again, but realizing that our lives were based on opposite ends of the world.