Welcome to the Crown Jewel of Ireland, the Guinness Brewery. Every day, hundreds of faithful make the pilgrimage to where one of the world's favorite beers has been brewed for almost three centuries. Following the recent migration from the Guinness Hop Store to the Guinness Storehouse, visitors have even more reason to come now that the Guinness Tour has become an architectural landmark. Perched at the top of the Storehouse is one of the most unique and most popular bars in all of Ireland: the Guinness Gravity Bar. Not only can you enjoy the best pint of Guinness you'll ever have, but the Gravity Bar also offers an unparalleled 360° view of Dublin and surrounding area. The crown jewel of the crown jewel, so to speak. What a way to begin the new millennium.
It all began in 1759, when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on a run-down brewery for £100 that he inherited upon the passing of his godfather, the Archbishop of Cashel four years earlier. The deal also included a copper, kieve, mill, two malt houses, and stables for 12 horses and a loft for 200 tons of hay. Utilizing his experience from a small brewery in Leixlip in County Kildare, Arthur Guinness then built his beer empire by harnessing the popularity of a new type of beer, called "stout," and by providing unprecedented benefits to his workers that included wages 10-20% above the local average, guaranteed widow's pensions, paid holidays, and free medical care. Today, 10 million glasses per day and almost two billion pints per year of the "the world's most celebrated pint" are enjoyed by beer drinkers in 150 countries around the world. While tastes may vary, Guinness is best enjoyed when served at 45° Fahrenheit (6º Celsius), with three quarters of the pint glass being filled initially, then the remaining quarter after two minutes.
When money's tight
and hard to get
and your horse
is also ran.
When all you have
is a heap of debt
a pint of plain
is your only man.
In December 2000, the $50M project to renovate the Storehouse, designed by Robinson Keefe Devane/RKD Architects, was completed as part of an overall effort to make the Guinness Brewery Tour, the Gravity Bar and Guinness itself more appealing to younger generations of Irish. This became necessary as Guinness sales in Ireland have been flat in recent years with Budweiser, Heineken and Red Bull & vodka increasing in popularity. For visitors, the Guinness Gravity Bar is accessible only if you take the tour, which just happens to be one of the best deals in Ireland. For just €11.50, you can experience for yourself the origin, history and making of the world's most popular stout beer. Admittance to the Guinness tour can be found through the front entrance of the Storehouse, a building that was originally constructed in 1904 using architectural techniques that created many of Chicago's skyscrapers. Once you pay for the tour, you will receive a small plastic puck-like, Lucite "pebble" that contains a drop of Guinness and a magnetic strip. As you wind your way up the spiral route, around a six-story atrium that was purposefully designed as a pint glass that would hold over 14 million pints of Guinness if it were filled, you'll encounter dozens of interactive, well designed exhibits. One of my favorites is where you can right a message and post it on a circular wall for all future visitors to see. At the top of the atrium you'll encounter an elevator bank that will shoot you up, literally through the top of the Storehouse, to the Gravity Bar.
As you step out of the elevator, you'll find a circular hardwood, steel, stone, and glass minimalist expanse. At the circular, stone-topped bar with its padded metal barstools, one of several bartenders will swipe your puck, pull your free pint and top it off by drawing a shamrock in the head. They'll then swipe your puck so that you can't be a cheeky bastard by trying to get an additional free pint (or the first of two free half-pints). Non-Guinness enthusiasts take note: Guinness is the only beer you can get, so be prepared and order a water, soda or give your Guinness to a companion. Once you've received your pint, grab a seat in one of the blue lapis chairs around a smattering of mirrored glass tables if you can. The Gravity Bar is usually very busy, making it rather difficult to find a seat. Some even have to sit on the hardwood floor after their long tour, which is not a big deal as the chairs would be more comfortable if they were more than a foot off the floor and those waiting for a seat didn't hover over you. Once you've had a chance to settle in, take in the view of Dublin, beautiful Phoenix Park, the plethora of construction cranes thanks to Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy, suburban Howth, and the Wicklow Mountains to the south, all quite visible through the Gravity Bar's floor-to-ceiling windows. The crowd consists primarily of tourist patrons (far too many from England and Germany, although I'm sure that's what they say that about the Americans), politicians making press conferences, award ceremonies, concerts, corporate parties, fashion shows, gallery openings, and high-profile private events. One such notable event was held on the March 16, 2001, when Paul Behan (who is related to famous Irish novelist and playwright, Brendan Behan) appeared on London's Virgin Radio Breakfast show in an attempt to set the world record for the fastest consumed pint of Guinness took place. Behan was successful by downing his pint in 3.9 seconds, even though he claims his personal best to be 1.5 seconds.
While many congratulate Guinness for the ultramodern look of the Gravity Bar and for creating an unparalleled view of Dublin, the Gravity Bar's only weakness comes from its form-over-function design philosophy. This same approach has led to the demise of the Bailey, White Horse, the Morrison, and other notable Dublin bars. While it is unlikely that attendance at the Gravity Bar will fall, considering the universal appeal of Guinness and increasing tourist traffic, it's a shame the bar isn't more comfortable and warm like the classic wood and carpeted bar located in the basement of the old Guinness Hop Store. However, if it were, people may linger far too long for anyone to be able to find a seat. That being said, the Gravity Bar is sure to be the highlight of your trip to the Guinness Brewery and easily offers one of the most impressive views of any pub in Ireland, and is a far cry from the rather sterile pub located on the fifth floor of the Storehouse. After all, 570,000 tourists per year can't be wrong.
"When I did eventually get to the top and Gravity Bar, I was exhausted and my head spun with all I'd seen. I sat back waiting for my pint to settle and pondered the experience with as it said on one of the flashing screens, a 'justifiable sense of pride', not so much regarding Guinness but the Ireland it tries to represent. There was a time when we, in Ireland couldn't have conceived of such a place. I know it's a brash marketing exercise. It's not high culture and it's not even very interesting folk culture, but I love the fact of its existence the wider confidence it signifies, the unapologetic celebration of success.
"There is no finer place in Dublin City to sit back, survey the scene and think about what it means to be Irish."
Laura Mackey (30th January 2002)
As the metaphorical head on 14 million pints of Guinness, and highest point in Dublin, the Gravity Bar must be experienced either as part of the Guinness Brewery Tour or, better yet, at one of the private events that take place in the evening (if you can get invited). While the lapis chairs may drive you crazy, the Guinness pacifies, the view distracts and the crowd entertains. For more information, check out the official Guinness website and enjoy. Go raibh maith agat (thank you) Arthur Guinness!
~ Have a good story relating to this pub? Email us. ~
written by Sean Parnell
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Brenda O'Malley is home as usual, making dinner, when Tim Finnegan arrives at her door. "Brenda, may I come in?" he asks. "I've somethin' to tell ya."
"Of course you can come in, you're always welcome, Tim. But where's my husband?"
"That's what I'm here to be tellin' ya, Brenda. There was an accident down at the Guinness brewery..."
"Oh, God no!" cries Brenda. "Please don't tell me..."
"I must, Brenda. Your husband Seamus is dead and gone. I'm sorry."
Brenda reached a hand out to her side, found the arm of the rocking chair by the fireplace, pulled the chair to her and collapsed into it. She wept for many minutes. Finally she looked up at Tim. "How did it happen, Tim?"
"It was terrible, Brenda. He fell into a vat of Guinness Stout and drowned."
"Oh my dear Jesus! But you must tell me true, Tim. Did he at least go quickly?"
"Well, no Brenda... No."
"Fact is, he got out three times to pee."