I have a confession to make. I’m not a beer lover. At least I wasn’t until I had my first sip of Guinness while on tour in Ireland. Being a natural skeptic, I wagered that the only reason that it tasted so fine was that I had sampled it on holiday and everything is better when one is on holiday. When I returned home, I picked up a couple of cans of the brew only to be surprised by a distinctive “clunk” sound from inside the can. Had I taken time to visit the Guinness Storehouse (at the St. James Brewery in Dublin), I might have been better prepared for my first widget encounter.
No doubt about it, the Guinness Storehouse is a pricey tourist trap. Friends who did take time to go warned me that the exhibits were sorely lacking – mostly just a collection of dusty paraphernalia. (Then again, perhaps their experience was as old as my first bottle of brew because another friend who just returned from the Emerald Isle insisted the whole experience was "too high tech" for her liking. Guess beverage tours are like beverages: Different tastes for different tastes.) What I didn’t realize until I got home from my trip abroad was that a way exists to save on admission and avoid the long line-ups. By booking tickets online through the Guinness Storehouse website, adults can save on the entrance price – seniors are already entitled to a discount. Better yet, there is a “free” pint of Guinness waiting for you at the end of the tour, no matter how or where you purchased your ticket. From my friend’s photos, I’d say the view from the Gravity Bar is among the best in Dublin. If you’d rather not spend time doing the actual tour, check out the virtual tour on the Storehouse website.
If, like me, whiskey is your preferred beverage, a trip to the Jameson Irish Whiskey distillery might be a better bet – especially given there is a drop of the fine whiskey at the end of the tour to boot. The Dublin location is the original, but if you happen to be in County Cork, the Old Midleton distillery is closer at hand. As with the Guinness tour, it’s possible to avoid the long line-ups by booking online. Again, there is a discounted adult admission price for those booking through the website – and once again seniors have their own discount.
I enjoyed a tour of another famous distillery while in Northern Ireland. Located in the town of Bushmills in County Antrim, the Old Bushmills Distillery is home to the self-named whiskey. The old white stone buildings are as easy on the eyes as the whiskey is on the palette. I couldn’t find a way to book online before my visit, but still enjoyed a senior's discount. If seeing the actual distilling process isn’t all that important to you, garner bigger savings by planning to arrive on the weekend. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays or when there is no production underway, admission rates are reduced.
My adventures at breweries and distilleries around Ireland gave me a much greater appreciation for my beverages of choice. On my next visit, I plan to search for the country’s finest Irish coffee.