Fond memories of watching a pair of swans cruise the River Liffey strike me at the beginning of this blog post. Due to one being pure white and the other dirty-brown of feather, I assumed they were a mating male and female. I tend to assume the white one, being more aesthetically pleasing, was the female. But then again I also tend to recall particularly in bird-life that males might be more visually striking, in order to attract a mate. It seems unnecessary to bother with research into the matter. Either way, they resembled a human couple well past their first dates – aimlessly and slowly circling on the surface of the brown water, and occasionally crossing each others’ paths with subtle acknowledgement. Their interactions with each other and the environment instilled greater peace within, and made me grateful for the existence of love in base or boundless forms, and every incarnation of it in-between. Earlier that Wednesday, I visited the international headquarters of the greatest stout known to man or woman – Guinness. Stout, for the uninitiated, is “a strong very dark heavy-bodied ale made from pale malt and roasted unmalted barley and (often) caramel malt with hops” (WordWeb). (And because I wrote in my journal that it was Wednesday, I can clarify the exact date due to Christmas being only the next week, as I mentioned in the previous post: December 19, 2012. Exactly one week after I had originally planned to return home, when I left on October 12.)
From the outside, the Guinness Storehouse at St James Gate Brewery looked like an asylum. Located in Dublin’s version of an industrial area (much more brick and steel, and less or no aluminium, than on the Gold Coast), the greater brewery claimed several blocks about a 10 minute walk south of the river. And it was bordered by mossy, even sooty appearing semi-ancient brick which rose in some places to support small-windowed buildings and in other places to prison-esque razor-wire atop fortress-like walls. (Keep in mind that description is largely based on memory, as I only took one photo outside the brewery and Google Street View surprisingly doesn’t work surrounding the premises.) Inside, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark. It featured a lot of glass and stainless steel and a self-guided tour complete with interactive technology such as touch-screens and the like. To my disappointment, there was no all you can drink policy, but passing out at such a location – while very Irish – would have been embarrassing and frankly clichéd. Plus there was plenty of time that night in which to soak my liver with Guinness; for the present next couple of hours, it was prudent to soak my brain with the black stuff instead. The tour took me through the whole process of crafting the miracle that is Guinness, and it was “kind of” interesting at least because of the amount of effort and expense they’d clearly gone to. The first highlight was of course the tasting. You’re to inhale moderately, then sip (I gulped), swish it around in your mouth, swallow, and exhale. Apparently, also, if you empty half the glass then swish the head (froth) around, it improves the taste. Can’t remember if that’s true, but I did comment in my journal that “good head always involves a bit of swishing around”. You might say that was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thought. Somebody stop me. Ok I’ll stop.
I spotted a very cute yet barely over 18-looking woman wandering around with her dumpy and less but not completely unattractive friend while enjoying the tour. Toward the end there was a large LCD touch-screen to which tourists could post their thoughts on Guinness using their Facebook accounts. I can’t remember exactly what I tapped onto the screen. Something like: “Smooth, sweet, with a hint of bitterness; like coffee, beer and tobacco in one.” Then it was time for the best part, at which I just happened to join forces with the abovementioned young women: pouring, and then drinking, the “perfect pint”. From their murmured conversation the girls appeared to be American, or Canadian, or English-speaking Scandinavians – who apparently develop North American accents through watching so much television from there. The cute one certainly appeared Nordic. Good skin. So we poured our perfect pints. (What you do is pull the tap handle toward you, into an angled glass, then slowly upright the glass until it’s full to just below the little golden harp logo on all Guinness glasses. Then you let it settle for a couple of minutes. Then finally and with the glass fully upright push the handle away from you till full. And let it settle for another couple of minutes before enjoying.) The less attractive one took photos of me pouring my pint. There was a camera attached to the ceiling, but it didn’t have a flash. Then I took photos of them pouring, but they didn’t invite me to sit with them while drinking. I didn’t have a needed wing-man, they really couldn’t have been much older than 18, and I’m pretty sure I overheard them talking about buying stuff for their blokes in the gift shop later. So no big loss. I bought a green Dublin/Guinness shirt and a pin – which I’ve worn since on my leather jacket, occasionally with the shirt underneath. The good memories override any gaucheness.
No way could I have left before drinking – you guessed it: Guinness – in the puzzlingly-named Gravity Bar which from atop the brewery afforded 360 degree views of Dublin which were so underwhelming on account of the grey flatness of the city that one was driven to drink more. Which I guess was all part of their fiendish plan. I didn’t mind, but still only drank one there because at that location they were again puzzlingly more expensive than anywhere else in Dublin I’d yet come across. I surmised that a country full of reputedly but perhaps unfairly drunk, somewhat dim people needed to fleece tourists of their travel funds at every opportunity. Not so dim, after all. Certainly often drunk though. The journal now states that “I think” I went back to the hostel after that. Amazingly, two pints and the gulp from the little taster glass had caused me to feel tipsy. Usually, while hungover, two drinks are just what the doctor (well, perhaps not the doctor) ordered. The taster glass’s contents must have been the booze that broke the drunkard’s back, so to speak. So I probably had or at least attempted a nap back at the hostel. In fact I took cheesy selfie photos of myself wearing the Guinness shirt while pointing to it in overcompensating for small dick syndrome gang member-style. I assure you I was going for irony, though I was also pretty stoked with the purchase – especially for someone who’s generally not enthusiastic about shopping for anything, perhaps least of all travel keepsakes. Then I stepped back out into Dublin’s freezing windswept streets with a cigarette between my blue lips, and a plan: I’d pinned down a bunch of venues scattered all across the city which promised, according to Google Maps, to play jazz. Turns out not one of them actually did, possibly on account of it being a Wednesday night, but the journey is one worth re-telling anyway. In the next post. . . .