THE GUINNESS CONNOISSEUR EXPERIENCE
The Guinness Storehouse stands high above the ancient streets of downtown Dublin. A seven-story glass atrium built to match the shape of the classic pint glass rises inside the building’s brick shell. The iconic structure draws more than twenty million beer lovers from around the world to experience the culture of Ireland’s greatest brew.
From tasting experiences to historical exhibits to an exploration of ingredients, everything Guinness unveils itself floor after floor. Still, there is one room within the Storehouse that cannot be spotted by the general public. It hides behind a seemingly innocent stretch of wall that only the Guinness guides know how to open.
Behind that door exists a realm of elite cuisine and a collection of international Guinness products. Once ensconced in its quiet, warmly lite environs, visitors to the bar housing the brewery’s Connoisseur Experience enjoy hours of delicious, professionally chosen beer and food pairings from appetizers through dessert—each matched with a story of how the ales enrich each course.
Like a page out of history when men and women were eager to show off their fineries while out on the town, visitors inside the Connoisseur Experience dress for the occasion. An oil portrait of company founder Arthur Guinness looks out approvingly on the assembled gathering as everyone settles in along the brass rail of a pristine, polished bar. A specially trained bartender and Guinness expert greets every smiling face, standing his vigil in a silk tie and waistcoat.
Behind the scenes, hidden from diners’ eyes, a skilled kitchen crew prepares to serve a multi-course meal planned by a member of the Storehouse’s dedicated international chef team. Each course from soup to pudding is carefully paired with Guinness beers while the expert explains the connection, laying out the individual beer’s creation, history, and character. Each beverage finds its partner in flavor and texture to match the gourmet food.
Tonight’s menu offers a dedicated focus on comfort food. A starter course of a pureed butternut squash soup pairs with the floral accents of the IPA; a light start to the evening. Close behind that, the chefs warmed the hearts and stomachs of all parties concerned with a homey, savory offering of roast turkey and mash, which is wed to the classic Guinness Stout. The menu wraps up with an ample slice of chocolate cheesecake and a selection of truffles—all paired with the smooth, oat-rich Dublin Porter.
Throughout the dining experience, guests who are new to the tastes and textures of the rich, foamy Guinness blends are welcome to sip and sample with their food—while the stout veterans are sure to take down every drop throughout each course.
Of course, a properly poured pint of Guinness sits under a thin cap of nitrogen bubbles. That head marks the glass with every sip, allowing the observer to count the rings of foam to discover how many swallows it required to down their pint.
This night is an experience aimed to elevate the image of Guinness. While the brand enjoys a reputation as a drink of the working man and the pub frequenter, its various incarnations offer flavors that play well with fine recipes from around the planet. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this is the aperitif that kicks off the Connoisseur Experience. The Black Velvet blends the classic Stout with a sweet sparkling wine into a highball that goes down with titular smoothness.
A night at the Connoisseur Experience concludes with a Perfect Pour challenge as each diner is invited to take a position before a Guinness tap. Harp-embossed glass in hand, the guests make a run at achieving that proper domed head after allowing the classic 119.53 seconds to let the draft stout churn and settle.
As I top off my brimming pint, our pouring instructor reminds us all of what to do with any poured Guinness in which the bartender leaves a shamrock forged in foam across the glass' brim.
"Throw it back in his face." Enough said.
Travelers to this cultural highlight of the Emerald Isle should have time to savor a pint at both the Storehouse and the Connoisseur Experience. In an act of uncommon foresight, when Arthur set up his original brewery in 1759, he signed a lease good for 9,000 years at £45 per year. It’ll be fascinating to see what’s on the menu come the deal’s expiration in 10,059.