In 1759 Arthur Guinness took on the ownership of a brewery, which had been unused for about four years before that, for a flat payment of £100 and signed a 9,000 year1 lease agreement to rent it at £45 per year. It was a four acre site just inside the city walls... as they were at that time.
Today some 64 acres of land on the south side of the river Liffey in Dublin's fair city are devoted to the production of some four million pints of Guinness per day. This is the St James's Gate brewery, birthplace and spiritual home of the most widely consumed stout beer in the world.
It is not possible to wander around the majority of the site itself unless you are one of the 400 or so employees who work there2 - and as this is a highly mechanised, working brewery there would not be a great deal to see.
However, the Guinness Company have set aside a little part of the brewery site for visitors.
The hopstore is situated at the conjunction of James Street and Thomas Street West. It has a free car park, should you be getting there by car, but most people come to it as Stop Number 4 on the Open Top Bus Tour of Dublin. Its opening hours are 9.30 - 17.00 (Mon - Sat) and 10.30 - 16.30 (Sun) although in the winter it closes at 16.00. It is also closed on Christmas Day, St Stephens day and Good Friday3.
The building is a large converted warehouse formerly used for the storage of hops. Over the years the oils from the hops have seeped into the woodwork giving it its brewery odour.
The top floor of four is set aside for visiting art exhibitions which change on a monthly basis. The exhibitions aren't always on, however.
The second floor is devoted to the advertising side of the Guinness story, but given that you will have travelled through Dublin to get here you may have seen most of it on every gable end, railway bridge and road side hoarding. Of particular note are the 'Guinness Experience' which is an audio-visual presentation, the Gilroy gallery and a video wall of nearly all the Guinness ads currently running worldwide.
The first floor is about the making of the drink itself and has a guided tour and a 15 minute advertising informercial. There are little titbits of history and trivia dotted around such as the fact that until recently pregnant mothers in Ireland were advised to drink a pint of guinness a day and that the drink is not in fact black but is rather a very dark red colour. There is also a video of the cooperage as was which is addictively fascinating.
But it is on the ground floor that most visitors wish to be - for here we find the pub where you can exchange your ticket stub for a pint of the stuff itself, or a bottle should you prefer. There's also a shop with the usual T-shirts and green jumpers so you won't stand out like a tourist when you leave.
On the whole, it is an enjoyable and interesting diversion. It is also reputed to have the best pint of Guinness in the world, but given that there are 10,000 pubs in Ireland alone that serve Guinness, this is unsubstantiated.