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The Guinness Storehouse could - and should - have been a wonderful display of brewing, the history of Guinness as a company, a growing industrial conglomerate that came to define Irishness and a social phenomenon that grew and developed throughout the C20th.
It's a badly organised mess - a machine to process the animals and spit them out, a two-dimensional pastiche that could only have been devised by the ad agency working with a committee of interns from the marketing team. Any interesting or creative idea would have been squeezed out by the committee's messaging mafia, any intelligence sacrificed on the alter of corporate PC.
Mistake the first - it's not all about the visitor, The annoying carbon-based lifeforms that are fed into the sausage machine are subjected to the experience rather than being served up an experience. You stumble into the darkness and, your tickets duly bought, are lifted up by the escalator, greeted by man with microphone, then pushed on and up into the helix. Videos play of a master brewer - who shouldn't have been allowed to be in the video as he has no talent for it - over-excitedly telling us about the Majesty Of Guinness and flitting through the actual brewing process. There's no history on offer here and precious little insight.
You suspect the social history of Guinness has been excised because Diageo's marketing bots were worried about their present day workers asking for some of the same perks. It's strange - there's so much richness in this company's story and yet that story is totally not told here.
The whole thing starts with ticketing in Stygian darkness and takes you up level by level to the bright glass circle of the 'Gravity' bar. Either the plasterwork is very, very bad or someone has intentionally roofed the thing with a white bubbly render. Oh, wait a second, it's a metaphor! The entire Storehouse is a pint of Guinness! Dark at the bottom and light and with a foamy white head! How clever. What a shame the whole scheme offers so little consideration for the saps paying over 16 Euro a head to be force-fed Diageo product messaging as they're herded around the multi-storied wasteland.
As we rise to the top, to the pinnacle of our 'experience', the content thins out. The tactile display of bran and water on the 1st floor gives way to some old mash tuns, barrels and videos together with a cafe style outlet on the second. The food on offer here is most certainly not child friendly, by the way. And packet sandwiches and soft drinks for four (and a Guinness pie, the most child-friendly food on offer) set us back 40 Euro.
Onwards and upwards on our journey to the metaphorical pinnacle we rise like nitrogen bubbles to the third floor, where nothing in particular is happening beyond the Tasting Experience and some dappy 'drink responsibly' stuff. Nobody is fooled by this. Guinness makes daddy silly, no matter what Diageo wants to be seen to be telling us.
The tasting experience aims to elevate drinking Guinness to a oenological catharsis. As we queue for our experience we get the feeling someone's pulling a Blumenthal on us - the Guinnessy scent in the air is strong but just slightly not real Guinness. One member of our little group thought it smelled like a pub the morning after. We're trooped, baaing compliantly, into a white room with four white bin-like things steaming away.
A mildly annoying person with a throat mic introduces us to the four bins which are exuding the scents of malt, hops, cow poo and Guinness. We have to plod around them wafting the scents and guessing which is which. This is to prepare us for the challenges of tasting responsibly.
Okay, so I was lying about the cow poo. Sue me.
Now we're handed tiny shot-glass sized servings of cold Guinness and we troop into room two which is black and has some little multi-levelled plinths in it. We are to place our Guinnessettes on these plinths while a mildly annoying girl with a throat mic yelps at us about how this Guinness is just two days old and represents the pinnacle of the brewmaster's art. She trots out some tired rap about how the hops dance on the top of the palate like Fuggly ballerinas and the malt tantalises the tastebuds or some such piffle. We have cheated and drunk our shots already. We are bored and standing in a black room while someone shouts at us.
In due course we are released, shuffling out with a feeling of mild release and perhaps a little puzzled embarrassment. The fourth floor is perhaps the greatest missed opportunity of all - Guinness' advertising has consistently led the way since the 1930s, with some stunning campaigns and a heritage of iconography that many around the world will recognise. It's not here.
There are some Toucan posters and a chance to pose in a self-conscious sort of way in a poster set-up and get a selfie taken of you by some passers-by or whoever you can convince to hold your mobile. It's crap. We're bored and miserable and pass up the chance to queue for lessons in how to pour a pint of Guinness. Why would I want to learn that? That's why God invented barmen.
There are only restaurants on the 5th floor. There is no sixth floor as far as we can tell. It's a Willy Wonka lift ride above roof level to the pinnacle of pinnacles, the Nirvana of the Nitrogenated - the Gravity Bar. Tadaaa.
The glassed circular area is packed with tourists snarfing down their free end of tour pint. There's no seat to be had and not even a free space around the crowded cocktail tables. It's too hot and is simply unpleasant. We collect two of our free pints (the lovely girls aren't drinking) and drink them quickly as we watch the ebb and flow of uncomfortably pressed and alienated-looking people around us. We don't go for the other two pints. We're pissed off by now and just want to leave. So we do. It's not easy - the lifts are simply inadequate to the task and we have to pummel our way through mildly pissed jostling Spaniards who have no manners.
Ten minutes later we're out of there, walking down to the river with a mixture of indignation and relief in our chatter. We invest the next hour in Dublin's most brilliant of public houses, The Porterhouse, where we drink beer we enjoy in comfortable and relaxed surroundings. Their Oyster porter is really quite special. They feck a few fresh oysters into the brew, don't you know. A more fascinating fact than any imparted to us in our disastrous, wasted two hours learning to mildly dislike Guinness - a drink I had up until now always thoroughly enjoyed.