Arthur Guinness first leased the now-famous brewery at St. James’s Gate in the historic Liberties neighbourhood back in 1759, so boldly confident in his new venture that he signed a 9,000 year lease, at £45 a year. Of course, his confidence turned out to be well-founded – it is now the biggest stout brewery in the world.
The Guinness Storehouse tourist attraction was established in 2000, but the building which houses it dates back to 1904. Located inside a former ‘hop house’ or fermentation plant for the stout – where the precious Guinness yeast was added to the recipe – it is a steel-framed construction modelled on the Chicago School of Architecture that was popular during the early 20th century. The idea for the new visitor centre was conceived in 1997, around the time that Guinness merged with the Grand Metropolitan company to become Diageo.
The €40 million refurbishment of the then-defunct storehouse was a collaboration between a British exhibition-design company and Dublin’s own RKD architects, who made no significant changes to the buildings exterior but remodelled the inside, while keeping much of the original structure intact. The Guinness Storehouse opened to the public in December 2000.
Spread over seven floors, the Guinness Storehouse was designed to immerse its many visitors in the history of one of the world’s most successful beer brands. Built around a giant tulip-shaped Guinness glass at its centre – which is an essential part of what their brand calls the ‘perfect pour’ – the Storehouse includes several interactive exhibition areas that depict how the process of making and selling Guinness has changed since the time of Arthur Guinness, including old brewing equipment and a live demonstration of the modern brewing process used by the company today. An advertising exhibit focuses on bygone Guinness ad campaigns, while the aforementioned ‘perfect pour’ can be practiced at the Guinness Academy.
The Guinness Storehouse is also home to the treasured Guinness Archive, a vast collection of historical records stretching as far back as the 1759 founding of the brewery. These artefacts, which can be viewed by appointment only, include genealogy records of former Guinness employees dating back to the 18th century. The tour ends with a free pint in the Gravity Bar, offering 360-degree views of Dublin spread out below.