DUBLIN (AP) — Picture this. You're standing in the bottom of a beer glass that's seven stories high.
Could be the beginning of a really strange dream, but more likely you're at the Guinness Storehouse, the venerable shrine to suds that is Ireland's top tourist attraction and a fun place to visit if you have a few hours to spend in Dublin's fair city.
Built between 1902 and 1904, the Storehouse was used for fermentation, the last stage of the brewing process, until 1986 when production was moved to more modern facilities. In 2000 it opened as a visitor center with floors of exhibits designed around a glass atrium that mimics the design of a pint glass, although it would take 14.3 million actual pints to fill this one.
Tours begin at the bottom of the "glass," where a copy of the original 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759 is set into the floor. A guide gives a brief introduction and then the tour becomes self-guided.
Each floor is dedicated to a different facet of the beer with lower floors featuring displays of ingredients and demonstrations of the brewing process. (Although it's nicknamed "the black stuff," the true color of Guinness is a dark ruby red derived from the roasted barley used in brewing.) A gallery of interactive video portraits gives insight on the evolution of the brand. Galleries display advertising campaigns past and present.
In the tasting room, you'll be greeted by clouds of white vapor infused with the aromas of Guinness followed by the distribution of cute little sample glasses and a brief tutorial on how to taste. Don't worry; this isn't the pint that comes with the price of admission. That comes later. (Visitors under age 18, who must be accompanied by an adult, get a free soft drink instead.)
Your ticket for that promised pint can be used in one of two places, including the Guinness Academy where you'll be taught how to pour the perfect pint, or at the Gravity Bar, a circular, glass-walled space on the top floor of the Storehouse, one of the highest points in Dublin, with floor-to-ceiling views of the city.
You can also pay extra for the "Connoisseur Experience" which includes a more private tasting session.
The Storehouse is not only Ireland's top tourist attraction but was recently named "Europe's Leading Attraction" at the World Travel Awards, so expect crowds. Hours are not ideal for business travelers: open daily at 9:30 a.m., with last admission at 5 p.m. (7 p.m. in summer). Save time and get a 10 percent discount by booking tickets online, which can then be printed out from self-serve kiosks at the entrance. The friendly staff does a good job of moving people through. You should be done in an hour or two unless you explore the nooks and crannies.
But no matter how thick the crowd, no one hurries a pint of Guinness. It takes a recommended 119.5 seconds for the pour and then you wait, patiently, for the foaming beverage to surge and settle into the familiar chiaroscuro of black and white.
As one of the brand's ad campaigns put it: Good things come to those who wait.
If You Go...
GUINNESS STOREHOUSE: St. James' Gate, located about a mile west of Dublin's city center. Nearest hotels: Hilton Kilmainham and Ashling Hotel. https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en . Open daily 9:30 a.m., last admission at 5 p.m. (until 7 p.m. July and August). Tickets, 20 euros (about $23), 10 percent off online. A 25-minute walk from central Dublin, or via public bus, hop-on/hop-off bus, or light-rail Luas line.
Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle