Our Ireland Beer & Whiskey tour through Ireland is finally here!
Editor’s note: the tour actually took place in mid October 2016.
This post will bring you some of the highlights of our Joe Sixpack Ireland beer tour using CIE as our tour guides. This is the third Joe Sixpack led beer tour. Our initial trip explored the beers of Holland and Belgium. It was on the AmaWaterways river cruise line and we had a great time. The second trip left from Prague and then traveled along the Danube on AmaWaterways as well. This focused on Czech and German beers and occurred during the Christmas market season. We are very pleased to have some folks from those first two beer tours and of course happy to see some new faces as well. For more background on Joe Sixpack, click here.
Our first day starts in Dublin. Since many guests arrived early in the day via overnight flights, the first day starts at 3 pm with a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Turns out this is Ireland’s top tourist attraction. This fact either indicates tourists are more interested in drinking than learning about Irish culture OR it speaks to the quality of the attraction. Based on our visit today, I’m going with the later. While most visitors experience a self guided tour, we were led by a personal tour guide dedicated to our group of 24. Aaron did a fantastic job showing us around and answering our questions. I actually had low expectations based on other very large brewery tours we’ve done (ex: the Heineken experience in Amsterdam). So I was very pleasantly surprised.
We sampled a full pint of the traditional Guinness Stout up in the top deck (the Gravity bar) which also offers 360 degree views of the city of Dublin. It was very crowded the time we were there though. Guinness Stout was one of the first (since 1959) to use nitrogen instead of CO2 to improve smoothness. Did it taste better at St. James Gate? Maybe. The beer was served colder than expected but Aaron suggested that it’s also at higher pressure to maintain consistency and mouth-feel. We also got to sample a few other Guinness stock beers in Arthur’s bar such as their West Indies Porter and Guinness Original XX. All samples were included in the tour, which was nice.
Guinness beer experiments
The highlight for me was some experimental beer tastings. The plan was to go to the Open Gate Brewery (Guinness’ small on site experimental brewery) but turns out the brewery had a CO2 leak. Instead Guinness quickly arranged a private tasting room in the main brewery and the team brought over growlers of three new brews for us to try. We tasted a wheat beer and a Martzen type (October fest beer style). The last beer sampled was a stout brewed specifically for the Amsterdam market (Anterwerpen Stout). All three used the Guinness yeast strain – this means that the first two German style beers didn’t taste at all like their original German roots.
Overall this was a great way to kick off our week. The tour was fun, informative, interesting and no one left without experiencing the most famous of all Irish beers.
We then took the bus back to the hotel where we were on our own for dinner. Many went to the adjacent pub to watch the Philadelphia Eagles which were being televised on Sky Sports. By the end of the game we were ready to retire.
A word about CIE and Camden Court Hotel
CIE is the largest tour company in Ireland. It is actually affiliated with the Republic of Ireland. We’ll have a full sized bus for the 24 of us so plenty of space to stretch out. Our tour guide and driver for the duration of the trip is Frank and if first impressions are worth anything, should be most excellent.
Camden Court hotel is about a 10 minute walk to St. Stephen’s square and 20 min from the Temple bar area. It is situated in a residential and business area. There’s plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs and markets within a few minutes walk of the hotel. And they tend to attract locals, rather than tourists, which I appreciate. My observations are that this is a very young and vibrant population. We’ve been here for a few days and have eaten gluten free pizza, Asian Fusion, Irish pub grub, Syrian / Lebanese, sandwiches and salad bars. Most establishments are filled by the end of the meal (no matter the day), play background music and/or have ambiance and attract groups of young adults. All are within a few minutes of the hotel.
The hotel is a solid 4 star hotel and appears to be hosting several concurrent tour groups. There’s no air conditioning in the room – just open the windows at night to cool down. The included breakfast buffet can be overly busy. But it’s comfortable and for the price a very good value in my opinion. After a few tries, the Wi Fi has been very good for us.
Tomorrow we start at 9 am and I can’t wait to see some other parts of Dublin. Stay tuned for subsequent days.