Beware the temptations of Guinness on a self-guided tour of Dublin. WORDS: Paul Rush

On my way to Trinity College I’m determined to be a good tourist – when the inevitable happens: I find myself outside an Irish pub.

It’s definitely authentic, because the decor reeks of tradition. There’s a whiff of the yeasty aroma that characterises the glorious black stout they call Guinness – the lifeblood of Ireland. I simply have to go in.

The first pint slides down like pure meltwater – smooth as silk, rich as cream and thick as a chocolate smoothie.

A weather-beaten old codger with curly grey, unkempt hair shuffles over to my table, his Irish eyes smiling.

“Where yer from, Paddy?” he asks. New Zealand, I tell him. “Well, yer one of them hobbits come to visit the leprechauns then? Yer must visit the Guinness Storehouse, Paddy; I promise you’ll get a free pint and all.”

Now the first rule in Ireland is never, ever, believe a promise made in a pub. But I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that my self-guided walking tour of Dublin has lost all momentum and I’ve got nothing to lose.

A taxi deposits me outside the Guinness Storehouse where the aromas of barley, hops and yeast draw me into the mother lode of the beautiful beverage. For a modest stack of euros, I learn that Guinness embodies a spirituality of balance, purity and simplicity.

I also learn there are finer things in life than merely working, achieving fame and making millions. Like surveying Dublin’s fair city from the Gravity Bar above the Storehouse and sagely sipping a perfect pint of Guinness, which has taken exactly 180 seconds to pour. It’s served in 700 Dublin pubs, but I have come to The Source.

I browse through a pamphlet outlining the beneficial effects of Guinness, which strangely enhances the taste.

To be sure, as they say in the Emerald Isle, you drink Guinness for medicinal purposes. Doctors regularly prescribe it for people recovering from operations. Some maternity homes give it to nursing mothers, which could be why there’s no such thing as a screaming baby in Ireland. It must have been good for Arthur Guinness, the brewery’s founder. He fathered 21 children.

Having assimilated my free pint, I head along the High Street to begin my protracted cultural tour. Two imposing edifices – St Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals -rise up before me. Oddly both are Church of Ireland, as Henry VIII banned Catholicism after the Pope refused to grant him a divorce from his first wife. So Dublin, as capital of this staunchly Catholic country, is without a Catholic cathedral.

Temple Bar is the hip social centre of Dublin, with little pretence of religious affiliation. Over a much-needed late lunch,
I convince myself that I’m not straying from a cultural path. I’m enjoying the convivial ambience, the lilt of Irish laughter and U2.

A short hop down Nassau Street finally brings me to Trinity College for a slightly glazed peep at the cathedral-like library hall.

Further on is the oasis of Merrion Square, a pilgrimage for fans of playwright Oscar Wilde, whose bronze statue with a lopsided grin has earned it the playful moniker ‘The Queer with the Leer’.

A stroll down Grafton Street, Dublin’s pedestrianised shopping drag, feeding the money boxes of buskers and human statues on the way, leads me to the River Liffey and the O’Connell Bridge.

As I pass a blood donor clinic, a sign catches my eye. It offers a perfect pint of Guinness in exchange for a pint of my plasma.

I instantly sense a terrible thirst coming on. The Irish are devils at taking the Mickey, but at least this motivation to drink comes straight from the heart.

Pouring the perfect pint
A Guinness anywhere in the world is a very fine drink, but the very best can be found only in Ireland.

Correct pouring is vital. The glass should be tilted 45 degrees while the black liquid is poured from the tap against the back of the glass.

The Guinness should be left to settle when the glass is three-parts full, so the heavier black liquid drops below the light creamy top. After two minutes, the glass is filled without any froth and left to settle again.

One way to judge the quality of your perfect pint is to examine the side of the glass when you have drunk half of
the contents. If you see thick rings of white foam around the inside edge, then you know that it’s close to perfection.