Guinness virgins take note. Do not, under any circumstances, take a pint from the bar before the bartender gives you the all clear. I know this because I learnt the hard way in the most inappropriate venue imaginable – the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the hallowed home of the mighty dark draught.

To my ignorant eye, the pint standing on the drip tray before me was ready to go, but the indignant expression and anguished yelp of “not yet” from the bartender as my hand reached for it told me otherwise.

The ‘settling’ phase, you see, is the crucial midway point of Guinness’ legendary two-part pour for a perfect pint. It begins with an initial pour into a glass tilted at 45 degrees. Then, when it’s three-quarters full, the glass is put aside to rest for a spell. Only once the surge has settled and the brownish liquid has turned almost solid black, is the glass filled to the brim.

The entire process should take about 119.5 seconds, the makers say – and they promise that it’s worth the wait

The science of serving Guinness aside, in my rookie impatience I’d also jumped in before the bartender could draw a shamrock in the creamy head. That’s pretty much the equivalent of snatching the canvas from beneath Da Vinci’s brush before he’d finished Mona Lisa’s inimitable smile.

My naïvety at the bar was quite ironic considering I had learnt more about Guinness in the preceding two hours at the Storehouse than I had any other brew in my entire drinking life. I knew, for example, the ingredients that make Guinness as black as midnight; the secret behind its creamy white head that outlasts all other beers; and that a pint of Guinness is best served at exactly 6°C. You could say I’d developed quite a thirst for Ireland’s beloved beverage while exploring its cavernous HQ, which is officially the country’s number one tourist attraction.

Located at the St James’s Gate Brewery – the site where in 1759, the eponymous Arthur Guinness ingeniously signed a 9000-year-lease for an annual rent of £45 – the Storehouse itself is an architectural masterpiece worth raising a glass to. As the brewery’s former fermentation plant, the 102-year-old building was dragged into the new millennium with a £30m transformation.

The structure’s seven floors are designed around a central glass atrium mirroring the shape of a pint, which stretches 46m from the reception on the ground floor up to the aptly named Gravity Bar, the highest bar in Dublin. If filled, the giant pint would hold approximately 14 million pints of Guinness – yet another example of the conversationally impressive but otherwise useless Guinness trivia I absorbed.

Starting at the bottom of the glass, the Guinness odyssey begins where every pint begins – the ingredients (barley, hops, water and yeast) and the brewing process.

Amid the smell of roasting barley, the grind of machinery and sound of gushing water, you’re first let in on company secrets that until five years ago had remained hidden behind closed doors. This year, the Storehouse will reveal even more to visitors. Following the company’s move last year from brewing in the UK back to the original St James’s Gate site, the Storehouse has expanded the brewing display and added some new features that will no doubt be appreciated – the tasting laboratory in particular. This will give visitors the chance to witness the daily testing of each batch by Guinness’ specially trained tasters, and join them in sampling each of the Guinness variants – draught, foreign extra stout and extra. For those who can drag themselves away from the testing lab, there is also a daily opportunity for a lucky few to start a new brew.

From here, the only way is up. Floor by floor, you make your way through the past, present and future of the mighty beer covering everything from the life story of Arthur Guinness and the cask-making traditions of the Guinness cooperage, to the landmark 1988 development of the ‘widget’ which gives canned draught Guinness the taste, texture and all-important head of a pub-poured pint.

The socially responsible Choice gallery explores how the human body responds to alcohol, reminds you of the dangers of drink-driving and asks you to ask yourself whether or not you may have a drinking problem. It seems I’m bit of a lightweight.

The My Goodness, My Gilroy showroom is another highlight. Celebrating 75 years of Guinness advertising, it showcases the characters and personalities that have made the drink an international phenomenon. It was actually here that the dulcet-toned Rutger Hauer talked me through the ‘two-part pour’ from a bank of television screens transmitting his popular ‘Pure Genius’ advertisements. I really should have paid more attention.

My only defence for what transpired just minutes later in the Gravity Bar – the last stop of every tour at the Storehouse – is that all that brewing talk is thirsty business. Nevertheless, after apologising repeatedly to avoid having my complimentary pint confiscated for my ignorance, I had the opportunity to test the oft-heard declaration that Guinness tastes best in its mother country.

Granted, as I’d never sampled the black stuff before, I had no benchmark to compare it with, but whether it was the precision serving of the bartender or the sweeping 360° views of Dublin, of one thing I was certain: good things do come to those who wait.

• Damian Tully-Pointon travelled to Dublin with Eurolines (0870-514 3219; Their 30-day advance fare to Dublin starts at £29 (including £3 booking fee). For more information about the Guinness Storehouse, see or call +353 (1) 408 4800.

G is for Guinness

• In the 1770s, when Arthur Guinness first brewed the strong black beer that we know today as Guinness, he called it Porter.

• Ten million glasses of Guinness are consumed in more than 150 countries around the world each day.

• St James’s Gate Brewery brews 4.5 million hectolitres of Guinness annually, and is the biggest stout export brewery in the world.

• Guinness’ trademark label – a buff oval with the harp and Arthur Guinness signature – was introduced in 1862.

• Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson took some Guinness with him on his expedition to the South Pole in 1909. It was discovered by another expedition in 1927.