Diving into Guinness at the Connoisseur Experience, Dublin

The Connoisseur Experience at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin offers expertly prepared pairings of cuisine with variations of the world famous stout.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Guinness remains one of the world’s most popular brews, the go-to brand for stout ale. You’d fight the law of averages looking to find a grownup across the planet who at least failed to recognize the name of this Dublin-based beer.

Still, there are those lovers of Guinness who not only drink stout — but study and explore it. These aspiring experts not only seek to know all there is to discover about the traditional Guinness draft, but they also educate themselves on all of the brewer’s variations.

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For those dedicated beer enthusiasts, Guinness offers its Connoisseur Experience. Tucked away in a hidden section of the massive Guinness Storehouse, a luxurious, wood-lined and warmly lit bar waits for that night’s well-dressed attendees. A specially trained Guinness expert stands his vigil to welcome that night’s diners as a wait staff prepares to serve a multi-course meal prepared by one of the Storehouse’s dedicated chefs.

Also: Travel: Visiting Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse for the Holidays

Each course from appetizer to dessert is carefully paired with a variety of Guinness beers while the expert explains the pairing, laying out the individual beer’s creation, history and character. From Guinness Dublin Porter to its Nitro IPA to its traditional draft, each beer finds its match in flavor and texture to match the gourmet food delivered to each visitor.

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During a special mid-December media gathering at the Connoisseur Experience, the Guinness crew looked ahead to Christmas with a savory offering of roast turkey and mash, followed by a chocolate cheesecake and truffles. Diners are welcome to enjoy the beer however they like with each course. Some drained the pint glasses, while others sipped before moving on to the next pairing.

This is an experience aimed to teach Guinness fans how best to enjoy the brewers’ ever-evolving selection of ales and lagers. No would-be connoisseur is under onus to choose one recipe over another, but each should come away from the secret bar knowing what Guinness creations he or she favors — what beers should be kept at home for personal pairings.

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This reporter came away with a reaffirmed preference for Guinness Foreign Extra Stout – a strong beer made with a higher hops content to stand up to longer ocean voyages on transport ships. There’s a surprising floral sweetness to the brew you wouldn’t expect to find in something labeled “Extra Stout,” and it accompanies most foods well.

A night at the Connoisseur Experience concludes with a Perfect Pour challenge as each diner is invited to rise their well-fed forms and take a position before a Guinness tap. Pint glass in hand, the diners take their shots at achieving that proper domed head after allowing the classic 119 seconds to let the draft stout churn and settle. The lighting of the secret barroom brought out the unique, dark ruby red of Guinness draft perfectly in my spot-on attempt.

Diners leave the experience with full bellies and a more thorough understanding of everything Guinness does. That understanding and appreciation is at the core of everything the Storehouse works for in its downtown Dublin digs.