Into the top 5 now, and the big hitters – these are all seriously good beers. First up is Guinness, the beer I have consumed the most of in my life, although at number 5 because the rules of this top 10 state that I must have drank the beer in its country of origin. I’ve only been to The Emerald Isle for 48-hours, although I must admit I necked my annual allowance of units of black beauty in those two days of debauchery.
In 2007 I was invited to a wedding in Ireland, so travelled solo flying into Dublin before getting a coach to the one-horse-town of Cootehill in County Cavan, ten miles or so south of the border with Northern Ireland.
I only had three hours to spare in Dublin before my coach left for Cootehill, so I had time to verify the first urban myth about Guinness – that it tastes better in Ireland than elsewhere. For those who don’t know, Guinness is a stout beer and is a dark ruby colour because it has roasted barley as an ingredient. Although there are other stouts on the market (Beamish, Murphy’s, Mackesons), Guinness is the leading brand and has been around since 1759.
I headed straight to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate, which claims to be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. There are seven floors’ worth of Guinness facts – a bit of history, old adverts and logos, the obligatory shop but most importantly a bar at the top where you can sample a drop of the black stuff.
A “complimentary” pint is included in the price of an adult entrance ticket (which will set you back a whopping €16.50 these days), and you enjoy it at the Gravity Bar, with decent views of the Dublin hinterland behind you. And yes, the Guinness in Ireland is much creamier in taste than that sold in England.
I was feeling a bit peckish so popped back to central Dublin and had another pint with a bowl of Irish stew in a busy pub on Temple Bar, serenaded by two old men with tin whistles – when in Rome!
I had less joy proving urban myth number two – that Guinness is good for you. I certainly didn’t think so the morning after the wedding! I remember reading somewhere that Guinness contains no more iron than other beers, and to get all the nutrients from it you’d need to drink 47 pints of it per day. I tried my best to reach that target, but came to the conclusion that the “Guinness is good for you” myth may just be the best marketing slogan of all time.