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Brewery Visit - Europe

Part 7: The Storehouse and Company archives

Wednesday 13th May 2015

Bob Thompson

The preceding articles in this series recount a brief history of Guinness through the medium of a visit undertaken by members of the Brewery History Society. Now, having returned our safety footwear and hard hats to the reception we still had one more location to experience before leaving, the Storehouse.

Guinness7 1After we were out on James Street there was a little time to look at the Power House (photo left). This contributed electricity and it was not just used for the usual lighting and heating as several other processes in the brewery became electrically powered. Another application of the power was to create steam and for the first time casks were cleaned by that method.

The building was designed by F. Woodhouse who worked for the architect Sir Alexander Gibb. It was in the style of the time and was similar to that of the Park Royal brewery in London, although that was designed by a different architect.

Guinness7 2The Power House was planned in 1939, but was delayed because of the Second World War, Building commenced in 1946 and it came on stream, literally, in 1948.

We continued on our way, yet there was a surprise left as we walked to the Storehouse via Crane Street. Both sides of this street have obsolete Vat Houses and again, I observed another old fermentation tun through a window of the building on the East side. So the one I saw in the original brewery was not alone. See photo right of Vat Houses in Rainsford Street.

We arrived at the Storehouse and negotiated our entrance which had been arranged in advance. The construction of the building commenced in 1904 and was finally commissioned in 1906.

Its name is a slight misnomer as it was another Vat House, albeit on a grand scale. As the No 2 Brew House expanded the existing Vat Houses were proving to be inadequate to ferment all of the beer produced.

Guinness7 3This, despite the fact that there were Vat Houses stretching in a southerly direction across Rainsford Street, and then on to entirely cover the next block. They were also built on the south side of the next street, Bellevue. In the east they there were more on the opposite side of Crane Street. The extent of the area covered was truly enormous and there were over 200 individual fermentation vessels, some of them very large.

Because more land on the north side of James Street leading down to the river had been acquired, the coopering, cask cleaning and filling was moved to that side of the road.

Guinness7 4This in turn, freed up space to construct the impressive Storehouse. It contained 16 rectangular fermentation vessels, each with a capacity of 14,000 barrels (bbls). These were made of oak and were open.

However such large vessels were very difficult to clean and hot summers proved to be problematic and sometimes the beer was soured. A gradual program of replacement with steel vessels was instigated after the Second World War and that resolved these problems.

The old No 1 Brew House continued production for a long time after No 2 came on stream. I have heard that it became the porter brewery with the newer plant brewing only stout. Another unsubstantiated fact is that it didn’t close until 1939.

The new Storehouse did not entirely replace the older Vat Houses, although some closed over the following years. It was all change from 1988 when the No 3 Brew House began production. Its use gradually increased and that of the No 2 Brew House declined. In 1989 the last brew was made on the old brewery equipment.

Guinness7 5As the No 3 Brew House utilised newly-built fermentation vessels of the tall bottom-fermenting type, the company must have changed the yeast from top to bottom fermentation. Because of this the Storehouse closed and the way was clear for it to be converted to its present use as a visitor centre, opening in 2000.

The need for the Storehouse in its present guise became apparent when we entered. This was for no other reason than the sheer number of visitors that were in there.

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It is the No 1 attraction in Ireland and that is testament to the popularity and awareness of the brand throughout the world. The thought of this amount of people being accommodated in the working areas of the brewery is just not tenable.

Not surprisingly, I found the inter-active displays rather sterile after coming from visiting the real thing, both ancient and modern. For me the real delight in coming to this building was our visit to the Archive. We were met by the Archivist’s Assistant Patricia Fallon, known as Trish. After a short but interesting talk about the archive and the relevance of its contents we had a chance to investigate them.

Guinness7 7The first item for our perusal was one of the label books. Some background information is in order to explain its purpose. In these books every label ever used on bottles of Guinness is represented.

This book represented the years of 1925 / 1926. Back then a large proportion of their beer was drank from bottles. It was bottled in bars, hotels, off-licences and by wholesalers in villages, towns and cities all over Ireland.

It was sent by rail (mostly) in large wooden casks, some of them Hogsheads, the largest. To safeguard against counterfeiting of the product and to ensure that it was only done by authorised retailers, all of the labels used were sent to Dublin. I presume they were gathered by the company’s local agents. Each entry in the book has a note to identify whether the label was authorised or not.

We were next shown the temperature-controlled room where the advertisements and posters were stored.

Guinness7 8What amazed me here was that I expected there to be copies of the iconic pieces of art. Instead many of them were the original pieces as painted by the artist, you could even see the brush-strokes. I would like to have taken some more photographs but the space was confined and within our party there three avid Guinness ephemera collectors and I didn’t stand much of a chance, oh well!

Guinness placed their first advertisement on 6th February 1929 in the Daily Mail. It involved a four line homily giving advice to do as the Toucan does and drink Guinness. The ad was created by the S H Benson agency and the illustration was the first to appear painted by John M Gilroy who became synonymous with Guinness’s ads and posters for the next thirty years.

Gilroy had come to the agency from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle where he was a cartoonist. Over the years he produced over 100 advertisements and more than 50 posters. Interestingly a number were copy written by Dorothy L Sayers, the famous authoress.

Guinness7 9Many of these featured animals. Other than the famous Toucan there has been a Sea Lion, Kangaroo, Ostrich, Lion, Tortoise, Crocodile and Bear. Please see the photo of one in its archive tray, depicting a man who was part of a statue, jumping off his horse to get a Guinness from a lad who is selling them from a tray. This is the original painting, yet I don’t think it was used, it should have been!

There have been many well-known captions over the years and some of the claims would almost certainly not be permitted these days. Such as “Guinness is good for you” and “Guinness makes you strong”. The idea for the first came when the agency went to several pubs and asked those customers with a Guinness why they had chosen it and they replied “because it’s good for you”.

The company were on safer ground with other famous catchphrases as “My goodness, My Guinness” and “It’s a lovely day for a Guinness”. So many of the advertisements feature zoo animals stealing Guinness from their keepers.

Guinness7 10Gilroy illustrated his last advert in 1960. During the 1951 Festival of Britain on the South Bank in London the quirky Guinness Clock was first exhibited. This was loosely based on the type you find in Central Europe where all sorts of movements occur when the hour is struck. Their version had sorts of things happening, fish jumping, umbrellas opening and toucans flying, amongst other things.

After the Festival it was moved to Battersea Park. As a child in the 1950s I was taken to see it and I certainly remember that I loved it!

Guinness7 11Some breweries have been very neglectful when it comes to their heritage. Guinness is the shining example of how it should be done. They even have brewing books from the 18th Century. We thanked Trish for such an insightful visit and went back to the public areas. We had lunch in their restaurant. Inevitably it was Irish Stew made with Guinness. It was good, though.

I said goodbye to the rest of the Brewery History Society members, we would meet again the following day.

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I wanted to visit all of the bars in the building. There was one that had been visited earlier. I went to another on the fifth floor, the Arthur Guinness Bar. It was pleasant enough but not high on atmosphere.

Finally I made it to the circular glass bar on the roof, the Gravity Bar. Here I exchanged a token for a beer. I was amused how some of the foreign visitors were prone to taking the glass when it was just three quarters full during the “rest” period. The bar-tenders had to call them back, often without success.

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This was a wonderful Brewery History Society visit on so many levels. Highlights were seeing the old fermentation vessels, the tasting of the Foreign Extra Stouts, and the visit to the Archives.

Yet there was much more to remember. I think if there was another tour sometime, it could visit completely different locations within this huge site, I’d love that.

My grateful thanks to Edward (Eddie) Bourke, who was both informative and precise throughout the visit and has checked this document. Also to Patricia (Trish) Fallon, the assistant archivist, who likewise was extremely knowledgeable and very helpful to us when we visited the Archive. My personal thanks to Eibhlin Colgan the Guinness Archive Manager for giving permission to reproduce the old advertising images and photographs.

The current Guinness brewing team have checked the draft and made suggestions that have been incorporated. They have also approved the use of the old posters and advertisements, along with some of the old photographs. The remainder have been taken by myself.

Finally, very grateful thanks to the Brewery History Society for arranging it all. Especially to Chris Marchbanks for a very large amount of hard work involved in planning it. Sadly, he was unable to attend as he suffered a stroke just before the visit. Even more sadly, Chris is no longer with us. In his memory, I dedicate these articles to his name. This visit would not have taken place but for his efforts.

Part 7 of 7