When St. Patrick's Day rolls around, it always brings back fond memories of visits to Ireland. Some of my fondest memories of the old country are of the wonderful pubs we visited and how great Guinness stout tasted there.

St. James's Gate
Not surprisingly, some of the tastiest pints were in the city where Guinness stout was born, Dublin. Arthur Guinness founded his St. James's Gate brewery on James's Street in 1759 and over the next hundred years it grew to become the largest brewery in the world. It is still one of the largest breweries in Europe, situated on 60 acres south of the river Liffey, just west of the city center.

A must for any beer enthusiast, or for that matter any traveler to Dublin, is a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, an interactive museum housed in a former fermentation plant at the St. James's Gate brewery. The seven story building has exhibits on the history of Guinness in Dublin, how Guinness stout is made and how Guinness expanded around the world.

One of the most interesting exhibits showcases Guinness advertisements and posters, which became famous for their clever slogans and drawings of animals and birds, including the colorful toucan. The tour concludes, of course, with a chance to sample a pint of Guinness in a new rooftop bar called The Gravity Bar, which enjoys one of the best views of Dublin. For visiting hours and tickets, check out the Guinness Storehouse website.

Guinness Storehouse
St James's Gate
Dublin 8
Tel: + 353 1 408 4800

With the brewery located in their midst, pubs in Dublin have always claimed to have the freshest Guinness in Ireland. A more fiercely contested claim, however, is the one about which pub has the freshest Guinness in Dublin. If the contest were to be settled by absolute proximity to the brewery, a few pubs on James's Street just steps from the brewery gate would take the prize. Our vote goes to a pub located just across the River Liffey from the brewery, Ryan's of Parkgate Street. In addition to the fresh Guinness, Ryan's is well worth visiting to see one of Dublin's best-preserved Victorian era pubs.

Ryan's is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its opening on April 14, 2011. The pub opened in 1886 at a site where there had been a tavern and hotel for at least fifty years earlier. The interior of the pub is dominated by an oval-shaped mahogany bar, ornately carved with arches, coves, flutings and crowns, and stained deep brown and polished so it glistens. The lighting is kept low, in part to appreciate the magnificent stained glass throughout the pub, including the large front window of the pub featuring the words "Wines - Ryan's - Spirits." The walls are decorated with a fine collection of antique gilt mirrors advertising various products sold at the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is).

To experience some Victorian era privacy, you can head to the back of the pub where there are four "snugs." These enclosed oak-paneled boxes were originally used by female clientele, back when proper ladies were not supposed to be seen frequenting pubs. Access to the snugs is controlled by the barman, who releases a latch on the bar side of the snug's door. Customers have to ring a bell to get a drink or to leave the snug.

Ryan's is located just outside the entrance to beautiful Phoenix Park, home to Dublin's zoo, the American ambassador's residence, and the residence of the Irish president, who is said to be a regular at Ryan's. The pub was bought in 2005 by FXB Steak and Seafood Restaurants (the restaurant division of FX Buckley, one of Dublin's oldest and best-known family butchers), and the well-regarded FXB Restaurant upstairs from Ryan's is a convenient spot for lunch or dinner after a stroll through the park. But most of all Ryan's is a great place to have a fresh pint of Guinness just a stone's throw from where it all began.

Ryan's of Parkgate Street
28 Parkgate Street
Phone: 01 671 9352

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