Friday night Guinness‘ P.R. firm in New York invited me to the start of the Guinness Believer Tour, which debuted in San Francisco this weekend. The idea was to introduce not just regular Guinness, but also Foreign Extra Stout and their new Black Lager to consumers, who as far as I could tell, signed up for the event through social media like Facebook. The event was held at the Terra Gallery on Harrison Street and was pitched as a “multi-media experience that will take you ‘behind the gates’ of the famous St. James’s Gate Brewery.”
Guinness is much more than a beer, and when you raise a pint to your lips, you’re not just drinking it—you are part of it. We want you to be a part of history, connecting you to tradition that spans generations and a spirit that fuels celebrations today. Experience the Gravity Bar in Dublin, discover the heritage behind this famous brand and, of course, raise a pint of the black stuff to Arthur Guinness himself.
So I thought, why not? It’s been a while since I’ve done a Guinness event, in fact I think the last one was when it was still being imported by “Guinness USA,” which is pre-Diageo, I think. So I went to virtual St. James Gate.
The room was set up with different “stations,” or areas where the small crowd of no more than 100 people could meander to and from. The center featured a bar where servers were showing off the 119.5 second “perfect pour” and handing out pints of Guinness. Then there were a few food stations loaded with some very tasty nibbles.
So for the first 20-25 minutes, people sipped their pints, nibbled on nibbles, and meandered from station to station. In addition to the virtual St. James Gate, there was also “Find Your Prefect Pint” station, where you could put in an address to find nearby spots that served Guinness. There was a place to learn to do your own perfect pours from a nitrogen kegerator. There were wall sized display pieces with Guinness history and memorabilia on them, and a slideshow of old advertising lit up the wall.
For the second half of the hour, there was a presentation on a small stage. The host was comedian Dan Soder, who Guinness hired as an “Ambassador” for the tour. I had a chance to chat with him before it all began, and he was an amiable, likable guy and a big Bill Hicks fan, for which he scored bonus points as far as I’m concerned. That portion of the show was interesting. Three short films were shown on the wall, little advertising pieces with high production value showing the history of the brand and other information about the beer. In between, Soder entertained the crowd, and staff handed out small samples of both the Foreign Extra Stout (still tasting great) and the Black Lager (not bad). A comedian, and Dan in particular, seemed to work well to keep things light and moving. They also brought up a pair of volunteers to practice the perfect pour, with prizes to the winner, of course.
All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour. The Guinness was tasting very fresh, which was nice and it wasn’t too cold, which was great. I find it’s often served at a temperature that’s too chilly, but that gravity bar was a cellar temperature.
Am I a believer? Not quite yet, but it was nice to see that served properly Guinness is still a great beer. I do love the Foreign Extra Stout, and was pleased when they began importing it again. My feeling has been that Diageo has mis-managed the brand’s cache over the last decade, but this seemed like a good start toward presenting it well again.
From here, apparently the Guinness Believer Tour was headed to Los Angeles and was then traveling throughout U.S. cities. Check it out if it comes to your town.