Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Dublin, Day 3

The patron saint of Dublin is a man named Arthur Guinness, who not only invented a beer, but also brought a strong social conscience to the city, saved the lives of widows and orphans, and "never forgot the city that had been so good to him."

The Guinness Museum is a must-see if you're in Dublin, not only because of the fantastic view of the city from its roof-deck in the pint-glass-shaped building, but because it's a true marvel of marketing. Executives at every consumer product in the world should be forced to walk through the Guinness Museum as an illustration of how you can turn the details of your manufacturing process and the loads of outdated machine parts you have laying around into a tourist attraction that can effectively create a cult of enthusiasm around your product, whatever it happens to be.

You walk in, and you are led through a piecemeal exploration of the Guinness production process. Touch the barley, walk under a waterfall of fresh, clean, mountain water, see the hand-stirred hops and the special blend of malt, water, and love. Watch a video of how they used to make barrels back before machines could do it, and touch a barrel yourself. See cases of tools and implements from the history of Guinness. Walk through the 19-step process, complete with sound effects -- even if malting, roasting, milling, and mashing all sound like peeing, it's still mesmerizing.

"Arthur Guinness found the secret ingredient to turn lead into gold."

I didn't realize there was lead in the beer.

At one point, you get to a video, which basically explains how Arthur Guinness was the greatest man in the history of the universe, and was the first to offer health care to his employees, and give widows pensions, and pay above-market salaries. All of which may be true, but it was said so reverently that I couldn't keep a straight face. The video also explained, basically, how Arthur Guinness stole water from the city of Dublin, but since stealing is a bad thing, they had to shade it differently. The city officials came to block Guinness from taking the water he was rightfully entitled to, because it was creating a shortage in the rest of the city. But Guinness wouldn't stand down, and defended his water with weapons until the sheriff retreated, and right was restored as Guinness was able to continue making the porter that would save the city. So basically he was a vigilante. But at least he helped the widows and orphans.

My friends didn't find this as amusing as I did, but the display I found most over the top was about the shipment of the beer to various places around the world, triumphantly declaring, "The story of transporting Guinness Stout is the story of transportation itself." Um, what?

You can watch every Guinness TV commercial from the past 50 years. You can read about ways that Guinness-licensed Irish pubs thrive in cities across the globe. You can watch the digital beer counter rise, as thousands upon thousands of Guinness pints are drunk every day around the world. You can drink the freshest beer you'll ever taste, on the roof deck, overlooking the city.

You can buy everything you might ever imagine Guinness can put its name on, in the gift shop.

This is a triumph of marketing and branding, and should not be missed. Seriously. Amazing.

After the Guinness Museum, we went to the Chester Beatty Museum. Chester Beatty was a very very rich American who collected lots and lots and lots of stuff and moved to Ireland and donated it all to a museum, which put it in cases. He liked rare books. Rare, old books. Illuminated books, which means people hand-painted the title pages and the big letters. Hand-bound books. Wood carvings. Old Korans. Lots of old Korans. It was a very impressive collection, well organized and nicely displayed, with videos about how to do a woodcut, and the difference between metal engraving and wood engraving, and how to make paper. The nice thing about museums in Ireland were that the displays were all in English, too. :)

I wrote down of the placards next to a display that I found particularly bizarre and worth sharing:

"Brushes might be made from the hair of squirrels, goats, or the inside of a calf's ear, but the very finest were made from hair cut from the throat of a white kitten, two months old. Painters frequently bred their own cats to ensure the highest quality hair."


There was also a display of Universal Qibla Finders. I have no idea what a Universal Qibla Finder is.

The Beatty Museum, it was proudly advertised, won the Europe Museum of the Year award in 2002. That's actually one of my favorite awards shows on TV, and I'm sorry I missed it this year. Apparently it beat out the favorite, which was London's Museum of Crisps.