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Remember the Guinness Storehouse that I wrote about in Ireland?  Well, they have something in Amsterdam called the Heineken Experience that’s pretty much the exact same thing, but with Heineken instead of Guinness.

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Like the Guinness one, it’s in a converted brewery, and you basically just walk around and look at various exhibits that tell you the history of the beer.

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It has pretty much all of the faults of the Guinness tour (it’s all very surface level, with little to no insight on how they currently brew their beer), but it’s an engaging enough way to spend an hour or so.

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The biggest issue is that it’s extremely crowded, and it doesn’t seem to be particularly well-designed; you’re often in tiny little rooms that wind up feeling a bit claustrophobic, especially at the beginning of the tour.

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands

But of course, you do eventually get to drink some beer.  There’s the standard Heineken (which is quite refreshing), plus one called H41 which had a really in-your-face clove flavour.  It was interesting, though I don’t know if I’d ever want to drink it again.

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands

If you walk around Dublin for long enough, you’re going to see someone holding a bag from the gift shop at the Guinness Storehouse.  It’s definitely one of those must-visit places for tourists.

Well, I’m a tourist.  I like must-visit places.  I also quite like Guinness, so yeah, it’s a no-brainer.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

And the Guinness Storehouse is neat, but it’s hard not to compare it to my recent tour of the Glengoyne whisky distillery, in which we got to see every step in the actual production process.

The Guinness Storehouse is a slick multimedia experience that’s compelling to walk through — but it has very little to do with how the drink is actually made.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

You get to see a bunch of historical equipment, and there’s a lot of talk about things like the perfect temperature to roast barley (232 degrees) and the number of nitrogen bubbles in every pint (30 million), but almost no insight on how Guinness is actually produced today.  What machines do they use?  What does the factory look like?  Who knows!  There are photos and videos of what the factory looked like decades ago, but pretty much nothing on how it looks now.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Still, it’s an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour or so, plus at the end you get to go up to the Gravity Bar (which is surrounded by windows offering amazing views of the city) and have a pint of the black stuff.  Anything that ends with you drinking a glass of Guinness can’t be all bad.

It’s quite touristy, and you probably won’t get much out of it if you already have some scotch know-how, but the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is still a decent enough way to spend an hour or so.

It starts with a slow-moving, low-rent-Disney type of ride in which a ghost gives you an overview of how scotch is made.   It’s cheesy, but it’s a fun way to go over the basics of scotch production.

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

After that, you walk through a few exhibits and watch a couple of videos on the five scotch-producing regions in Scotland, and then finally at the end of the tour you get to try some scotch.  The tour comes with one glass of scotch, and you can pay a bit extra to try a scotch from all five regions.  I did this, because if you’re in Scotland, you may as well drink a bunch of scotch.

It was interesting to try all the varieties in such close succession, though I’ll admit that other than the overt smokiness of the Islay scotch, they all tasted quite similar to me.

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

Also, drinking five scotches in a row is probably not something you want to do.  They weren’t quite regulation-sized amounts of scotch, which is good because that wouldn’t have ended well for anyone.  I enjoyed all of them, but I was still a bit scotched out by the end.

They also have a store with an impressive selection of bottles to buy.  That includes this bottle of 50-year-old Balvenie, which costs a mere £27,500.

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

There are roughly seven billion pubs in London, and a good chunk of them have long and storied histories.

One such pub: the Lamb and Flag, which has been around since 1772, and which was reportedly a favourite of Charles Dickens.

I have to imagine it was pretty different in his day — back then it was nicknamed “The Bucket of Blood” thanks to the bare-knuckle fights that were staged there — but it’s still standing.

The Lamb and Flag in London, England

The inside looks pretty much exactly how you imagine it’ll look.  It’s the classic British pub through-and-through.

I ordered the sausage and mash and got a pint of beer to drink (of course).  The food was actually pretty decent, particularly the very generously applied gravy, which was rich and satisfying.

The Lamb and Flag in London, England

As for that thing about the British drinking their beer warm?  It’s not true, but it’s not exactly false, either.  The beer definitely wasn’t warm — but it also definitely wasn’t cold.  It was more on the chilly end of room temperature, I guess?  But it was a stronger, more flavourful beer, so the temperature actually worked really well.

There are certain drinking-related things you have to do when you go to a country: if you’re in Scotland, you have to drink some Scotch; if you’re in Ireland, you have to drink some Guinness; and when you’re in Porto, you have to have to drink some port wine.

Though if I had any foodie cred left after admitting that I like McDonald’s, I’ll lose it now: I’m just not all that into wine.  It’s fine, I guess, but I can’t say I fully understand the appeal.

Still, I decided to get into the port wine spirit; I headed over to the Taylor’s port cellar for a tour (Taylor’s is one of the oldest producers of port wine — they’re currently celebrating their 325th anniversary).

The tour costs 12 Euros, lasts a bit over an hour, and includes two sampling glasses of wine.

A bunch of barrels

It was an interesting enough tour, though the audio guide features more minutia on wine production and the lineage of the various founders of the company than any reasonable person needs.  It’s also self-congratulatory almost to the point of parody.  But… there’s wine!

Yes, at the end of the tour you wind up in a bar next to some fancy gardens (which includes a peacock just standing around relaxing), and they serve you two glasses of port wine — one white, and one red.

Just a peacock, chillin'

They were… winey?  Extremely winey? Actually, no — these were pretty different from any other wines that I’ve tried.  They were intensely sweet.  The white was comparatively subdued, but the red was pretty much a sugar bomb.  It was basically like drinking boozy grape juice.  Being less of a fan of wine and more of a fan of things that are sweet, I actually quite enjoyed it.

White and red

However, I should admit that I have an absurdly low tolerance for alcohol. For the sake of my dignity, I was going to say that the two glasses of wine left me a bit tipsy, but let’s not mince words; I was full-out drunk. The winding, hilly cobblestone streets that surround the cellar suddenly became treacherous. I didn’t fall over, though there was a mishap involving a sloped sewer grate that could have very easily ended in injury, either physically or to my pride (or, most likely, a bit of both).