Friday, 14 June 2013

Craft Beer in Copenhagen

Craft Beer in Copenhagen


Favourite Beer



One of Europe’s most lauded craft brewers, and so a visit to Mikkeller Bar (Viktoriagade 8) is a must. Enter down a few steps into this cellar bar with it’s minimalistic white walled interior, mis-matched furniture, and candles. You’ll see the beers on tap listed on a blackboard, described in the bar’s own leaflet as ’20 taps from Mikkeller and the best breweries in the world’, and who could wish for anything better?

Before launching into the Mikkeller selection, I tried a couple from Danish micro Vesterbro. Vesterbro Wit was a hazy golden take on the Belgian wheat style, with a lingering herbaceous hoppy aftertaste. Even better, Vesterbro Pale Ale (6.5% abv) was a hazy amber Citra hop classic, with a passionfruit palate and a Citra bitter finish that lasted and lasted. Excellent.

I’ve read an interview with Mikkel, where he explains his philosophy. By hiring other peoples breweries in which to brew his beers (chiefly in Belgium, I believe), he doesn’t have a big bank loan to pay back on his own brewery. So Mikkel can avoid brewing ‘safe’ beers with mass appeal, allowing him to experiment and to push
some brewing boundaries. A perfect illustration of this is Mikkeller Rauch Pils. A dark gold proper pils with a clean taste and good bitterness, but with an assertive smokiness from aroma to finish. Surprisingly balanced and drinkable! Mikkel brewed his Mikkeller 1000 IBU to show the world what a beer is like if you add far too many hops! Dark copper, with, unsurprisingly, a big hop aroma. There is a big, big taste – some sweetness – but mainly just huge aromatic hop bitterness. As expected, the hop finish just lasts and lasts. Another memorable beer that stimulates you to evaluate what’s in your glass. I finished off with the excellent Mikkeller Saison Solstice (6% abv), reddish copper with an orangey hop aroma, and a refreshing fruity hop flavour.

Just around the corner from Mikkeller Bar is the beer shop Ølbutikken (Istedgadde 44). The beer selection isn’t the largest, but is exceedingly well chosen. There’s one table near the door, where you can sit, relax and sample anything from the shop for a small supplement.

Favourite Bar


Black Swan (Borgergade 93)

Hidden away a good ten minutes walk from the city centre, but well worth the trek, the Black Swan is a local’s corner bar. It serves a rotating selection of ten Danish micros on tap, as well as a Lithuanian Weizen (Svyturys), and a Belgian Wit. The bottled selection includes brews from Belgium and the USA.

Look in through the arched windows with their fairy lights, and you’ll see a warm Scandinavian interior, with beautiful framed photos, and candles on every table. (Infact all pubs in Copenhagen have candles on the tables, it might be some kind of local licensing requirement!). Us Brits will feel at home, since the Danish owner is a Stoke City fan (I never did find out why) and the barman when we visited was from Newport, South Wales.

In the name of research I tried some of the Danish draughts. Ugly Duck’s Nelson Sauvin was very good, and properly exhibited its single hop character. Beer Here’s Karma Citra was a dark brown brew, with a most pleasing passionfruit flavour from my favourite hop variety. To finish the evening, what better than a glass of Beer Here’s Milk Stout? Dark and not too sweet, the enjoyably roasty flavour lasted long after the last swallow.

We enquired about food, and my Welsh chum directed me over the road to the King Tut takeaway, suggesting that I bring it back to eat in the bar. Pizza and kebab ordered, the King Tut staff, bless them, said ‘go back to the pub, and we’ll deliver it to your table’.

Other Bars and Beers that we Loved


My pre-tour interweb research suggested that the Bishops Arms (Ny Østergade 14) was ‘just a chain pub’ or some kind of ‘Scandinavian Wetherspoons’. Well ok, it is part of a Scandinavian pub group. And it is a kind of open-plan imitation UK pub with its wood panelling and plate rack, tiffany light shades and picture of Queen Elizabeth II, BUT the beer selection is excellent. You can choose from about 200 beers, including eight on handpump and twenty more on tap. The draught offerings are multinational with many unusual brews and, during my visit, two from Mikkeller. The display fridges are packed with bottles, I spotted Cantillon and Left Hand amongst many that I didn’t have time to try. They also stock 400 whiskies!

Charlie’s Bar (Pilestræde 33) is a small, narrow beer temple. The main attraction is the guest ales from the UK on handpump – these included Fuller’s Vintage Ale and a couple from Thornbridge – and every spare inch of wall space is filled with pump clips. The keg selection included Dublin micro Porterhouse, St Georges Kellerbier and the local Hancock’s Pils.

Near to the gates of the Tivoli gardens is the brewpub Apollo (Vesterbrogade 3). The gleaming coppers are proudly on view, and the conservatory-style walls and ceiling give a light and airy ambience. The two permanent beers numbered a dark gold Pilsener (4.6% abv) with a good balance of malt and hops, and a 6.0% abv IPA. The two specials were Amarillo Pale Ale (5.6% abv) which was amber and bitter. Since it was early in the day, I didn’t have the fortitude to try the 9.4% abv Øresundsporter anno 2013, which is a pity!

I like a bar with a strong theme to their beer selection, and found it at Lord Nelson (Hyskenstræde 9). All 14 taps, plus the small bottle selection, are from Danish micros. The bar itself is low ceilinged, candle-lit (of course), and populated by ‘alternative’ types. I tried the superbly hoppy Amager Kåååd (6% abv).

Over the water in the Christianshavn area of the city, lies its oldest pub, Rabes Have (Langebrogade 8) c1632. A little unpromising from the outside, but persevere and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely old interior, with roses and candles on the tables. The taps are nothing more than the ‘usual suspects’, but bottles from Amager are the reward for those who look a little closer.


Hidden Gem


Call me ‘a sucker for a tourist trap’ if you must, but I couldn’t resist going to Vinstue 90 (Gammel Kongevej 90). The A-frame outside announced ‘Slow Beer Here’, and so it proved. They serve an unconditioned Carlsberg lager that foams so much that it takes around ten minutes to pour. While you wait, it is recommended that you try a different beer! When the Slow Beer finally arrives it is pale gold with a white ‘ice cream’ head protruding comically far above the glass. It tastes just like an uncarbonated Carlsberg lager which is, of course, what it is. The bar itself was smoky and full of locals, and the friendly and characterful licensee showed us to the atmospheric back room with its wall-mounted cases of knick-knacks. Candle-lit too, you’ll be surprised to hear.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Craft Beer in Berlin

Visited May 2013

Favourite Beer

Before arriving in this terrific city, my interweb research had flagged up Brewbaker (Arminiusstr. 2-4) as a brewery to look out for. A U-bahn ride to the north of the city centre brings you to a very pleasant market hall, with an accordionist busking in the entrance. A roof-height banner in the far corner draws us beer pilgrims to sit at the bar, with our view of the brewing kit partly obscured by a kind of faux wall-with-windows.

I kicked off with a Bellevue Pils (5% abv), described in the brewery’s blurb as ‘Unser Hausklassiker!’. A golden pils with a soft malt palate and low carbonation, gently giving way to an exceptionally long, satisfying bitter finish. I could have happily spent the rest of the afternoon drinking this, but I had research to do! Next up was another draught, the Red Lager. This beer takes its dark amber colour from the Vienna, Munich and Crystal malts, and the taste has a subtle hint of caramel.

I was joined at the bar by modest and likeable brewer Michael Schwab. He’s looking for larger premises, since the cellar at the market hall is tiny, with no room for tours. He’s also looking to up production, whilst still remaining a small brewer of unfiltered beers. Michael visited his cellar and returned with three bottles for us to try, plus a sample of his Ginger Beer poured direct from the conditioning tanks. It was hazy gold, with a good ginger aroma. The taste was a perfect balance of ginger and wheat beer, making for a light and refreshing drink. Michael only uses Madagascan ginger due to its greater intensity, meaning that when Madagascan supplies were unobtainable for one year, his Ginger Beer became unavailable too.

Berliner Weisse is a Berlin classic, that uses a variety of yeast distinct from other wheat beer yeasts. Michael’s bottle conditioned version was the best I’ve ever tasted. Hazy gold, the flavour is a complex mix dominated by apples and gentle acidity. In common with many great beers this one is flavoursome and complex, yet soft and gentle. Michael explained that the first fermentation is with both weisse yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria, and a second fermentation is with a Brettanomyces wine yeast. Apparently, after two or three years it tastes like champagne. Michael had recently sampled a perfectly good forty year-old bottled Berliner Weisse.

Michael’s Classic Stout was simply the best stout I have ever tasted. Smooth and easy drinking, yet with an intense and sensational roasty dark malt flavour. Quite superb. Light malts and roasted barley go into the mash tun, as does some crystal malt which generates the slight sweetness.

Michael’s inspiration for his Double IPA is Stone Brewery’s ‘Arrogant Bastard’. He uses hops from the US too - namely Cascade - as well as the German varieties Polaris, Hallertau, Smaragd and Perle. And in no small quantity. A superb hoppy aroma is followed by a big hoppy flavour, with a long, long hop accented finish. Perhaps the most impressive aspect, and again one that can be a characteristic of a great beer, is that it doesn’t taste as strong as 9% abv. I couldn’t taste the alcohol, it was just smooth and satisfying, yet another fantastic Brewbaker beer.

Favourite Bar

Alkopole Bierbar (Bahnhof Alexanderplatz)

I have to thank Peter Sutcliffe, author of the splendid book ‘Around Berlin in 80 Beers’ (publishers Cogan & Mater) for bringing this little gem to our attention. Ok so it’s not a craft beer bar. It’s not old or historic. It’s just a small beer bar in a station building, but it’s lovely, and it’s SO Berlin. You can enter either from the tram stops in the street, or from the station concourse beside the U and S-bahn escalators. Once inside you can sit at the bar, or at a few high tables with stools. One corner houses a Wurlitzer jukebox, another corner has been decorated to represent a country beer garden, complete with excellently-cheesy fake tree. It is run by uniformed women-of-a-certain-age, who do a terrific job striking a balance between friendly efficiency and strict rule enforcement. Behind the bar are jars of pickled eggs and pickled gherkins. On the menu are other Berlin classics such as bockwurst sausage with potato salad.

The handful of draught beers include Berliner Kindl Jubilaums Pilsener, and a dark beer that rotates between Markischer Landman Schwarzbier (summer) or the warming Berliner Kindl Bock Dunkel (winter). The sixteen bottles on the beer menu include Schofferhofer Hefeweizen Dunkel and Monschof Kellerbier which is served in a ceramic pot.

Alexanderplatz station is an ideal transport hub, with links to all of the main attractions, airports, sports stadia and beery destinations. So why not pop into the Alkopole Bierbar whilst waiting for a connection?

Other Bars and Beers that we Loved

Hops and Barley (Wühlischstr. 22-23) is another highly-recommended craft beer destination. A welcoming little bar with ceramic tiled walls, quarry tiled floor, and brewing vessels on display. There are three regular beers, a seasonal special, and even a home-fermented cider.

The regular Pils is pale gold, crisp and bitter, a good proper pils. The Dunkles is dark brown with muted dark malt flavours. My pick was the Weiss, a subtle and lovely amber version of the style, whose long and multilayered finish includes a good dose of cloves.

Chinook Lager was the seasonal special, brewed with the eponymous US hops, and exhibiting them in both the aroma and taste. I got talking to Sven the brewer, and this particular beer was his favourite. Upon discovering my cidermaking credentials, he invited me down to the cellar to show me where his Cider is fermented. He first tried buying apple juice from within Germany, but this didn’t work out, so he tried importing English juice, which is fermented in his cellar. The result is a very drinkable, slightly sweet, 3-4% abv, light-bodied and refreshing cider.

Meisterstück (Hausvogteiplatz 3-4) is one of the new wave of ‘pork and craft beer’ bars that are springing up all over. A big open-plan bar with a huge collection of cuckoo clocks (that seem to go off randomly and intermittently) and a big eclectic collection of light shades. The bar counter is in three parts – to the left is a deli counter, the central section is a sausage grill, and to the right is a copper-topped beer bar. This bar seems to have a strong relationship with the BraufactuM brewery, with the display fridge beside the door being devoted completely to the brewery, whilst the second
fridge behind the bar contains about fifty percent. I chose to try the cheapest BraufactuM beer on the menu, BraufactuM Palor (5.2% abv) which came in at 7.50 euros for 35cl. (Compare this to 3.50 euros for 50cl of weisse at Alkopole, and you get the idea). This amber hop ale was beautifully served in a stemmed wine glass, which helped me to appreciate the pleasing malt and hops aroma. The flavour was beautifully balanced, good maltiness giving way to European hops, leading on to a lovely hoppy finish. A great beer, I just wish that I could have afforded to stay and try some more. Many beers on the menu were priced at twenty euros or more, and they seem to want to take beer to the same level of appreciation as fine wine. As the waitress took my customer account card to the pay point, I wondered about the type of people who eat and drink here regularly.

We visited a number of relatively well-established brewpubs in Berlin, and I was particularly taken with Brauhaus Mitte (Karl Leibknecht Str. 13). Sat out on its first floor terrace, with my tasting tray of the four draught beers, I couldn’t have been happier. The Pilsener, Weizen, Dunkel and Bock all went down a treat as the trains trundled by, and after ten minutes my delicious freshly-baked pretzel arrived. All four beers were well-crafted, but pick of the bunch for me was the Dunkel, with its spicy toffee palate, and long satisfying caramel finish.

Hidden Gem

‘Hard to find’ was how my pre-trip research described Eschenbrau (Triftstr. 67), and how accurate this proved to be! You have to take a tree-lined pedestrian avenue off Triftstrasse, and look out for the brewery sign on your left. All looks highly unlikely, but keep on and you’ll find the pub in a cellar down some steps, with the brewkit above on the ground floor. And well worth the effort. The cellar bar is extensive, with lots of beery artefacts, and compartmentalised to provide nooks and crannies. The Pils was cloudy yellow, soft and gentle, with little
bitterness or carbonation. More like a helles, I would have said, but none the worse for that. The seasonal offering was Bayerischen Hell, which I found to be very similar to the Pils – could I have been served the same beer twice by mistake? Both lovely, mind. The Dunkel was a hazy light brown, with a spicy malt palate balanced by a hoppy bitter finish. As with Hops and Barley (above), Eschenbrau make their own Cider. Theirs was a hazy yellow, with a pleasant green apples aroma and flavour, medium dry with assertive carbonation. A good example of a dessert apple cider. I went up the steps to the beer garden to eat my flammkuchen topped with bacon and onions. Despite being in a modern courtyard surrounded by flats and offices, the presence of traditional tables and benches, plus the protective canopy of a huge Turkish Oak, made it a peaceful and relaxing place to eat and drink.

Vicky, Eschenbrau’s helpful and friendly barmaid, recommended that I visit the Rollbergbrauerei (Werbellinstr. 47). Knowing how well hidden it is, she showed me the way on her phone using Google Streetview. Just as well! You walk up Werbellinstrasse, looking out for the Rewe supermarket on the left. Cross the store’s carpark, and look for the old abandoned Kindl brewery
ahead of you. Don’t go to the left (I did, and found myself amongst some unsavoury-looking characters), but at the right side, on the ground floor, you’ll find the brewery tap. There’s no sign, and when I asked why not they explained that ‘we don’t want to attract any drunks’, ‘or customers’ I thought, looking around at the one other customer at 8pm on a Thursday night. To be fair, trade picked up over the next hour. The interior is all rock music, dark wood and metal girders, and the brew house is visible through a glass wall at the far end. Outside they’ve made a valiant attempt at a beer garden, but it still looks like a picnic area in B&Q’s carpark. The 100% organic Hell (4.8% abv) was pale yellow with a good bitter finish, and cost me 2.40 euros for 0.3litres. The Rot was a hazy copper colour, and the Weizen had a pleasing lemony wheat aroma. Best of all was the seasonal Meibock, dark hazy gold, a medium dry balance of malt, alcohol and hops. Good, strong and moreish.


The clean and comfortable Insor (Samariterstr. 15) was a snip at 22 euros per night. It’s walking distance from Hops and Barley, and an easy U-bahn ride into Alexanderplatz. Just around the corner is Schalander (Baenschstr. 91), a laid-back suburban brewpub that’s perfect for a relaxing last drink before bed.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Frankfurt – Natural Cider in Germany

Visited November 2012

Eintracht Frankfurt

Favourite Cider Bar

Drei Steubern (Dreieichstr. 28)

There are around thirty six traditional cider bars in Frankfurt, but if you only have an hour in the city, ‘Drei Steubern’ is the one you have to try. One of only three to make and sell their own cider (known locally as apfelwein), walking in to this cosy establishment is like stepping back in time. The place is full, and everyone, and I mean everyone, is drinking cider. Some of the friendly locals make room for us at their table, and tell us a bit about the etiquette. The cider has to be poured
from special ceramic cider jugs called ‘bembels ’, and drunk from a particular kind of fluted glass called a ‘gerippte’ that has a criss-cross diamond pattern. Many of the locals had brought along a personalised lid for their glass called a ‘deckel‘, designed to stop flies and leaves falling into their cider. When I pointed out that indoors you don’t get too many leaves, they explained that ‘It’s a kind of joke!’. I reckon that the jug, glass and lid form an integral part of the traditional Hessen cider ritual, and no one component is ever allowed to go missing.

Apparently the future of Drei Steubern is in some
doubt. Once the elderly patron calls it a day, it may close for good. So visit soon, order one of the boiled eggs from the jar on the counter, and enjoy the hazy and golden, sharp and fruity, homemade apfelwein.





Favourite Cider

Kelterei Stier (

Jörg Stier has his cider cellar and shop at Maintal-Bischofsheim, about six miles north-east of Frankfurt. Generous and good company, he gave us a tour of his cidermaking facility, and a few samples of his many different apfelweins. It was early November, and surprisingly, cidermaking had finished. Jörg explained that Germans don’t believe in letting the apples lie about so that they can ripen, instead they are milled as soon as possible after picking. Jörg has made cider for thirty years, but this year his two sons have taken over, leaving Jörg free to conduct the guided tours, and to enjoy plenty of ‘quality control’! He showed us his Bucher mill, and his impressive Bucher stainless steel press, that uses gentle air pressure to extract the juice. It goes without saying that all of Jörg’s ciders are pure juice, which is what I term ‘natural cider’.

Much of Hessen’s apfelwein is made with low acid / low tannin dessert fruit. Traditionally, wild fruits are added to the cider to add tannins and give a depth of flavour. Jörg Stier is a great proponent of this, and we tried a delicious pale and cloudy medlar cider, a darker-gold sloe cider (very fruity and tannic), and finally a pale speierling flavoured with the fruit of the Service Tree. Jörg produces no single varietal ciders, explaining that he wants his ciders to be ciders, not wines. Another sample direct from the conditioning tanks contained a blend with 60% Golden Pearmain, and had a delicious honeyed flavour. The next tank was quite different, a beautiful lemony taste coming from the 70% Graurenette apples in the blend. I was in heaven! Back up in the shop, Jörg opened a bottle of his sparkling Red Cider, refined and fruity, made with the addition of blackcurrants. Finally, one last treat before we made our farewells. A traditional brown bottle of ‘Epfeltranc’, the original local name for cider used over six hundred years ago. The acetic acid flavour is quite deliberate, and said to aid the digestion of fatty meats. A taste of history indeed!

Other Cider Bars We Loved

The majority of Frankfurt’s cider bars are conveniently clustered together in Sachsenhausen, just south of the River Main. We visited Lorsbacher Thal (Gross Rittergasse 49), Affentorschanke (Neuer Wall 9), Struwwelpeter (Neuer Wall 3), Atschel (Wallstr. 7) and Dauth-Schneider (Neuer Wall 5). All within a stone’s throw of each other, and all with traditional interiors - wooden tables and benches, coat hooks, framed paintings of apples, and of course the ‘holy trinity’ of bembel, gerippte and deckel. Cider is the heart and soul of the Hessen region, and it is through cider that people rediscover their regional traditions. Hessen regionality is ably expressed through the traditional dishes served in all of its cider taverns. Handkase mit musik is a challenging starter of fermented cheese served with onions (the ‘mit musik’ bit alludes to the idea that onions make you fart!). I think I need to persevere with this, it must be an acquired taste, all I could get was old socks! Much more accessible is the wonderful grüne sosse (green sauce) made with seven herbs, oil, vinegar and soured cream. Typically served with two halved boiled eggs, or boiled beef.

There are a couple of shops you need to take in too. Apfelwein Kontor (Wallstrasse 13, entrance in the courtyard) has a wide range of bottled ciders, from Hessen and further afield. But it’s more than just a shop, these guys are really passionate about their apfelwein. Konstantin Kalveram and Michael Rühl are the driving force and authors of two superb guides on local apfelwein. And they are ably assisted by an Asturian Eduardo Coto, and an Australian Coady Buckley. Together they promote apfelwein in any way they can, be it through hosting tastings, commissioning bespoke apfelweins, or even driving all the way to the UK to exhibit Hessen’s finest. Good guys and cider heroes, I would say! Just down the road is another lovely little shop, Bembel Maurer (Wallstrasse 5), which stocks nothing but wall-to-ceiling bembels (the cider jug, every home should have one!).

Hidden Gem

Zur Buchscheer (Schwarzsteinkautweg 17)

A lovely, friendly, traditional cider bar that makes and serves its own cider. Hidden away at the edge of Sachsenhausen, it can be reached on tram 14. It was rammed the night we rolled up, Eintracht Frankfurt were at home and many fans were enjoying a pre-match cider - on a summers afternoon you can take a twenty minute walk through the forest to the ground. There was so little room the landlady asked us to sit at the stammtisch table, an honour which startled the regulars somewhat. The regular apfelweins were being poured non-stop from a couple of bembels, which were refilled from a pipe attached to the bar counter. This cider (which had the house name ‘Sachsenhauser Lebenswasser’) was a beauty – golden and slightly hazy, clean, fruity and smooth. They also offered their pale and refined single varietal ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Renette’ in a wine glass, and a cider eau de vie. All superb. You must go there, I insist!


We can certainly recommend Hotel Miramar (Berliner Strasse 31), for its lovely buffet breakfasts and its central location. From the hotel, it’s easy walking distance to some superb food and drink markets. Kleinmarkt on Hasen Gasse is the permanent indoor market, Schiller Strasse has a market on (I think) Fridays, and best of all Konstabler Wache hosts a Farmers Market on Thursdays and Saturdays. Cider and apple juice are on sale by the glass, as are local beers and wines. What is there not to like about Frankfurt?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Dublin - Craft Beer in the Republic of Ireland

Dublin - Craft Beer in the Republic of Ireland

Visited July ’12 & February ‘13
River Liffy


Favourite Pub

Porterhouse Temple Bar (16 Parliament Street)

The beeriest place in Dublin! The first of the Porterhouse pubs, and originally its brewery too. The building is over three floors, and has been fitted out beautifully and at no small expense. Décor is unashamedly beery – including wall-to-wall glass cases of bottled beers from around the world.

Although there are a couple of cask pumps, the beer range is predominantly keg, and the full Porterhouse range is on tap. The brewery is famous for its dark beers, and the stand-out offering is Wrasslers XXXX. This is how stout is meant to be, full of coffee and bitter flavours, not so much a session beer as an after dinner drink. Wonderful.

 Plain Porter is from the same stable, and shares the same satisfying bitter finish. Oyster Stout, brewed with oysters, is a silkier smoother drink altogether.

Hats off to Porterhouse for brewing Irish stouts and porters with character.

Favourite Beer

O’Hara’s Stout

I was trying a range of ales at the Bull & Castle (see below), tried this stout and stayed with it for the rest of the afternoon! Brewed with great skill by the Carlow Brewing Company, they’ve given it a lovely smooth and moreish chocolate malt flavour, and a creamy head that lasts all the way down the glass. Terrific.

Other Pubs and Beers We Loved

We chose the Bull & Castle (5 Lord Edward St) as a venue to watch Wales play Ireland in the Six Nations Rugby, are we weren’t disappointed. Upstairs they have a Bavarian-style beer hall, with two big TVs and a big screen. The atmosphere was terrific, and the hard-working waitress saved us the bother of going to the bar to order our beers.

 They claim to have one of the widest choices of craft beer in Ireland, and I wouldn’t argue with that. Top pick Metalman Pale Ale is bursting with those citrusy US hops, and was a tasty way to wash down fries served with garlic mayo. In 2011 the pub published a short guide to ‘Irish Craft Beers’ which is on sale at the pub and well worth a look.

Part of me was reluctant to go to the Brazen Head (20 Lower Bridge St), since it’s billed as ‘Dublin’s Oldest Pub’ and I feared some kind of tourist-driven hell. But my fears were unfounded, and the owners have really looked after the old place, which is well worth a visit.

The beer choice doesn’t set the world on fire, but beyond the usual suspects / easy-drinking multinationals (ie Guinness), there was at least the wonderful draught Paulaner Weissbier, surprisingly common throughout Dublin. If you get it served in a lager glass, the etched bottom on the inside increases the head size to a most impressive foam dome.

Brew Dock (1 Amiens St) is one of a small chain of craft beer gastro pubs, under the same ownership as the Galway Bay Brewery. Apart from their own beers, they sell craft beers from all over Ireland, including the impressively Bavarian-tasting Friar Weiss from Cork’s Franciscan Well brewery, one of the pioneers of Irish craft brewing back in the 1990s.

Craft beer pops up even where you wouldn’t expect it. Mulligans (8 Poolbeg St) is a dyed-in-the-wool traditional Victorian backstreet boozer, with big old mirrors, tins of snuff, and those high ceilings that give an echo-y ‘buzz’ to a place. And yet it still manages some craft beer surprises, including draught Brewdog 5am Saint, and O’Hara’s Pale and Red Ales.

Hidden Gem

Well, perhaps not hidden, but certainly a gem! Palace Bar (21 Fleet St) is a beautiful old Victorian pub, both inside and out. Reminiscent of some of the better old London pubs, it’s long and narrow, high-ceilinged, and its walls are covered with decades of memorabilia. Its modest-but-well-chosen beer list includes draught Galway Hooker, a balance of malt and hops, and bottles of Belfast Blonde from Hilden Brewery in the North.  

Hotel Tip

I can heartily recommend the Glen Guest House (84 Lower Gardiner St), about ten minutes walk from the centre. It’s warm and clean, the cooked breakfasts are terrific, and it’s good value. On your way into town, there’s a couple of places well worth stopping at. O’Shea’s (Talbot St) is a big friendly corner hotel bar, with a real fire, a fab Irish breakfast that includes both black and white pudding, and TVs that were showing us three different live sports at once (Premier League Football, Six Nations Rugby and Gaelic Football).

 A little further on is the tiny old Celt Bar (Talbot St) with its live music and jaunty atmosphere. There’s no craft beer on show, but ask for Paulaner Weiss and they’ll fetch it from the Le Bon Crubeen restaurant next door, under the same ownership, and with the strapline ‘French Food for Feck All’!