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’!

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