For many people birthday wishes include sleeping in, spa treatments, and having friends and family wait on them hand and foot. I guess I wish for that, too, but my birthday doesn’t usually turn out that way. And I’m okay with that.
The last few years I have been whisked away to great beer places on my birthday, including Belgium, Australia (via San Francisco), and Ireland. Admittedly, however, this year started with a bit of grumbling.
We arrived in London the day before my birthday then proceeded to spend the afternoon and night drinking beer. With only a few hours sleep, Chris and I were on a train to Heathrow at 6:30am the next morning; not exactly the leisurely morning of birthday wishes. I was tired and cranky, but the complaining stopped when we reached Dublin city center later that day.
My first birthday treat was a pork belly lunch at the Bull and Castle near Christ Church. One of Dublin’s first craft beer bars, we’ve been going there for a number of years. They have a good selection of American craft beer (the bartender recognized my Speakeasy sweatshirt from the eyes on the back), but of course, I didn’t travel to Ireland to drink American beer.
I enjoyed a Galway Hooker from Roscommon to start, but eventually moved on to Buckley’s Golden Ale, a beer brewed by Carlow Brewing especially for Bull and Castle. Chris was happy to try Black Rock Irish Stout from Dungarvan Brewing for the first time and loved it. Dungarvan opened in April of this year to rave reviews and continues to do well in the still growing Irish craft beer market. However, Black Rock’s smoky flavor was a little out of my taste, so I ended my lunch with the tried and true O’Hara’s Irish Stout from Carlow Brewing.
Our friend John (aka thebeernut) told us about another great beer bar, Against The Grain, that opened a few months ago. Not too far from Bull and Castle, we braved the icy sidewalks to get there. When we found it, we weren’t sure the corner pub was open, but fortunately it was. The quiet pub was a lot brighter inside than it first appeared. It’s quiet and mellow (there are no TV’s or blaring music) and they have a stack of board games for patrons to play. It was the perfect place to continue recovering from my jet lag and lack of sleep to get more into the birthday spirit.
The Belfast Blonde, a clean and refreshing 4.3% pale ale, from College Green in Belfast, was my beer choice at Against The Grain, while Chris drank a Galway Hooker. Despite confusion about the pub being open (while we sat at the bar a pair of guys came and went thinking it was closed), the staff was friendly and so were the other few customers seated near us. If you’re looking for Irish craft beer in a pub off the beaten track, this is the place.
We then made a quick stop at the Porterhouse in Temple Bar, so Chris could get his Wrassler’s 4X before ending my birthday night at L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter. This “eating and drinking emporium” opened in July 2010 and serves an amazing food selection along with Irish craft beer.
At the back of the long and narrow bar area is the warm and cozy main dining room. Each of the thick wooded tables had a ‘reserved’ sign made of Scrabble tiles, which made it all the more endearing to me and Chris. One of the waitstaff seated us at a table for 10, which confused me at first. As our friends trickled in, it became clear that Chris had something special in mind for me. He also had something special in mind for the people who so generously came out to celebrate my birthday, a California beer tasting.
The California beers were indeed enjoyed by our table, but I stuck with Trouble Brewing’s Ór, a refreshing golden ale. The food at our table was amazing. From the parsnip and chestnut soup and the potted crab to the turkey and ham roulade and fish special, everything was cooked to perfection. Conversation was never lacking, as we were all jolly and the Irish gift of gab was alive and well. The only thing that quieted us down was the dessert, a chocolate cake made with Trouble Brewing’s latest brew, a porter called Dark Arts. Crunchy on the back edge, moist inside, and topped with a cream cheese frosting, it was one of the best birthday cakes I’ve ever had! Plus, made with beer, it was a girl beer geek’s birthday dream.
The moral of the story? Birthday wishes come in all shapes and sizes. While my birthday started in an early, harried, and extremely tired state, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Early departures can be unsavory and difficult prospects during vacations, but I didn’t come all this way to stay in my hotel room. It was a magical and fun-filled day and we wouldn’t have gotten in nearly as much as we did if it wasn’t for Chris seeing the bigger picture during the planning stages of the trip. Go raibh maith agat to all who made my birthday wonderful!