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Our Anniversary, Dublin Style

We have been lucky enough to spend some special days in some of our favorite cities. The last time we were in Dublin, Merideth and I spent her birthday traipsing around the ice-covered city drinking craft beer, ending with an awesome dinner with friends. This trip, we spent a romantic 26th anniversary traipsing around Dublin drinking craft beer without the ice, ending at the same spot to have another awesome dinner.

December 2010: Our last Dublin beer hike

As we departed our hotel late morning, I realized the one advantage that frigid and icy December day in 2010 had over present day Dublin was oddly the weather. While cold, I mean really cold, that day was clear. Forecast for our anniversary beer hike was showers. Nothing can put a damper on beer travel enthusiasm more rain.

On the map, the journey to our first stop, the 5 Lamps Brewery, looked pretty straight forward, a few lefts, than a couple of rights. But a premature left had us wandering the confusing grounds of St James Hospital. I stand corrected. The one thing more than rain that can put a frown on Merideth’s face is following me when she thinks I am lost, which on very rare occasions, does happen. Then it started raining. Our on wedding anniversary. Even I was frustrated unleashing a few f-bombs. After circling around to what felt almost back the our hotel, I finally found the correct road and we were on our way.

Our brewery count immortalized on the wall

We were teetering on being soaked when we located the 5 Lamps Brewery at the back of an industrial park. Greeted by brewer Will Harvey, we were soon joined by owner Brian Fagan.

With greetings completed, we got down the important stuff, drinking beer and learning the definition of 5 Lamps. With their first beer in hand, the Dublin Lager, we listened as Brian explained their colorful name. In Dublin banter, if you want, for example, to shut up a person who is being annoying, you ask them “Do you know the 5 lamps?” No matter the answer, the reply is always “go hang your bollocks off them.”

Continuing on through the 5 Lamps beers, we chatted with Brian and Will about the 5 Lamps (the brewery not the slang) and the Dublin and Irish beer scenes. Talking of their beers, the word accessible came up a number of times. In our world of heavily hopped, barrel aged this and that, accessible is not always a word we hear a lot. But all the beers were well crafted, with the Honor Bright Red Ale and Blackpitts Porter being the standouts for me.

Not wanting to take up any more of Brian and Will’s time, we offered our thanks and bade farewell. As we backtracked to continue our anniversary beer trek, thankfully, the rain let up. The day was even making an effort on being pleasant with the sun trying its best to make an appearance.

Anniversary pints at Bull & Castle

Up past St. Patrick’s Cathedral we walked, conveniently arriving out front of Bull & Castle just around lunch time. Settling in with a pints of Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, Merideth and I grabbed a quick bite to eat to fortify us for the afternoon of walking and beer drinking.

We even managed to have goodbye pints with our friends Paul and Eilís before they headed back to London.

Continuing our journey through the bustling Temple Bar for the last time this trip, I thought back to our first visit to Dublin almost 17 years ago. Home to the city’s first brewpub, the Porterhouse, Temple Bar in those days was the center of our Dublin beer universe. How our beer world expanded over the years!

With no time for a pint at the Palace, we exited Temple Bar destined for one of the Dublin’s new specialty beer bars. Crossing O’Connell Bridge, we headed down past the Custom House. For Merideth and I, these are mostly uncharted parts of Dublin, an area we rarely frequent.

Near Connolly Train Station, the Brew Dock, like Beer Market we visited on the first night, is part of the growing Galway Bay empire. However, where the Beer Market was shiny and new, the Brew Dock, though newish, felt more traditional, even gritty. Though I will admit seeing out front the young drunk lad with the almost empty bottle of wine being kicked off LUAS added to my initial other side of the tracks impressions.

Taps at the Brew Dock

There was nothing other side of the tracks about the beer list. Along with a lineup of Galway Bay beers, the selection was a who’s who of international breweries. Of note to me was London’s Brew By Numbers, which was housed in the brewer’s basement flat when we visited in 2013. Things must be going well for them.

We stuck with Galway Bay beers. Merideth ordered Mare Icognnita, a 4.8% ABV Saison. Of course, I got the Voyager IPA (US). Hopped with Bravo, Citra, Amarillo and Cascade, the ABV was also on the American scale, 7.5% ABV.

With our day rapidly coming to an end, we were one and done at the Brew Dock. Our journey next took us down shopping mad Henry Street past Smithfield and into Stoneybatter.

If I was forced to name my favorite Dublin beer spot, I would probably say L. Mulligan Grocer. Off the tourist path, the combination of great beer selection and eclectic food menu makes it a must stop on all our visits to the Irish capital. I could think of no better place for the Irish portion of the trip swan song.

Arriving at opening time, we settled in for a few beers and a relaxing anniversary dinner. We shared the Ploughman for an appetizer. While Merideth ordered the Pork Belly for her main, I went lighter with the Spring Pea Tart. There would be plenty of time for pork on the German portion of our trip. All was exactly the culinary expertise that we have come to expect from L. Mulligan Grocer. We finished off the evening pairing chocolate cake with Dark Arts Porter from Trouble Brewing.

Main course…
Dessert…

With an early flight to Germany the next day, we spent our last night in Ireland at an airport hotel. Somewhat an odd way to end a trip to Dublin, especially since we tried to go to bed at 8pm (Not something easy to do when it is light until after 10:30). But we had a full day, six plus miles walked, and plenty of delicious Irish beer and food consumed. All and all, Merideth and I had a great 26th anniversary day.

Happy 26th!

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Eight Hours in Cork

Once it was settled that we would spend a few days in Ireland prior to heading over to Germany, my task was to map out our brewery visits. With no plans to rent a car, our options were limited to the Dublin area or places we could reach via train or bus network. After a bit of research, spending a day in Cork seemed like the best option to add a few breweries.

Despite the first day over-indulgence in Dublin, Merideth and I managed to make our morning train to Cork. We welcomed the two-and-a-half hour journey for a bit more sleep. Arriving at Kent Station in Cork, the fresh air of the almost one mile walk to our first stop, Rising Sons, also helped in clearing the cobwebs from our heads.

A nice walk along the River Lee

Rising Sons was unlike any other brewpub we have been to in Ireland. For lack of a better word, it was very American. The large brick exterior was reminiscent of a warehouse but the building had, in fact, housed a printer who at one time printed all the check books in the country. The high ceiling, exposed beamed open interior was dominated on one side by the copper clad brewery behind a large window that backed the bar.

Starting light

Waiting for us at the bar was our friend and guide for the day, Dave O’Leary. Owner of Bierhaus Cork, we first met Dave back in 2008 during our Year in Beer visit to Ireland. One of the pioneers of the Cork beer scene, who better to hang out with in Ireland’s second city?

Still feeling the effects of the previous night, I ordered, somewhat out of character for me, a half of Sunbeam. The half being the out of character part, I caught Merideth giving me a ‘I’m married to this guy’ look when I said half. The 4.3% ABV Bavarian-style lager was a perfect hair of the dog beer. Merideth started with Grainú Ale, Rising Sons’ 4.6% ABV Belgian-style Summer Ale. She was a trooper though and ordered a whole pint.

Six years since we last visited Cork, five years since seeing Dave last, we caught up with him and the Cork beer scene as we nursed our beers. Starting to feel alive again, I followed up Sunbeam with Handsum, Rising Sons’ American hopped IPA. However, I still stuck with a half pint.

Already back in our minds that we had an evening train to catch back to Dublin, we finished our beers and decided it was best to move on.

If there is a commonality in the people we meet on our travels, it’s that many end up helping us with our quest. Whether it is research, transportation or guide, people are eager to participate in our beer adventures. Dave was no different.

He mentioned there was a newish brewery in Mayfield, an outlying area of Cork, that had an American connection. Too far to walk and too long a journey on public transportation given our short window, Dave volunteered to drive us to the amusingly named Cotton Ball. And we can’t thank Dave enough for this. Not only did we add a brewery that we might not have, Cotton Ball ended up being one of those very special brewery visits — it joined my love of beer and interest in Civil War history.

First pint of the day, Indian Summer Pale Ale

Up past Heineken Ireland we drove into a working class part of Cork. The sign advertising Stouts and Ales gave the Cotton Ball a look of your typical Irish pub from the outside. Entering the small front bar, I was somewhat surprised to be the only customers. Our trio settled up to the bar.

Both Merideth and I started with the 4.7% ABV Indian Summer Pale Ale. A wonderful citrus hop aroma greeted me as I took a big gulp of my first pint of the day. After a few more gulps, it was time to go check out the brewery. Pints in hand, we passed through the large dining room (that’s where all the people were!), down some stairs and into the large space located below. Here we were greeted by Eoin Lynch. Brewing started in late 2013, Eoin Lynch explained as we toured the five barrel brewhouse.

While touring the brewery, Dave brought up the American connection. Eoin suggested we go back upstairs and talk to his father, he would be able to fill us in. Eoin introduced us to his father, Jack Lynch. And the Cotton Ball story unfolded.

Jack’s grandfather, Eoin’s great-grandfather, Humphrey Lynch emigrated to America at age 15, settling north of Boston. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphrey enlisted, joining the 4th U.S. Light Artillery. Fighting mainly in the western theater including battles such as Chickamauga, Humphrey was discharged from the Union Army in 1865 at the rank of sergeant.

With Jack Lynch and a rare 39 star American flag

Returning to Ireland in the 1870s, Humphrey bought a public house in what was then called Baile na Mbocht. He named his pub the Cotton Ball, harkening back to his years following the Civil War working as a foreman in a cotton mill. Almost 140 years later, still owned by the same family, the Cotton Ball added the brewery.

Back at the bar after the history lesson, we all grabbed a bite to eat while enjoying the Cotton Ball’s wonderful Lynch’s Handcrafted Stout, both on nitro and off the shelf.

Returning to the city center, we had time for a quick pint at the Bierhaus (Dave’s beer bar) before heading to our last stop of the day. And Merideth bought her new favorite zippie.

Last stop

Space was a premium at the tiny Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House. Entering the tiny 25 seat restaurant, I wondered if we had ever been in a smaller brewpub. I think not. Greeted by the manager, Jerry O’Sullivan, he immediately started us on a tour of Elbow Lane.

Pushing some tables and chairs away to access a door at the back of the restaurant, we entered the tiny brewhouse. I immediately recognized how the place could be so small, a Braumeister system. An all-in-one brewery, all grain brewing system, we had seen one of these before on our last trip to London, but on a much smaller scale. While in that system, the basket could be lifted out by hand, Elbow Lane utilized the biggest kit available, 250 liters. Lifting the basket required a winch. With this Braumeister kit, Elbow Lane produces five house beers.

Touring the conditioning tanks upstairs, Jerry explained that the goal was to achieve just-in-time brewing as much as possible. One of the benefits of such a small brewery to tour, Merideth, Dave and I were quickly seated at the bar ready to try their brews.

Sample flight at Elbow Lane

Beers ranged from Elbow Lager to Angel Stout. All the beers were solid, especially the 4.4% ABV Stout whose strong roast character I imagined pairing well with some of the bigger meat dishes. The star was Arrow Weiss, a 5% ABV Bavarian-style Wheat that recently won Best in Category for Wheat Beers at the Killarney Beerfest. The prominent banana/clove character reminded me that in a few days we would be in Germany.

The food menu looked pretty amazing but our appetites failed us at this crucial moment. We stuck with a couple of small bites, Olives & Spiced Fried Chickpeas and Pigs in Blankets, as we moved through the sample flight.

It was now early evening and our train’s departure back to Dublin was looming. We thanked Jerry for his hospitality, and after thanking Dave profusely for being our tour guide for the day, we parted ways.

With three breweries added to the List, we walked back to the train station with a bit more bounce in our step then we made the opposite journey from earlier in the day. We can’t thank Dave enough for taking the time to chaperone us around his city.

Heading back to the train station after a great day in Cork.

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We’re Back!

Life in the last few years has not been compatible with our beer travel pace of years past. Two old dogs and one new puppy later, we once again hit the road in search of the next great beer adventure. And boy did it feel great!

To avoid high airfares, we started our trip to Germany with a short detour to Ireland. This initially caused a bit of a stir for us, but we soon embraced it as an opportunity to see some friends and re-discover a city we hadn’t been to in years.

Ireland’s craft beer movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Relative to America, one might say leprechaun-sized leaps and bounds, but I say very impressive for a small country. Blink and a new brewery has popped up. We have visited Dublin numerous times before, but 5 years is by far the longest stretch between visits. It is an especially long absence when it comes to the beer scene. During our first visit in 1998, Ireland had less than 10 craft breweries. Today, an estimated 30 breweries are currently operating in the country, with an additional 20 brands brewing through contract.

We landed in Dublin in the morning and in probably one of our best arrivals ever, we took a cab directly from the airport to our friends Paul and Eilís who served us a home cooked Irish breakfast. A great way to start out a long day of beer drinking.

A pint of Galway Hooker, our traditional first beer in Dublin

By mid-day, the four of us found ourselves at the Palace Bar in Temple Bar. Like many Irish pubs, this one is steeped in history, literary history in particular. Operating since 1823, the pub eventually became the favorite watering hole of staffers from The Irish Times. It was the perfect place to meet “sources” and the writers frequently found their muse in pints of ale. With Paul and Eilís by our side, we settled in to drink away the jetlag.

Paul was the first one to tell us about the Palace Bar, a distinctly local bar in the not-so-local Temple Bar area. As far as I remember, the Palace Bar was one of the first traditional pubs to embrace Irish craft beer. I knew they offered Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, so with a pint of it in hand, I aimed to reclaim my beer travel mojo. At 4.4%, this easy drinking, well-balanced pale ale was the perfect start to what was to be a very late night. After a Galway Hooker, Chris also tried something new to us, the Coalface Black IPA (5.5%) from Carrig Brewing, a brewery in County Leitrim. His first BIPA from an Irish brewery, Chris found the beer to be more toasty than IPA like. Someday we’ll add Carrig to our brewery list, but not this trip.

Our first brewery of the trip was J.W. Sweetman, located a short distance away on Burgh Quay. Occupying the former Mssrs. Maguire brewery, this multi-story brewpub is easily located near the O’Connell Street bridge. We had not heard much about this new brewery and we had a full agenda for our Dublin pub crawl, so after a quick pint, the brewery was added to The List and we moved on. While I chose the Irish Red Ale, the rest of the group opted for the Pale Ale, an American style pale ale brewed with Cascade hops.

A beer after Chris’ heart

Back into Temple Bar, our next stop was The Porterhouse. They now boast several locations, but the Temple Bar location was the original, opening its doors in 1996. While the Porterhouse no longer brews at that location, it’s a sentimental favorite for us. It was one of the first Irish breweries we visited after Guinness and I think we have stopped in there on every one of our visits to Dublin. They have a nice selection of beers, a friendly atmosphere, and good food. They also have great music. Despite several floors, the place gets packed. Mid-day on Monday was quiet, though; perfect for a spot of lunch. Food was definitely a good idea since we were already several pints in and the pub crawl still had a few more stops.

The Porterhouse serves 3 different stouts (Plain, Oyster, and Wrasslers) and numerous other ales and lagers. Wrasslers 4X Stout bills itself as “a stout like your grandfather used to drink.” The XXXX denotes the strength of the beer, but don’t be intimidated, it comes in at an easy drinking 5%. Wanting to go light, I ordered Temple Brau, an Irish lager brewed with Hallertau hops and Irish malted barley. Chris went for the Hop Head, a 5% bitter pale ale. Generally speaking, there are plenty of lower alcohol Irish craft beers to choose from. The next day I would be thankful for that!

In a city with a traditional pub on every corner (and several in between), new-fangled American style beer bars are starting to pop up. Down the street from Christ Church is the newest one, The Beer Market, the 10th craft beer pub brought to you by Galway Bay Brewing. Opened in April of this year, The Beer Market is different in that it only serves craft beer — No macros. No Guinness. No wine. No spirits. They do have handmade pies, though, including chicken and mushroom, beef and stout, and veg options. We didn’t have one, but they created a wonderfully yummy aroma in the place.

Nothing but beer. We like that.

For many years we visited Ireland almost annually and we were able to keep close tabs on the growth of craft beer in the country. With a 5 year absence, it felt as if we’d lost personal touch with Irish craft beer and were only able to stay informed through social media. We were thrilled to meet up with our friends John “The Beer Nut” Duffy and  Mark Hilliard at the Beer Market, both are very involved with Beoir.org, an organization that promotes Ireland’s “native craft breweries.” They have a love of craft beer in general and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Irish craft beer. Plus, they are just plain fun to hang out with.

While we drank some of the Irish beers that we had been reading about on social media, we caught up on what we had missed in our absence; which was a lot.

We ended our night at The Bull and Castle down the street. The Bull and Castle was probably the first craft beer gastropub we went to in Dublin. It was also a place where we stayed up until about midnight; not too shabby for a first night in Europe. I definitely recommend a whole day/night of drinking beer with friends to beat jetlag! Except if you have a train to Cork early next morning.

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Added Bonus> Watch John The Beer Nut discuss Dublin brewing history.

900th On Our 25th

Seems like June 17th, 1989 was just yesterday. That day, we were crazy young kids getting hitched. Prophetically coincidental (or coincidentally prophetic), I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) by New Kids on the Block topped the charts.

More relevant to our future lives, the “microbrew” revolution was gaining steam with the likes of Boulevard, Odell, Marin and my present employer Drake’s founded the year of our marriage. Though “The List” was still a few years away from conception, I had already visited two breweries. Merideth, not yet 21 years old, theoretically had not visited any.

Our ride for the day…

Fast forward 25 years (it seems to have gone by very fast!) and 886 breweries later, we are now well-versed beer travelers. Over the years, our adventures have taken us beyond North America to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. We have experienced great beers at the source and, most important, made many friends. It was one of these friendships that would make our silver anniversary extra special.

Posting on social media several months back about our upcoming special occasion visit, I got a response from Don with the Maine Brew Bus. On our previous visit, we had met up with him and the other fine folks behind Maine’s brewery tour company for a beer. And this time around, they graciously offered to take us around on our anniversary.

Not only would Don be our chauffeur for the day, he also arranged the visits to the two needed breweries for us to reach 900. At the appointed time, we met him and the bright green and yellow bus in Portland’s Old Port. Our “small but mighty” group were on our way for a day of beer drinking.

We started the tour at Allagash Brewing. Already on the list from our 2009 trip, Allagash was, in fact, my 500th brewery. Five years, 388 breweries and an expansion later we were back for another brewery tour.

All shiny

Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed having to jump through the brewery tour hoop. Not having to drive, I was ready to get my drink on and the tour just delayed my fun. But what a tour it was. Along with 20 or so other beer enthusiasts, we donned our safety glasses and audio equipment and followed our enthusiastic guide into the Allagash brewery.

Still smiling after 25 years…

Standing in what used to be the parking lot staring at the cool White spice injector at work on the shiny new brew kit, I felt a bit silly about my usual ‘I don’t want to go on a brewery tour’ mantra. The new facility was quite impressive. And the tour now finished with a tasting in the beautiful new barrel house.

Amongst the barrels, we tasted White, Saison, Prince Tuesday (a collaboration with Rising Tide and Maine Beer Company), and finally the limited Confluence. What a great way to start the day!

Big thanks to Allagash for the anniversary gift. We’ll save the bottle to share on our 26th anniversary. Or maybe our 50th!

One Industrial Way will go down as one of the most important addresses in Maine beer history. Five years ago, we first visited the unassuming industrial park down the street from Allagash to add the then brand new Maine Beer Company to our brewery list. Checking in on their growth two years later, we wandered to the other side of the building to see Rising Tide making a small batch of beer.  Since then, both have graduated from the location to bigger pastures. Present day, its role as a brewery incubator continues with three fledgling brewing operations joining the Maine beer scene.

Looking introspective with one more to go

Bissell Brothers was the first new brewery of the day, our 899th overall. Located in the old Maine Beer Company space, the less than year old brewery was, of course, the brainchild of two brothers, Noah and Peter.

Bissell Brothers created a huge buzz with their initial offering, a 6.5% ABV IPA called The Substance. Cans were sold and kegs were drained very quickly of this popular new beer. Coming in a 16oz can and being their only beer available brought their debut brew heady comparisons to the Alchemist’s Heady Topper.

Comparisons really end there. While Heady Topper is big, The Substance was an easy drinking IPA. Pleasingly aromatic, Merideth, the self-proclaimed non-hophead, even enjoyed it.

As we sampled the The Substance, Peter explained having only one beer was never the plan, it was something that just happened. Pleasantly surprised by demand and trying to keep up, more beers were on tap for the future.

The only disappointment was there were no cans to buy to bring home.

900!

It was a long walk next door to our milestone 900th, Foundation Brewing. Given that their business manager and owner, Tina Bonney was part of our tour group, it was probably apropos that Foundation was the chosen brewery.

Entering the small tasting room, we were greeted by co-founder/brewer Joel Mahaffey. As we chatted with Joel, he ran us through the Foundation lineup.

Five beers were available to sample, all Saisons brewed with their proprietary yeast strain. The two flagships were Eddy, described as their house Saison and Blaze, a Farmhouse IPA.

All the beers were excellent, very worthy of a milestone brewery.  Merideth pegged the lemon zest infused Saison as her favorite. Mine was Wanderlust, a 4.3% ABV dry hopped Saison. Employing five hop varieties, including one of my current favorites, Mosaic, Wanderlust had the huge tropical fruit thing going on which complimented the light body.

Our small group toasted our achievements, 25 years and 900 breweries. We thanked Joel and Tina for their hospitality and Don for making it all happen.

One of my favorite beers!

With our 900th brewery in the books, we were able to relax and celebrate our latest milestone. And Rising Tide seemed the perfect place to do just that.

Our second visit to the Rising Tide’s East Bayside location, we shared our story of the first time we met owner/brewer Nathan Sanborn at One Industrial Way. Back then, Nathan stood over his brew pot checking on his latest batch. Not able to try any beer, we chatted with him for a few minutes and promised to visit Rising Tide again to add it to the List.

Standing in the sampling area, Merideth and I marveled the brewery’s growth, and not just from the former location. The space that just last year had been empty was full of barrels and fermenters.

Amongst the seven beers to sample, I craved Maine Island Trail Ale, their 4.3% ABV summer seasonal that benefits the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA). Hopped with Simcoe and Citra, MITA was a prime example of a beer that I would describe as “in my wheelhouse.” Light, refreshing body but full of hop aroma and flavor, Maine Island Trail Ale is one of my favorite Maine brews.

Our day with Maine Brew Bus was done. Dropped back off in the Old Port, we continued our celebrations with more beer and of course, lobster. We can’t thank Don and the Maine Brew Bus enough for making our 900th brewery visit on our 25th anniversary so very special.

Anniversary dinner at J’s

View all the images from our day in Portland…

New beergeek.TV Episode – 800!

Nice start to our London visit

800!” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Getting back to London to explore its fast growing beer scene was always something in the backs of our minds. With another brewery century-mark within reach, it seemed like the perfect time to return to British capital.

With a whole week in the city, Merideth and I had a long list of beer-related and tourist things on our agenda. But with London’s exploding beer scene we hardly found time to play normal tourist. And we only made a dent in our beer list.

So enjoy our latest milestone beer adventure…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.