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…

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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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.

New beergeek.TV Episode – Euro Christmas 2010 Part I

Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen

“Euro Christmas 2010 Part I” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Our whirlwind European tour covered six cities in six countries over two weeks. The non-stop itinerary included two favorites, London and Dublin; two new cities, Hamburg and Copenhagen, as well as two that we wanted to explore further, Amsterdam and Brussels.

In this first of two parts, we explore the beer scenes of  Dublin, Hamburg and Copenhagen.

So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Europe…

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

Birthday Wishes

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.

Pork belly at Bull and Castle

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.

The birthday girl and her Galway Hooker

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.

The birthday girl at Against the Grain

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.

Some of the beer available at L Mulligan Grocer

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!

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Drinking in the Day

After  a series of uneventful flights, we arrived in Dublin early on April Fools Day. We’re familiar with the city and there is something very comforting about Dublin for us. It was a nice place to recover from a long day of flying and start a European journey. We left our bags at the hotel and went to get some coffee. Then it was off to meet our friends Ute and Wolfgang.

Our first beer stop was The Palace on Fleet Street at the opposite end of Temple Bar from the Porterhouse. The Palace, a famous old Victorian pub, is one of the few mainstream Irish pubs that stock Irish craft beer. This was important, as our theme of the Ireland portion of this trip is to try to forgo the mass-produced, foreign-owned Stouts and drink only Irish craft beer. The Palace pours two craft beers, Galway Hooker IPA and Temple Bräu, a lager from the Porterhouse.

Ute and Wolfgang came over from Germany to meet us and they love Dublin as much as we do. Both Guinness drinkers, they surprised us and ordered Galway Hookers along with us. In the ten months since I last had the beer, I had forgotten how good it is. After a few rounds of beer and lots of catching up, we all moved on to the next pub.

At the Porterhouse we met our Irish friend John, better known as the Beer Nut. Not only a genuinely nice person, John is part of Irish Craft Brewers and a great resource on the Irish beer scene.

And, as if the Porterhouse knew about our theme, our time in Dublin coincided with their Independent Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival. Not only could we get Porterhouse beer, but also brews from the other Irish craft producers.

I was particularly excited because I had my favorite Porterhouse beer, Wrasslers XXXX, as well as, cask beers from the Northern Ireland brewery Hilden.  Merideth was pleased because Porterhouse brewed a Chocolate Truffle Stout, a beer she compared very favorably with Young’s Double Chocolate.

After a number of beers at the Porterhouse, Ute and Wolfgang needed some rest and we needed to check into our hotel and shower. We decided to meet back up later at the Porterhouse to watch some football.

On our way to the hotel, we decided to take the scenic route and stop by the Bull & Castle to drop off some Russian River beer to the manager, Declan.

Declan was there. So, of course we ordered beers and started talking. One beer led to another and next thing we knew, it was time for us to be back at the Porterhouse. So much for showering… it’s overrated anyways.

At the Porterhouse, we met back up with John, other ICB members, and Ute and Wolfgang. While enjoying a few more beers, we watched Ireland score a late equalizer in their World Cup qualifier versus Italy.

We finally made it to our hotel around 11pm, 12 hours after we had dropped off our bags. Tired from the jet lag and beer drinking, these are our favorite kind of days here in Europe… drinking with friends.