Drinking in Dublin: going beyond the black stuff
Dublin may be a city synonymous with the black stuff, but its emerging craft beer scene is changing the drinking landscape. Even a whistle-stop tour of the city reveals how international styles of beer have captured the imagination of locals and inspired Irish breweries to move into the modern craft sphere.
Tap rooms are popping up in abundance, officially making Dublin a beer destination city. There’s a growing list of exciting Irish breweries that are all worth sampling when bar-hopping in Dublin. This includes Galway Bay Brewing, a brewery with a focus on full-bodied, flavoursome beer. They also operate several bars across Ireland, ideal venues to showcase their range of styles, including a number in the Dublin area. Other Irish breweries making an impression on drinkers are Eight Degrees Brewing from Cork, Sligo’s The White Hag Brewery and Trouble Brewing from Kildare.
When on the hunt for an example of modern Irish brewing, there are a few spots worth the journey for.
18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
If you ask anyone for a recommendation for a meal or libations in the city, it’s inevitable that L. Mulligan Grocer will come up. Located in Stoneybatter, a charming up-and-coming neighbourhood Northside of the city in the Dublin 7 postcode, this is walkable from the Guinness St. James's Gate brewery. The hype about the extensive beer selection and superb food is no exaggeration; this pub is a class act.
The décor and ambiance has the characteristics of a traditional Irish boozer, but some tweaks firmly situate the pub in the 21st century. Visitors sit down and are handed a menu woven into a used book, something that could be deemed obnoxiously hipster-chic, but it just doesn’t feel overegged. This might be down to the highly approachable and down-to-earth staff.
The menu boasts of local ingredients, suppliers and rotating daily specials based on availability. On a late Monday afternoon, tables were available, but many were reserved for evening diners. The menu offered rich seafood chowder, juicy boar burgers, moist chicken Kiev and perfectly golden fried hake. The soda bread and fresh butter – sacred staples in Ireland – are superlative.
Every dish is paired with a suggested beer on the menu, but we discussed our options with the intensely knowledgeable staff. This is a good opportunity to work through some of the best Irish breweries in one spot – Yellowbelly Beer’s Pale and Interesting and Big River from Eight Degrees Brewing were easy drinking afternoon beers to accompany a long, languid lunch.
An afternoon spent at L. Mulligan Grocer passes timelessly and effortlessly, with daylight snuffed out towards the back of the pub, and the evenings promise to be lively with music advertised.
1 Amiens Street Dublin 1
The convenient location of this Galway Brewery pub can’t be downplayed. Essentially the first pub within sight of the of a LUAS tram stop outside of Connolly Station, this is a great starting point for any central Dublin drinking. The bottle selection is strong, ranging from local breweries to imported beers, but the real highlight is the wide selection of Galway’s own beers, with core and seasonal choices available.
Familiarising ourselves with Galway, we enjoyed the Full Sail IPA and even the non-beer drinkers were won over by the Subsolar, a dry-hopped farmhouse ale that was dry and tangy with a bitter citrus edge.
This pub is spread across two floors with ample tables for their unfussy and tasty menu of pub fare classics. Monday evening was fairly quiet with a select few pulled up to the bar, but staff were pleasant and the modern, unfussy atmosphere was welcoming.
16-18 Parliament Street Dublin 2
Okay, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when visiting Dublin with a group, a trip into the bustling Temple Bar area – the city’s so-called cultural quarter– might be unavoidable. If you’ve been to Covent Garden in London or New York, you’ll likely be aware of The Porterhouse Brewing Company. Their bars are everything a tourist site should embody, working through a long list of traditional Irish pub clichés. They’re like mazes, spilling across infinite floors, populated by a flow of people who occupy every cook and cranky where a table can be wedged.
Some will delight in the novelty of it all. Entering the Temple Bar site, we were faced with punters providing a soundtrack to the late afternoon from a corner table.
This Porterhouse bar opened in 1996 and was Dublin’s first pub brewery. There's an fascinating history behind the pubs and brewery, founded by cousins Liam LaHart and Oliver Hughes, who had a taste for modern, hoppy beers. The duo began brewing in 1981, opening Harty’s Brewery in County Wicklow, then moved on to importing beer – mostly Belgian and French styles – in 1989 in the first incarnation of The Porterhouse (which wasn't a brewpub). They are referred to as the Godfathers of craft beer in their native Ireland. Even their head brewer, Peter Mosley, is the longest serving craft brewer in the country.
The Temple Bar location hosts both their own beers and guest beers on tap, seeing the likes of BrewDog's Elvis Juice rubbing shoulders with the Porterhouse range. If you want to dive straight into their beer for a taste, the Plain Porter is an excellent place to start; it was crowned Best Stout in the World at the Brewing Industry International Awards in both 1998 and 2011. Rich with toasted malt, expresso and chocolate, the Plain is still light bodied and served as a smooth nitro pour.
While The Porterhouse Brewing Company is hardly a small operation – they're in the midst of upscaling to a 120 barrel brewery outside of Dublin – it's interesting to sample the beers as they have an important context in Ireland's craft story.
Admittedly, a single day in Dublin just isn't enough to experience the local evolving craft beer scene in all of it's splendour, but it's getting easier to eke out some of the country's best beers across a few sites. But after whetting your appetite, it's likely that follow-up trip to Dublin to delve in deeper will be warranted.