Where to start with good pubs? Dublin has hundreds of them. Some I like in the centre are The Palace Bar (Temple Bar), McDaids (3 Harry St, near Grafton St), The Long House (51 South St Georges St, near Yamamori), Mulligans (Poolbeg St, a backstreet off Tara St), The Stag’s Head (Dame Court, opposite Odessa). All classic old boozers with heaps of character.
The Porterhouse, Temple Bar (Intermediate A), 16-18 Parliament Street
The Porterhouse Brewing Co are very proud of the fact that they are Ireland’s largest independent brewer with the likes of Guiness and Murphy’s having been bought up by Diageo and Heinken. This is their flagship pub and it’s a great place to try international beers as well as their own ales. It’s a cosy warren of snugs, staircases and bars on three floors. Last time I was here it was rammed with office types who had all made reservations. Not as busy on this occasion though, perhaps a sign of the recession. The cost of a pint here is fairly typical for the area, around €4.30.
The food is pretty good here too, with a menu of adventurous bar snacks. I went for the classic combination of oysters with a pint of the black stuff. Oysters are perhaps the only food item that is cheaper than in the UK; six Carlingford Rock oysters cost only €9 here, with a round of delicious Stout Soda Bread.
The logical accompaniment would be their Oyster Stout but I went for the Plain Porter which recently won the category for best stout at the 2011 Brewing Industry Interantional Awards (the brewing Oscars). The texture and taste of the stout combines perfectly with that of the oysters, absolute heaven (A+).
The Market Bar, 16 Fade St, off South Great Georges St, is located in a lovely old building.
It used to be a shoe factory as you can see from the impressive display of shoe lasts at one end of the huge room. It was too busy for me to try their tapas on the Friday night I went.
Doheny & Nesbitt, 5 Lower Baggot St
Located in the Georgian district, I especially like this old pub with its atmospheric warren of nooks and crannies, and no tourists.
I have a thing for Georgian architecture and this area has some impressive buildings, like the Taioseach’s crib. The residential bits remind me of my old flat off Dale St in Liverpool.
A few beautiful old shop fronts still survive around here too.
Continuing my never-ending search for the perfect pint of Guinness I took the ‘self-guided’ brewery tour at the Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate. As Ireland’s number one tourist attraction it’s a bit like entering a commercialised Willi Wonka land but the beer-making processes being ‘interactively’ explained aren’t anywhere near as exciting.
Stout is a stronger version of porter, originally introduced from London in the 1770’s, and perfected by Arthur Guinness. Jokingly known as Liffey Water, the black beer is actually brewed with water from a clear stream arising from the nearby hills of County Wicklow. It’s this pure ingredient which is probably the reason why Guinness doesn’t taste as good anywhere else (it’s brewed in nearly 50 countries, and drunk in over 150).
I also learned a few interesting facts about the ancient art of cooperage (did you know a barrel is actually a size of cask, as is the firkin, the butt and kilderkin), once a major industry, now virtually extinct. The old photos of the yard stacked up with mountains of wooden barrels are very impressive.
At 50 acres, St. James’s Gate is the largest brewery in the world and at one time even had its own internal railway and fleet of boats. You can see exhibits like the steam engines and model ships on one of the floors.
There was also once a constant stream of Guinness barges going down the Liffey which had special fold-down chimneys to get under the bridges on their way to the port.
Another floor is dedicated to their famous publicity campaigns where you can see displays of, amongst others, the classic Guinness adverts by John Gilroy, which he drew from the 30’s to the 60’s. He was offered a job by Walt Disney but turned him down.
Entrance is a rather steep €14.40 but that includes a free pint of draught Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top of the storehouse. This is the best bit of the tour because you get a 360 view of Dublin while supping on an excellent pint.
If you fancy another either on the way to or coming from the brewery you could stop off at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub, founded in 1198.
There is a nice yard where you can sit outside on a sunny day.
Local wisdom says that the Airport Bar has the best Guinness, because it’s either your first or your last!