Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Underdog

The Underdog - now up and running at The Legal EagleI broke down and Did The Thing – for this week’s Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs, I asked ChatGPT about a pub, and here’s what it said when I asked it to describe The Underdog:

The Underdog is a popular pub located in the heart of Dublin, Ireland. It is known for its lively atmosphere and good selection of drinks and food. People often visit the pub for its friendly staff, good music, and great social atmosphere. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, especially in the evenings and on weekends. The Underdog is an important part of the Dublin pub culture and is considered a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the city’s famous nightlife.

Leaving aside the many and various issues associated with this kind of technology as it exists today, what strikes me is how generic it makes The Underdog sound – something of an achievement in its own right, given how The Underdog is absolutely unique in Dublin as a craft beer destination, and its extended absence from the local scene was very much felt. First, though, some context for non-locals.

In days of yore - the old staircase leading down, down, down...The Underdog originally opened in 2017, in the basement of Brogan’s on Dame Street – an ideal location from a city centre/pre-show/transit point of view, though very much less so in others, which we’ll get to later. Descending the steps to the cosy, 18-tap AND BEER ENGINE bar always felt a bit magical; I visited for the first time on a work trip not long after they initially opened, and would always pop in on subsequent trips before we officially moved to Dublin. As it happens we moved here three years ago this week, and, given that timing, you can probably see where this is going. In my pre-pandemic ignorance, I thought I’d be stopping in regularly, and I did manage two visits, one with the now-seemingly-hibernating local branch of the Mikkeller Running Club, and one the night before lockdown happened; at least, I got to go out on a high with a pint of cask Jaipur after running, and some excellent local beers on that final night out.

Once lockdown happened, The Underdog managed to occasionally operate as a beer take-away of sorts, but when they did not re-open when all other pubs finally could – something that only happened a little over a year ago for those non-food pubs, distant though that seems to me now – the word through the grapevine was not positive. Issues with the building were mentioned frequently, and indeed, that seemed to be the blocker. Although the Dame Street location was extremely handy for its proximity to The Olympia Theatre, shopping and Dublin Castle, the latter was part of the problem. The River Poddle was diverted to create a moat around the castle in medieval times, and it still flows under and around much of Dame Street today – a resulting flood put paid to the idea of re-opening The Underdog in its original home. So much for the supposed secret tunnels.

Inside the 'new' UnderdogAfter what seemed like a very long period without a home, the very welcome news came that The Underdog would be ‘popping up’ at The Legal Eagle for a seemingly-unspecified period of time, and it re-opened in the new digs in November, 2022. It brought back (almost) everything for which it was rightly beloved among beer nerds: a fantastic, always-fresh line-up of both local and overseas craft beers, with a wide mix of styles and strengths, an always-personal welcome from Paddy and the team, and a cosy, though not subterranean setting. As a slight aside, it’s worth noting that the routes to and from the basement toilets can seem a bit maze-like – or maybe that’s only after a few drinks? The only thing missing is the beer engine, though I have been reassured it will be coming soon – there is a ‘cask’ sign on the wall, just waiting to list its featured offering, so I have every confidence it will not be long now. In any case, this is not the kind of ‘craft beer bar’ you see in some places around the world, with 25 identikit IPAs (or even, ‘IPAs’ – IYKYK) – you may find Saison Dupont on next to local stalwarts like Trouble and Third Barrel, or a partial tap takeover from the likes of Spain’s Oddity Brewing, to recall a recent event.

It is worth emphasising that The Underdog is still Dublin’s only true ‘craft beer bar’ – somewhat surprising for a capital city, certainly, even a relatively small one, but there is no other direct comparison. While the various Galway Bay pubs – many of which we will be visiting individually as part of this series – do a great job of showing off their own beer, as well as some fine guest taps, and it’s also true that there will be a few other pubs and bars covered that can be counted on to have some good, non-macro options, nothing else really fits the definition as squarely as The Underdog. It’s one of a kind.

And to revisit the AI-generated words on The Underdog, I also have to say that it misses out the other key aspect of the place – the fact that it is impossible to go in without running into at least a few people you know. The beer nerd world in Ireland overall is small but mighty: thoroughly welcoming to blow-ins like me, but you do tend to see the same faces when out and about. To be clear, this is not at all a complaint – it’s a feature, not a bug, and a really lovely one. Even if I do head to The Underdog on my own, I know I’ll end up at a table with friends, over some really excellent beers; it’s got a real sense of community about it, but not in an exclusionary way – everyone is welcome.

I cannot wait for Cask Night to return.

Where: The Underdog at The Legal Eagle, 1-2 Chancery Pl, Inns Quay, Dublin 1, D07 HP40
Access from the city centre: Buses 26, 39, 83; Red Line Luas; 5-10 minute walk
Food: A lovely cheese board – possibly more to come in the future
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope – screens show what’s on tap
Music: There in the background, not too loud – nothing live
Family-friendliness: Highly recommend having a decade between children, so the older one can watch the younger one – proper grown-up night out!
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Fidelity, Bonobo, The Brazen Head is just across the river, and one could carry on into Smithfield, Stoneybatter…
Local sites of note: Four Courts, St Michan’s Church, St Audoen’s Church, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: The current building is a few hundred years old…but no obvious tales
Other notes: Taplist is kept updated on Taplist.io and highlighted on Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Doyle’s Corner

Exterior of Doyle's CornerWe’re heading back to Phibsborough/Phibsboro this week, with a visit to Doyle’s Corner.

Dublin pubs – and, to be fair, other businesses – have a habit of lending their names to road conjunctions. In the case of Doyle’s Corner, this has happened twice: originally known as Dunphy’s Corner from the 1870s, with the requisite Joycean name-check, the intersection in front of the pub has been called Doyle’s Corner since at least the early 1900s. Although built by Thomas Dunphy in 1873, allegedly with leftover stone from nearby St. Peter’s Church, the Dunphy name receded when John Doyle bought both this pub and The Boh(emian) across the road. There is, like last week’s featured pub, The Cat & Cage, also a Brendan Behan connection, but there’s no evidence he offered to do any work here in exchange for a drink.

Although the pub’s name was changed (in the mid-2000s?) to celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle, it reverted to John Doyle’s, and then, re-opened in 2018 as Doyle’s Corner. For Dublin real estate enthusiasts/masochists, it’s worth noting that the pub sold for €4.2 million in 2006, but then had to ‘reduce its price‘ to €850,000 in 2011. These days, it’s a stretch to find many decent houses in Dublin for under that amount, much less a public one, but back to the bar…there are still some nods to Conan Doyle in the snug, with prints of various Sherlock Holmes illustrations on one wall.

The main bar at Doyle's CornerI never saw the pre-renovation interior, but I find the current atmosphere very pleasant, with distinct personalities in the two main floor sections. The main bar feels, well, pubby, and the snug, with its fireplace and wood, more ‘Irish pubby’ – at least, that’s how my brain likes to interpret it. But I would hasten to add that it feels ‘Irish pubby’ in the authentic sense, not in the came-in-a-kit regard you get from overseas ‘Irish pubs’ (and, sorry to say, at least one near me, though I will likely simply never mention that particular pub here). I seem to almost always end up next to the bookshelves near the front door, which is no complaint; it’s very comfortable and an ideal spot to be tucked away for a sneaky solo afternoon pint. And, given that I walk by the pub at least twice a day, it’s extremely handy for that solo pint for me – with bonus points given as I have never been accosted by That Guy here.

The snug at Doyle's CornerI confess I have not checked out the newer sports bar and/or party venue upstairs, which makes me feel like I’m cheating to some extent by mentioning it without that more thorough exploration, but I’m very happy with the spots I in which I tend to be placed downstairs, in both sections. The chief draw for me, beyond the convenience factor and comfortable seating, is, of course, a selection of independent Irish beers. There’s always Kinnegar Scraggy Bay on, and usually something from The White Hag, Trouble or Yellowbelly. Guinness is, of course, well-represented, so it does cater to a range of tastes, with some cocktails included in the lineup as well – the Island’s Edge is kept far off to one side, where it belongs.

Doyle’s Corner is very much a pub in my ‘regular circulation’ – a fresh pint of Scraggy Bay is always worth the walk.

Where: Doyle’s Corner, 160/161 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 R26N
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, excellent warm cookies on the dessert menu
Sport: Most major Premiere League & international football matches; rugby & GAA as well
TVs: An entire sports bar section upstairs; screens come down for big games in the main bar, TV in the snug
Music: You can program the music from your phone; also live music weekly
Family-friendliness: Kids’ menu; plenty of the smaller ones about at reasonable hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Hut is right next door, The Boh across the street, The Bald Eagle and The Back Page just a few short blocks away in opposite directions, with a few more in the immediate area
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, Mater Hospital
Haunted: Poltergeist? Allegedly a ‘noisy ghost‘ ‘terrorised patrons on the second floor‘ in the early 2000s
Other notes: Possibly the most pleasant women’s bathrooms in a pub, anywhere; also a list of cans and bottles from local breweries

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Cat & Cage

Recemt;y-repainted exterior of The Cat & CageThe sign outside The Cat & Cage declares that it has been trading here since 1690; its website repeats this assertion, though footage of the pub from the 1960s gives the founding date as 1750. While I am typically not inclined to take the ‘ancient’ claims of most Dublin pubs at face value, I’m more open to an earlier date for The Cat & Cage – and not just because I happen to think it’s a wonderful pub, though that helps.

It was known by the 1780s as ‘…a famous old punch house…kept by a witty blacksmith’ in an 1860s review of Sydney, Lady Morgan’s autobiography; her mother had kept a country retreat nearby. And the literary references do not end there – no, not an appearance in Ulysses, but rather, in Sean O’Casey’s Pictures in the Hallway. The playwright was a regular and, at least per his book, got into a few scrapes here. In the same vein, Brendan Behan (allegedly) painted the exterior and was, so the story goes, at least partially paid in pints. His statue, not a terribly far walk away on the Royal Canal, would no doubt approve. But, back to ‘just how old is this pub?’

Once again, The Cat & Cage was described in the 1870s as ‘a very old two-storey thatched tavern’ whose heyday had been ‘thirty and forty years ago’ – a similar jab was levied at the pub in the early 2010s, so, it seems, ’twas ever thus. The insistence that a pub was once pretty fantastic, but now, leaves something to be desired reminds me very much of M.R. James’s rules for ghost stories: ‘For the ghost story a slight haze of distance is desirable. ‘Thirty years ago,’ ‘Not long before the war’, are very proper openings.‘ There seems to be a parallel tendency to think a pub is ‘past it’ – but the recently-renovated Cat & Cage is anything but…even if it’s not entirely clear exactly how old it is.

The snug inside The Cat & CageBut let’s look at what it looks like now: the exterior could easily pass for anything between ‘improved’ 18th century to late 19th century, while the interior has benefitted from a thoughtful facelift, marrying exposed stone with modern lights, design and seating, plus an old-school snug and an airy upstairs space that kept things ticking over as a bottle shop-and-takeaway-pizza spot during lockdowns, while the renovation in the main pub was happening downstairs. There are two sets of taps downstairs, one with the usual suspects of Guinness, Heineken and Lagunitas, but with a few always-on local craft taps from Trouble and Rascals. The other side of the bar, which opens into another, wallpapered room, features some other craft options, often from Scandinavia or Spain, and other locals like Wicklow Wolf or Whiplash. The upstairs lounge – formerly Knead, the aforementioned pizza-and-beer spot, also has a few taps, and some lovely bottles and cans.

A pint inside The Cat & CageI love that each part of The Cat & Cage has its own personality (and a variety of beer options), and that the renovation did a great job of showing off some of the building’s historic fabric, but allowed it to be very comfortable and modern at the same time. Given the pub’s age, regardless of which date is ‘correct,’ it’s nice to see it move with the times, but retain the aspects that give it character. And if I put on my amateur architectural historian hat – those archaeology degrees give me just enough knowledge to be dangerous, if not wholly accurate – I’d be willing to wager on something in between the two dates, and perhaps even to consider something a bit older, albeit spottily recorded. There would have been a small settlement here in the 17th century, and the church and churchyard just a short walk away was old enough to have been ‘dilapidated’ and needed a rebuild by the 1740s; nearby Belvedere House dates to the 1660s-70s, and given that The Cat & Cage was established enough to be a postal stop and coaching inn that featured in the 1798 rebellion, well…there are certainly possibilities. And while I could go do actual research, as with The Bald Eagle, it’s also nice to leave a bit of a mystery – and I’d rather just relax and enjoy a pint.

Fun wallpaper at The Cat & CageAnd that brings me to the other positive of this pub; it’s great for kicking back with other (grownup) friends, yet they will also happily handle my smaller child’s bizarro no-sauce pizza order without blinking if it’s a family afternoon or evening out. And while I sometimes feel that I need to campaign for more mac & cheese options in Ireland – why should the US have all the fun when the cheese here is an order of magnitude better? – the recently-returned-to-the-menu mac & cheese suppli are the best bar snacks around. I may have, on occasion, stopped in just to get some. Well, and a pint, but that goes without saying, and having a real variety of beers that aren’t all 6%+ helps keep things going.

I have yet to collect any specific ghost stories, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be mad about it – a resident spook would be a perfect fit for a pub with such a heritage.

Plaster likely isn't all that old, but it's atmosphericWhere: The Cat & Cage, 74 Drumcondra Road Upper, Drumcondra, Dublin, D09X620
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 16, 44
Food: Pizza, tacos, pub grub, gorgeous mac & cheese suppli
Sport: Most major Premiere League & international football matches
TVs: A few small ones, with a screen that comes down for bigger games
Music: Often top 80s and 90s jams on the speakers, though not live music
Family-friendliness: No specific kids’ menu, but smaller sizes are available and children are welcome
Pub-crawl-ability: Low-Medium: it could be done, but would require a fair bit of walking between stops
Local sites of note: DCU St Patrick’s & All Hallows Campuses, Drumcondra Church & Churchyard, Griffith Avenue, Belvedere House, Croke Park, Tolka Park
Haunted: One would hope so – vibes
Other notes: Excellent bottle/can list

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Bald Eagle

The bar at The Bald EagleIt’s time for the first instalment of my Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs.

You guessed I’d start off with my own local, right? While *technically* I have several other pubs within much easier strolling/stumbling distance, one of the many benefits of city living to someone like me who is essentially incapable of living anywhere non-urban, is having a number of choices and opting for the one that’s a slightly further walk, simply because it’s more what I’m in the mood for on a given occasion. So, today, it’s a look at The Bald Eagle, which stands next to the Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal in Phibsborough (or, if you prefer, Phibsboro – it’s a thing).

For the uninitiated, Phibsborough is one of the World’s Coolest NeighbourhoodsTM, at least according to Time Out, and as a former staffer from back in the 1990s, I have to agree, right? Well, having lived or worked in a few of them, frequently long before they were cool (side note: Walthamstow was most certainly Not Cool when I lived there, but hey, why not now?) because I am An Old, I do (mostly) agree in this case. Although I am not personally cool enough to live in Phibsborough itself, I’m in and out of it several times a day – it’s just a short walk up the canal for me, so I get all the Cool Neighbourhood benefits without the full Cool Neighbourhood price. And Cool Neighbourhoods need cool pubs, but it’s all about being just the right level of cool, and not trying too hard – and that (finally) brings me to what I love about The Bald Eagle.

Dalek mural at The Bald EagleWhile the interior is, at first glance, your ‘typical’ Irish pub with a lot of dark wood, a lovely snug, some old pictures, mirrors and a wee bit of taxidermy, it’s spruced up with a splash of pop culture and nerdery: Star Wars and other action figures that seem aimed squarely at my demographic, as well as a tattoo aesthetic toward the back and outside on the sun-trap deck – well, on days when there is sun, that is. There’s also a life-sized mural of a Dalek out back, again, targeting My People very directly.

Of course, it’s also about the beer: there are almost always local beers from Hope, Rascals and Trouble on, and not infrequently another guest tap or two, along with the usual Guinness and Friends lineup you will find everywhere else. There’s always a warm welcome from the staff who make a point of saying hello whenever we appear, even if it’s busy, and it’s the kind of place I can go for a quiet solo pint on a rare afternoon off, an evening out with friends or for a family dinner with the kids in tow – the desserts are always crowd-pleasers, and the seasonal cocktail offerings are a nice change from the beer on occasion.

Solo pint at The Bald Eagle, in the snugIf this all sounds too much ‘of the now’ for you, there is also a heritage here: although it’s only been The Bald Eagle for a few years, there has been a pub on this spot – or, at least, very near – since the 1740s, though maps from the 1830s onward seem more certain about this being part of the origin story of the current pub; one has to assume the workers at the mill just a bit further along the canal would have wanted a drink. But sometimes it’s nice to leave a bit of mystery, too – something to come back to later, which suits a pub like this perfectly.

I do come back often.

Where: The Bald Eagle, 114-115 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 VX23
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pizzas, desserts
Sport: Most bigger Premiere League, Rugby and GAA matches are on
TVs: Visible from most of the pub, including the deck, but not overpowering
Music: Usually excellent ’90s jams on the speakers, though not live music
Family-friendliness: Useful kids’ menu and friendly welcome at reasonable hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High. Multiple options within the immediate area
Local sites of note: Royal Canal, Mater Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Dalymount Park
Haunted: Not obviously
Other notes: Handy for a Guinness 0.0 when needed, also some cans and bottles of other local craft beers

A Theme for 2023: My Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs

The Underdog - just one upcoming feature!It’s a new year, and as I’ve become wildly undisciplined about writing outside of work, I’m giving myself a prompt for 2023: semi-regularly writing about some of my favourite pubs here in Dublin.  Now, there are already several excellent, long-running blogs that focus on the full spectrum of Dublin pubs: Every Pub in Dublin and Dublin By Pub are out there doing fantastic work, so this will be a much more idiosyncratic approach. If I were a Terrible Person, this would be A CURATED LOOK AT DUBLIN PUBS, but because I can, on occasion, reign in in, you will be spared that kind of nonsense.

Instead, I’ll focus on what makes the pub especially welcoming, handy or interesting for me, so do expect a bit of a Northside bias: proximity helps, but it’s not the only determining factor; regular readers and followers know that I will travel for cask, though alas, compiling a list of all cask pubs in Dublin would be an all-too-swift task (though if the pub does do the odd cask event, it will be noted). You can expect that the majority of the pubs covered will have at least a few local/Irish/overseas guest craft taps, but we simply don’t have dozens of craft beer pubs to choose from as you might in London or Philadelphia.

Can you guess the pub?And while not all pubs need be family-friendly – indeed, at least a few on my list are very much Grownups Only – I will be including the options for kids, including children’s menus and family events, where relevant; after all, those are the ones I tend to get to more often, and new entries will, broadly speaking, be written based on how recently I’ve been to a particular pub and grabbed a few photos (so hey, recency bias, too! Let’s ignore the fact, for now, that the last time I was out with only my nearly-adult kid, they kept trying to give him the pint and me the Coke, but I digress).

I’ll only include some of the ‘usual suspect’ pubs that typically appear in tourist guides to Dublin if there is something about a particular venue that does stand out for me – there’s no need for me to write up a Temple Bar pub if it’s something I typically avoid, but there are some ‘must-do tourist pubs’ that are actually very pleasant, though it may be some time before I get around to those.

Do expect some of the usual off-theme posts as well…I’ll still be doing some (hopefully) regular travel-related updates, plus some things related to work, beer festivals, breweries and the Beer Ladies Podcast, so do come back to check those out as well as they appear, and a big thank you to Boak and Bailey for (possibly unwittingly) getting me to finally commit to this!

Expect the first entry in the Dublin Pubs series later this week…and hopefully, a few will surprise you.

Updated to add direct links to entries:
The Bald Eagle, Phibsborough
The Cat & Cage, Drumcondra
Doyle’s Corner, Phibsborough
The Underdog, City Centre-ish

Top 15 Beers of 2022

This is nothing like as long-winded as my annual wrap-up; instead, a short-and-sweet list of my favourite beers of 2022, and what made them stand out. While some were simply objectively well-made beers, for others, it was about the people, places and experiences they accompanied that made them stand out.

Without further ado, my top 15, in chronological order:

Beer: Rascals Pilot #45 Oatmeal Stout, 4.3%
When: 15th Jan ’22
Where: Rascals Brewing HQ, Dublin, Ireland
Why: While I love a good oatmeal stout, I rarely come across any I rate this highly. But the combination of a night out with beer-loving friends – something that was still something of a novelty at this point – great pizza and a very fresh pint made this one stand out. It was very much kicking off the new year right.

Beer: Rascals Rude Girl Black IPA, 6%
Where: Rascals Brewing HQ, Dublin, Ireland
When: 24 Feb ’22
Why: Yes, right back to Rascals…this was a fantastically fun night out – friends, ska music (I even got out my red and black plaid trousers and tall silver DMs for the occasion), and some new beer releases. I’ve been smitten with (good) Black IPAs since Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous was just the Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, back in 2007, and Rude Girl seemed designed for me. I loved it so much I also toasted my new job with a can of this at home…but more on that later.

Beer: Ballykilcavan Export Bambrick’s Brown Ale, 7.8% 
Where: Dead Centre Brewing, Athlone, Ireland
When: 26 Feb ’22
Why: IT WAS ON CASK. True, but that wasn’t the only reason, despite it being the first time I’d had any cask beer in Ireland since 2019. The occasion was an in-person Craic Beer Community meet-up, and it was both my first time seeing many online friends in person, and my first time visiting Dead Centre and trying their beers on-site, which were all excellent. But the visiting Ballykilcavan cask was a special treat, and it was well worth traveling for. I love the standard Bambrick’s Brown in any case – like Yards Brawler (more on that later), it’s nearly the Platonic ideal of beer for me – so this was extra-special.

Dry & Bitter BrewingBeer: Dry & Bitter Brewing Company Christian Bale Ale, 4.6%
Where: Carlsens Kvarter, Odense, Denmark
When: 27 Mar ’22
Why: While part of the excitement was the novelty of being on my first work trip since 2020, coupled with the opportunity to meet my new colleagues in person, the atmosphere and attention to detail at Carlsens Kvarter played no small part in this being a ‘great beer experience.’ This is a wonderful beer bar, with a carefully-chosen lineup and knowledgeable staff. This beer was a recommendation, and it was spot-on – fresh, flavourful and hit all the right notes.

Beer: Trouble Brewing Silver Lining Dark Mild, 3.4%
Where: The Black Sheep, Dublin, Ireland
When: 22 April ’22
Why: As a mild-loving weirdo, I was Watching the Socials, waiting for this beer to be tapped, and when word came through it was on, I immediately power-walked over to The Black Sheep, where I ran into more lovely beer friends, so what started off as an impromptu quick pint turned into a mini-session over a really pleasant few refills. Simply put, it was a low-key afternoon out, accompanied by the perfect beer. Cheers to Trouble.

Beer: Crew Brewing Co Vanilla Milk Stout, 5.1%
Where: Crew Brewing Company, Limerick, Ireland
When: 30 April ’22
Why: I had a fantastic trip to Limerick with my fellow Beer Ladies in 2021, but this was my first time back with the family. We were in town so I could participate in the Great Limerick Run, and I fully believe this beer, consumed the night before, is a key reason I ran so quickly in the half-marathon the next day; new PB! As always with Crew, everything was delicious all around – and if you haven’t listened to our podcast episode with them, do so now!

The Carpenter's ArmsBeer: Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, 4%
Where: Carpenter’s Arms, London, England
When: 20 Jun ’22
Why: First, I adore bitters, especially cask bitters, and they are rare beasts in Ireland, As Is Known. This was also the very first time I got to meet one of my former colleagues/direct reports from my previous Job from the Abyss, after more than two years of working together. I was also back in London for my first proper work conference in years, so this pub session was setting up some excitement on both the professional and leisure-time front, in the form of Much Theatre. But most importantly for our discussion here, the cask was well-kept (alas, not something I could say of all other pubs visited on this trip); it was in absolutely perfect condition. I may have had a few.

At The Deer's HeadBeer: Bell’s Brewery Capstan Australian Pale Ale, 4.7%
Where: The Deer’s Head, Belfast, Northern Ireland
When: 16 Aug ’22
Why: It was tricky to pick just one beer from The Deer’s Head in-house brewery, Bell’s (not that one – yes, I will say this each time I mention it, especially since I just found a bottle of Two-Hearted in my in-laws’ pantry), as I also really enjoyed their Berliner Lager and Red Cow Red Ale, but given that I went back for this one a few times during our stay, it was a real standout. This was a family trip and neither the Smaller One nor the Young Adult One were in foul moods during our multiple Deer’s Head visits, so there must be something magical about the place, beyond its beautiful décor and excellent beer. I hope to make it back up again soon.

Beer: Schilling Beer Co. Konstantin Märzen, 5%
Where: As Is, NYC, USA
When: 17 Sept ’22
Why: I tend to prefer American Oktoberfest/Märzen interpretations (sorry not sorry), and this one was absolutely in my wheelhouse. Add in this being my first trip back to NYC (again, for work, but I made time for the usual theatre and food) since 2019 and the beer being incredibly fresh, and served by friendly, well-read staff and you have the perfect setup for a solo pint or two. Yes, I *liked* the Heady Topper I also had while in town, but this was much more to my taste.

Beer: Lough Gill Brewery If I Was in LA IPA, 6.8%
Where: Our Living Room, Dublin, Ireland
When: 21 Oct ’22
Why: No special night out, no friends over…just a normal Friday family pizza night. This is one of those occasions where the beer itself was the star – a proper, old-school American IPA. Clear as anything, nice malty backbone and piney hops for days. Gorgeous.

Lord MarplesBeer: Thornbridge Lord Marples Bitter, 4%
Where: The Market Cat, York, England
When: 2 Nov ’22
Why: Again, a beautiful cask bitter, though it was hard to pick just one, not only from this trip, but from this lunchtime session, accompanied by tasty pizza and cordial children, as the Simcoe Bitter was also top-notch. Really, we didn’t have a bad beer at any point in York…certainly a reason to make plans for another trip back at some point.

Beer: Galway Bay Brewing Oregon Grown: Columbus, Centennial, Chinook, Cascade IPA, 6.4%
Where: Against the Grain, Dublin, Ireland
When: 16 Nov ’22
Why: One of those full-disclosure I-got-invited events – Against the Grain’s re-opening after a refresh. House beers were, appropriately enough, on the house, and the usual complement of local beer geeks was on full display (and I’m more than happy to count myself in their number). But like the Lough Gill IPA, this beer is a throwback to those American IPAs that used to be everywhere, before everything went hazy. I’m sure there’s a joke in that.

Hope Beer Winter PorterBeer: Hope Beer Winter Seasonal Dublin Porter, 6%
Where: Our Kitchen, Dublin, Ireland
Date: 12 Dec ’22 (and others)
Why: I loved all of Hope’s seasonals this year, especially the Amber Lager, but this one has been my cold-weather go-to. I’ve used it on multiple festive Beer Ladies Podcast recordings, and it’s actually a bit of a surprise that I do love this beer, since ‘smoke’ is not typically my thing, but it’s very subtle in this, and just adds a bit more colour to an already-flavourful porter. Delicious.

Beer: Lough Gill Ogham Imperial Milk Stout with Cocoa Nibs, 10%
Where: The Underdog, Dublin, Ireland
When: 15 Dec ’22
Why: Although not my first visit back to The Underdog since its rebirth, it was my first ‘couples’ night out’ there, and, cold as it was, this was beautifully warming. I love this series from Lough Gill for its amazing can designs, with nods to Irish archaeology, so it counts as using my degrees – another bonus. Having said that, I rarely buy the cans since it’s tough to have an ‘occasion’ for a 10% beer, but getting a glass of it was ideal – rich, very chocolate-y but not too sweet, and deceptively easy to drink, but an ideal winter sipper in any case.

Beer: Yards Brewing Co. Brawler Mild, 4.2%
Where: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, USA
When: 21 Dec ’22
Why: As with Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown, Brawler is simply an objectively perfect beer; I’d be quite happy to have a permanent tap for each one in my home, though that would be a bit of a difficulty getting the pipe from Philly to Dublin working undersea. While this occasion was accompanied by a smaller child jetlag-fuelled meltdown and only-adequate semi-outdoor pizza, it hardly detracted – the beautiful holiday lights around the gardens and the Brawler made the evening festive.

Honourable Mentions
Without making this too much longer, I did want to share a few other ‘wow-that-was-good’ joy-inducing beers from 2022, including: Dead Centre’s Sham Maths (AMBER ALE JOY), Bryggeriet Flakhaven’ Brown Beauty (BROWN ALE JOY), Isaac Poad’s Piccadilly Porter (CASK PORTER JOY), Ballykilcavan Clancy’s Cans #11 – Maple & Pecan Brown Ale (EVEN YUMMIER BROWN ALE JOY), 2SP Brewing Eastwood IPA (WEST COAST IPA JOY), Garage Beer Co Fractal Hook Dunkel (DUNKEL JOY), and, last but not least, Rascals Brewing Pilot #48 – Table Beer (TABLE BEER JOY).

See you in 2023!

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 4

Pretzel and the broad, majestic ShannonWelcome back to the fourth and final part of a very wordy annual review.

I know, Oktoberfest should be in September, but the one in Dead Centre happened in early October, and good fun it was, too. Fellow Beer Lady Katie and I made the trip to Athlone, where we recorded an interview with the lovely Liam and Petra for the podcast, and we had some excellent locally-brewed lagers…and a few other things, like the High IQ Moron Radler.

Also – pretzels.

But there was also excitement on tap when another of my podcast co-hosts, Christina, and I attended the Irish Food Writers Awards; we were both (rather mysteriously) nominated for Best Beer Blog – it was a lovely surprise and I’ll need to work a bit harder next year (next week?) to see if I can pull together something a bit more worthy for the next go-round, though John was a well-deserved winner, and we got him on the podcast to chat about it shortly after.

And so, with Spooky Season in high gear, it was time to switch over to Things Autumnal, with Smaller Child’s birthday (a Halloween-themed day out at Leopardstown Race Course – no money won) and a fun crossover podcast episode with Wide Atlantic Weird – I then guested over there to share my Patience Worth nerdery. I enjoyed some lunchtime theatre with a bit of MR James at Bewley’s Café Theatre’s excellent production of Lost Hearts, and made sure to pick up some Trouble Brewing Pumpkin Brew – it was especially tasty on tap at L Mulligan Grocer, where we returned to paint pumpkins, having very much enjoyed the event the previous year.

Borealis at Dublin CastleI dressed up for my Halloween Parkrun and enjoyed a few Bram Stoker Festival events – Borealis at Dublin Castle was especially atmospheric. The cat, however, did not enjoy dressing up, perhaps because she had grown so much from when I’d purchased her special outfit – and our previous kitties never got to be so long!

After a massive candy haul during trick-or-treating, we hopped on a plane (again!) to York (well, a plane to Manchester Airport and a train to York, which was fine in one direction but rather less so heading back). We had not been to York since well before Child Two was born, and while it was a return for Youth One, he seemed to remember very little from his previous visit, so it was all practically brand-new for him, too. There was much excellent cask (and keg) ale consumed, and all manner of spooky activities: a visit to the York Ghost Merchants was required, as we’ve been collecting their wares for a few years, but this was our first in-person visit (protip: follow my lead and get there about 45 minutes before they open, enjoy a tea in the queue); it was excellent. We also enjoyed the newly-opened Society of Alchemists, where we bought insane quantities of soap.

Beer standouts in York were the Big Eagle IPA at Brew York, whose Asian street food was excellent, and Lord Marples at The Market Cat, because you can’t go wrong with cask Thornbridge and the pizza was tasty. They also had Kelham Island’s Pale Rider on, and as it was only recently ‘rescued‘ at that point, it was especially good to see (and drink). A return to The House of Trembling Madness for delicious cheese and some Marble beers was also very much enjoyed. The York Tap was a nice distraction from the train chaos, too – so much good cask!

The UnderdogA high point back in Dublin was the return of The Underdog in new surroundings – the cask isn’t back there yet, but it’s coming, and it’s really wonderful to see its rebirth. It’s impossible to go there and not run into someone you know, and the beer lineup has been uniformly excellent, as one would expect. While there are always a few pubs with a couple of local and/or other craft taps around, there had not been a true all-purpose craft beer bar since The Underdog’s previous incarnation on Dame Street, and its absence was keenly felt here – again, a welcome return. I managed to pay my first visit upon my return from York, and have been going back regularly ever since.

At The Water Rats in a 25 year old t-shirtBut also almost immediately after getting back from York, I returned to the Neighbouring Island for another special music treat: David Devant and his Spirit Wife, playing a 25th anniversary concert for their Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous album at The Water Rats. It was Old Home Week for me as I’d been at the original series of launch concerts and lived just up the road as a grad student, back in the day. I managed to see a few friends, did a ride in the Peloton studio there (I KNOW – though on balance, it’s a lot nicer than NYC), hit up all my favourite occult bookstores and had some great beers. There’s never a bad time to visit the Euston Tap, so that was on the list, too. I also saw David Tennant in Good (no, I never go to London or NYC without a theatre plan – and that brings my ‘Doctors Who seen on stage’ count to – er – one) and I had a really pleasant wander around Coal Drops Yard…none of that existed when I lived there, though, to be fair, it was a lot more affordable then, so it was quite a change to some otherwise-familiar surroundings.

Back home, a little bit more sneaky music, with a not-gig at a local pub for some folksters, and some more great Beer Ladies Podcast fun. We went back on the Tea Bus to see Santa again, and are now finishing up the year where we started it, back in Pennsylvania – and yes, I have had my required Yards Brawler.

Stay tuned for one more post before the end of 2022, though I promise that will be much, much shorter – and I’m looking forward to an exciting 2023.

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 3

Welcome back to Part 3 of what would be an even-more-unnecessarily-long post than usual. You are in luck – this part has cats.

We kicked off July with the arrival of our new kitten, Ruby (the object of my side trip to Salisbury from last time) – and she brought the heat with her. It was incredibly hot in Dublin, and just in time for my first beer festival since 2019 – Fidelity, organised by the team at Whiplash. I’d bought tickets for the festival some two years before, and while I was thrilled it was finally happening, the heat was…intense. Nine times out of ten it would make sense that you’d prefer to have your Dublin beer festival indoors, and while the Round Room at the Mansion House is a great venue, it was VERY WARM.

The heat may have been something of a blessing in disguise, though – at least for me, it meant I went out of my way to stay hydrated, and the water stations were always available and tidy; not something I can say about every festival I’ve ever attended. And the beers were of a very high standard all around, but I still ended up with favourites: DEYA Steady Rolling Man, a hazy pale ale, and Wylam Keepers Ale, an old ale brewed with input from Newcastle Castle – so, apparently, something good is going on on the Neighbouring Island, beer-wise, despite the recent glut of bad news there around brewery closures. But back to Fidelity – while the beer was great, the other high point was seeing so many friends in person; it was really lovely.

In other news, Child Two got to see her first published work in the form of a book review, which was very exciting for her, and she also began taking part in Junior Parkruns during the summer – a lot of activity for a 7 year old.

And there was yet another beer festival: Hagstravaganza, hosted by The White Hag. At the best of times, Ireland-beyond-Dublin can be difficult to navigate via public transit, but the festival was timed to coincide with trains from and back to Dublin, and a special train was also on for those staying locally to stay over. Again, the weather was hot by local standards, though not unbearable, but I was glad I’d brought along sunscreen to top-up all day. Standout beers included Bier, a Helles from California’s Green Cheek Beer Company, Pils Taiheke from The Kernel, and, rather unexpectedly, Caribbean White Chocolate Pancake Stack from Siren.

The train back was very, very merry.

Mr Tatyo is watching youLater in the summer, we went to Tayto Park, mostly to be able to say we’d been when it was still ruled by its benevolent dictator, Mr Tayto. There’s less of a reason to go without him, but I did enjoy some of the exotic wildlife in the park, which included raccoons. Fancy trash pandas!

We also finally made it up to Belfast – something we have long had intended to do, but at last, the timing worked out. I’ve written about the trip in more detail, but The Deer’s Head really stands out in retrospect, both for its beautiful surroundings and fantastic beer. Immediately after returning from Belfast, I headed to another Craic Beer Community event at Rascals – a great meetup with some delightful beers.

There was another run in August: The Frank Duffy 10-Miler through the Phoenix Park. This one wasn’t a PB – the park is hillier than it is in my head – but it was a fun event. I went back to Odense for another work trip shortly thereafter, and enjoyed some more very tasty Albani beers – and there’s nothing wrong with a Carlsberg 1883.

But it was time for more music – as promised, there as more Neil Hannon-ing. I flew back to London for a quick trip to see one of the Divine Comedy 30th anniversary concerts I’d originally bought tickets to years before, and while I couldn’t stay for the full series of concerts, it was wonderful to meet up with so many other long-time (in some cases, decades) online friends in real life at the Barbican. Another side note: I only got lost in the maze of walkways once! Riding the Elizabeth Line was a thrill, because TRAINS, and Neil was in great voice, as always.

Several of us made our way to the only after-hours venue we could find (c’mon, London! We’re *really* still closing most pubs at 11?), Gibney’s, where it was mostly local-to-me Rye River beer – not a bad thing, by any means. Alas, I cannot say the same for my airport ‘Spoons beer, which was not at its best – but that’s a minor point on such a great whirlwind trip.

But then, back to real life, back to Parkrun…well, almost.

First, there was a trip back to New York – one more work conference, and one more theatre-binge opportunity. I am thrilled that I got to see Into the Woods and A Strange Loop, I did another live class in the Peloton studio after a break of 3 years (I KNOW), and I finally got my hands on some Heady Topper, though I think my favourites in town were Arbor Lodge Alt by Logsdon Farmhouse Ales at Beer Culture, a regular standby when I’m in the city, and Konstantin, a märzen from Schilling Beer Co., at As Is, a new-to-me bar on 10th Avenue.

I also consumed something approaching my body weight in soft pretzels – something that I would love to see in more Dublin pubs – but I regret nothing.

And speaking of pretzels…

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 2

Welcome back (or, if you’ve joined in media res, simply welcome) to the second part of a beer-y and life-y roundup of 2022.

In April, we discovered that our little beer podcast not only had listeners, but they had voted for us to be included in a card game, which is a very specific kind of internet-based fame, but a welcome one! The re-opening of international travel meant a family trip to Portugal, a new destination for all of us. While most of the beer wasn’t especially memorable, there were a few standouts, notably Urraca Vendaval, an IPA by Oitava Colina: we enjoyed that and some other local small breweries’ offerings at Crafty Corner, a taproom nestled in some late medieval/early modern arches in Lisbon.

Once back in Ireland, we almost immediately headed to Limerick, where I smashed my half-marathon PB by nearly 8 minutes, and enjoyed some wonderful beer from Treaty City and the always-exceptional Crew Brewing Company (that Vanilla Milk Stout, tho). In another quick turn-around, I hopped back on a plane to Denmark for a whirlwind work trip, and enjoyed some Limfjords Ale, a brown ale (BROWN ALE!) from Thisted Bryghus, before heading back home to Dublin.

Always pre-game before going to the OlympiaMay, of course, saw another Eurovision, and we are thoroughly enjoying our now-annual Beer Ladies Podcast deep dives. But there was live music, too – two nights of The Divine Comedy at the Olympia! And here we pause for an important protip – as the beer on offer at The Olympia is a wasteland of Heineken and their stout-adjacent Islands Edge, get yourself over to The Oak and/or its conjoined twin, The Beer Temple in advance; your taste buds will thank you. And, spoiler alert: there would be more Neil Hannon-ing to come, but we’re not there yet…we (we, in this instance, being me and Child One – really, Young Adult One) also snuck in an evening with Peggy Seeger and son Calum MacColl, so said offspring has bragging rights to say he’s seen Peggy as well as her brother, Pete, though alas, he barely remembers that show – and this was his third or fourth time seeing Neil. If you’re wondering, he doesn’t share the Eurovision love, but Child Two does).

But back to beer; in June, there was more cask Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown – huzzah! It was well worth braving the Phoenix Park crowds at Bloom for a taste. I had another race in the form of the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon (really a 10K, but who’s counting?), and made the impromptu decision to stop off at the Porterhouse Central for a post-race pint – much-needed after the terrible weather before and during the run. It’s a good thing I did – it disappeared not long after, so it was a last chance to see it before it morphed into Tapped, but that’s another story.

o hai, james masonLater that month, I made it back to London for my first in-person work conference since 2019, and enjoyed some fantastic cask pints while I was in town. I also binged all the theatre I could fit in, as per usual, and am so glad I got to see Fra Fee in Cabaret, plus 2:22: A Ghost Story, with Mandip Gill and Tom Felton, which brings my ‘Doctor Who Companions Seen Onstage’ total up to – er – two. I’d hate to figure out how many ‘Harry Potter Actors’ would be on the list, but as that is some vast percentage of British Equity, it seems less worth counting, but I digress…a pre-theatre pint at The Harp was most welcome.

I also enjoyed a quick lunchtime pint in the very-haunted Haunch of Venison in Salisbury before heading back – I know that Butcombe Bitter isn’t exotic for my friends in the UK, but we just don’t have bitters around in Ireland, in cask or keg, very often. But hey, perhaps we can manifest more of them into being. We Beer Ladies do have form in that regard.

Also: more Parkuns – sometimes, in a second-woman finish!

Next up: Summertime fun….

Annual 2022 Year in Beer (and Life), Part 1

Black IPA joy!At long last, it’s time for the annual beer-y wrap-up, this time with some actual context thrown in for the casual reader. Out of consideration for your valuable time (and, let’s be real, because I haven’t had time to edit everything properly in one go), it will be broken up into multiple entries.

We moved to Ireland in early 2020, just before lockdowns everywhere, and so the holiday season of 2021 was our first opportunity to travel back to the US – specifically, the best beer state in the country, Pennsylvania, I said what I said – since the move. As a result, I got to ring in 2022 with some old favourites: Bell’s Two-Hearted and Victory Prima Pils. Once we were back in Dublin, I spent much of the early part of the year waiting for my updated immigration permissions, which would let me work for anyone, and not just the dumpster fire of a company than had originally brought me over, but at least I had a few standout local beers while waiting: Only Swerving, a Dark Mild from Whiplash, and Craic’d Black Pepper Saison from Hope, specially brewed for a Craic Beer Community event (still at that time very much online). But, lest we forget, the end of January also saw the return of the ability to GO TO THE PUB AND SIT AT THE BAR without also ordering a ‘substantial meal’ and/or relying on table service, and I celebrated with a quick pint in the Black Sheep. And any time the weather cooperated on Saturdays (and often when it did not), I made my way to my local Parkrun, where I seem to have established a habit of finishing at the third woman.

Later in February, I got to meet up with several friends IN PERSON at Rascals, for their Rude Boy/Rude Girl release party; as a fan of both ska and a Black IPA (in the form of the feminine beer), it was a standout evening out. There was also a trip to Dead Centre in Athlone shortly thereafter for an IN PERSON (yes, still in all-caps) Craic Beer Community event, which included a lovely bitter, Six Decades, and the joy of Ballykilcavan Bambrick’s Brown on cask.

Bigfoot Goes Beer Shopping

Also around this time, all my documentation and approvals came through, and I could leave a wildly toxic work situation for my current role, not only restoring my mental health, but also opening up new opportunities for travel and exciting career challenges. While I work primarily at home in Dublin, my company is based in Denmark, so, in March, I got to fly out to meet my new colleagues in person.

And so to Odense, where I am now old friends with beers from Anarkist/Theodor Schiotz Brewing as well as their mothership, Albani. Ironically, I have yet to get back to Copenhagen properly, though I can absolutely tell you where to eat and drink in the airport (looking at you, Airport Mikkeller). All told, I now have a good handle on Odense’s various offerings. Some other standout Danish beers I enjoyed at this time of year were Christian Bale Ale by Dry and Bitter Brewing Company and Familien olgaard from Fairbar/HumlepraXis. I also drank a Danish Bigfoot-themed beer because I am a sucker for this kind of thing; please feel free to judge.

Coming up next: a busy Spring