Beer-y Anniversaries and Pandemic Musings

Halloween at L Mulligan GrocerOne year ago this week, I came to Dublin for the last time as a visitor. I’d landed my new job in August 2019, and as we knew we would be moving to Ireland for said role when all our paperwork was sorted out, so this trip was a combination of local work meetings and advance neighbourhood reconnaissance. The planets aligned in an even more fortuitous way: the Bram Stoker Festival and a meeting of The Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland were both scheduled during my brief stay. In retrospect, this very quick trip was fated to be much more impactful than I could have possibly imagined.

My previous work trips to Dublin during my tenure as an Amazonian had been much more circumscribed; I never had the time to explore beyond the city centre, and my last one was especially odd, as my then-boss insisted on constant togetherness, even over the weekend – I still have no idea whether she was aiming to keep tabs on me, or if she was just uncomfortable being on her own, so I had little chance to do my own exploration (though I had no idea at the time that I’d one day live here). This visit, then, was my first chance to really look around properly, get into some local events, and, I hoped, meet some casual acquaintances who could help give us advice as we prepared to move.

Good mate Mark GatissAs luck would have it, the events I was going to for the Bram Stoker Festival (you know, hanging out with my Good Friends Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffatt and Sue Vertue) were mostly north of the river, so I spent a good deal of time walking around Northside neighbourhoods that seemed like possible good fits for our family – something that would become a point of contention months later with several of our more peculiar relocation consultants, who insisted that ‘the likes of us’ could not possibly live in, say, Stoneybatter. (Nearly a year later, I’m still not entirely sure what she was trying to convey with that line of thinking, but I digress). I ended up at L. Mulligan Grocer, where I discovered Trouble Brewing (lads, I was first on the Ambush – then, later, the Dark Arts) and Rascals Brewing (Social Hops 2019 – see, Untappd is useful for this sort of exercise!). I also had some absolutely amazing food, and enjoyed one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever had in a pub.

And when I met up with the amazing, fierce, opinionated and thoughtful Beer Ladies (or ‘my Beer Ladies,’ as my smaller kid now describes them), I knew I’d found My People – thought I had no idea how quickly after our arrival that would be cemented. Also on that night at Piper’s Corner, I discovered Kinnegar and Four Provinces – both breweries that have become go-tos for us. Fast forward a few months, and by the time all the work permit/relocation administrivia was complete, it was late January. Our arrival week also coincided with a beer-y meetup, so although I was a bit jet-lagged (and, frankly, exhausted from taking no meaningful break from work to move countries), I prioritised meeting up with my new friends – another stroke of good luck, since the next scheduled meeting coincided with the start of Lockdown One in Ireland.

The pandemic and the move to virtual socialising have, in many ways, sped up the ‘getting to know you’ process – who knew that shared trauma would be such a great way to make close friends? What would have been monthly-ish meetings became much more frequent Zoom calls and Discord chats. We have helped each other grapple with career and relationship insanity in ways that would not have been nearly as intense under ‘normal circumstances’ – and we’re better for it. We’ve even launched a podcast. (Like! Subscribe!) L. Mulligan’s virtual whiskey tastings have also become a regular occasion on our household calendar – even if we cannot get there in person at the moment, we’re happy to be able to support them in some way. I doubt I would have sampled this many local breweries by this point if we were simply going to pubs normally – but being forced to discover fantastic businesses stocking excellent local beers has been another side benefit of this odd time.

And that accelerated process of getting acquainted applies to Dublin as a whole, too – while museums and shops may be closed (again) for Lockdown Two, our 5K walks have let us do real exploring, and our house hunting has led us back north of the river…while our current Southside rental is in a convenient location, it’s not really ‘us,’ and we’re working to buy a house in an area our relocation agent would be horrified by – hopefully, that will be a good way to kick off 2021. Funnily enough, it’s in one of the areas I explored during that trip one year ago – so it may turn out to have been something of a prophetic trip in multiple ways.

It’s wild to think I’ve only had the chance to properly get to know this city and the fantastic friends I’ve been lucky enough to make here in such a relatively short space of time – not to mention how lucky we’ve been to avoid the absolute disaster(s) continuing to unfold in our home country – but I certainly look forward to the time we can get together in person, in a pub, without a second thought.

I knew before we moved that I’d be discovering Dublin through local beer to some extent, but I could not have predicted how crucial it would come to be in helping to form friendships and in directing us as far as where to put down long-term roots.

And now, I’m off to choose some good Halloween beers…without leaving the house.


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