Manchester: Literary Locations, Libraries and (Some) Libations

Chetham's LibraryDespite a not-fun health wobble, we managed a quick weekend trip to Manchester recently, for music and literary purposes. As ever when traveling, I have to take a Professional Interest in not just all the unique local bookshops, but in any unusual or historic libraries. And although I spent a lot of time in and around Manchester in the 1990s, nearly everything looks so vastly different now that it felt like visiting a new place. Indeed, apart from the big Waterstones and Affleck’s Palace, so much seemed either completely unfamiliar or strangely uncanny…there was a hint of a memory, but the general appearance in many places around town was (mostly) so different that it felt like a false one.

I won’t dwell too much on the fact that Manchester has a Uniqlo (attached to the Arndale Centre, no less! Only some of the tiling that made it look like a toilet from the 1960s remains!) while we here in Dublin, a European capital, still lack one; while most of what I look for anywhere is a wealth of independent shops, pubs and restaurants, I do go through a lot of Uniqlo basics and rain gear, so I feel the need to stop in whenever I spot one elsewhere. New rain jacket acquired, we enjoyed browsing and tea-drinking at the delightful House of Books and Friends and at Social Refuge, the café inside Queer Lit. But while book-buying was a key part of the agenda (I finally picked up Ghosts of the British Museum), looking at libraries was the main focus.

Inside Chetham's Library: information card about a previous Librarian removed for theftAnd again, despite the considerable time I’ve spent around the area, I’d never made it to Chetham’s Library. It’s all too easy to think of Manchester as springing into existence largely fully-formed during the Industrial Revolution, Roman foundations notwithstanding, as there simply isn’t much (at first glance) to see of medieval Manchester, and finally getting around to taking the tour of the c.1420s building went a long way to rectifying that. The library is gorgeous – not dissimilar in some ways to Marsh’s Library here – and it’s a fascinating tour. I especially enjoyed the notes showing what previous Librarians had got up to – some were bad ‘uns!

Statue of Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in John Rylands LibraryWe also took in the John Rylands Library, and it was heartening to see that there was a queue to get in; more people wanting to do library tourism can only be a good thing, if managed properly. In addition to the beautiful building and core collections, there was an excellent exhibit called ‘We Have Always Been Here,’ exploring marginalised communities and how library and archival collections are never neutral…not news to those of us who have worked in them, but probably something that the broader public needs a lot more education to really understand. There’s to be considerable renovation in the near future, so it’s well worth checking out now to compare and contrast down the line.

While we didn’t get to try as much local beer as planned, thanks to the whole surprise illness thing, I did enjoy a couple of cask bitter and pale ale halves here and there, and a mix of good and less-good non-alcoholic options – the AF version of Track’s Sonoma was very good indeed, and the taproom was lovely. Also lovely was the much-recommended Marble Arch Inn; a beautiful, calm pub ideal for a chill afternoon of cheese boards and those lower-key (and much appreciated) cask bitters.

A half pint at the Marble Arch Inn, with the gently-sloping floor clearly on displayThere was also a musical element to this trip, so there is at least one variable that has proven as constant in most of my past trips to Manchester. In this instance, however, it was to see Wesley Stace, the Philadelphia-based Englishman many of you may have known as John Wesley Harding. This was his first UK tour in many years, and without an Irish date or two, Manchester was our closest option. He put on a great gig in a tiny pub – I hope a good time was had by all, we certainly enjoyed seeing him after such a long gap since our semi-regular shows during our Philly days. We did feel that we were not cool enough to be out and about in the Northern Quarter after the show, though…the whole area seemed to be in good hands with the crowds of hip Young People, so we left them to it.

We also had not realized when we booked that it was the same weekend as the Great Manchester Run, and while I was in no shape to be running a 10K (well, I did do one a week later, and only mildly crashed again after), much less a half marathon, it seemed like such a great time to be in town – oddly, hotel prices didn’t seem to have been pushed up for the occasion – that I’ve penciled it in to my race calendar for next year.

Now that I’m mostly recovered, it’s back to training for the Great North Run in Newcastle later this year…finally, an entirely new-to-me city to explore!

A Eurovision Pilgrimage, with Beer Side-quests

Katie and Lisa with a locally-brewed Eurovision beer in SwedenAt long last, a quick summary of a Eurovision-themed trip to Malmö and Copenhagen, complete with beer side quests – this was rather delayed by life/an unexpected hospital visit/work/some fun travel, but finally, it’s ready for your perusal. While I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Denmark in the past, I’d never had the chance to cross the Øresund Bridge to Sweden, so for a transit nerd like me, this was an exciting opportunity. I set off with my fellow Beer Lady/Eurovision nerd Katie on an early-morning flight from Dublin – we skipped the airport pints in favour of tea – and began the adventure.

The trip from Copenhagen airport via train was speedy and inexpensive; the special transit pass covering all travel in and around Malmö during the Eurovision period was most welcome, and while my particular part of Dublin is relatively well-served by buses, it’s nothing like the array of trains, trams and buses available in Copenhagen and Malmö, nor do we have the same wide, clean footpaths and bicycle lanes; perhaps we will, some day. In any event, the trip was a perfect excuse to explore the beery options on offer in the region, and we began with an initial visit to Malmö Brewing Company, located in an old brewery building, appropriately enough. These days, they brew a wide array of the usual hazy IPAs and fruited sours you find in most craft brewery taprooms, but they also have a few more meads, ciders and cocktails than you tend to find in Ireland or the UK. They also serve a BBQ menu – this seems to be ‘a thing’ in Scandinavia at the moment, though I confess I’ve never been a particular fan of BBQ in general – but others were happy enough with the food offering. That said, I did rather enjoy their Tiny IPA – hardly tiny, really, at 5% ABV, but quite pleasant.

In the Carlsberg cellars: Old Carlsberg Porter in a glass with a bottleWe wandered back to Copenhagen to do the Carlsberg tour; while I had previously visited some years ago, it was closed on my last work visit (and had been under renovation for some time), so it was fascinating to go back. I was thrilled to see the horses again, and they have thoroughly amped up the ‘brand experience’ end of things at the Home of Carlsberg – lots of interactive activities that you can save via your wristband, which I geeked out about from a professional perspective, and a surprisingly coherent narrative about Père et Fils Jacobsen, complete with lots of ACTING, and the history of the Carlsberg breweries. We followed up the tour with a tasting in the cellars, which have been beautifully tidied up, and while most of the offerings were fairly pedestrian, the Jacobsen Yakima IPA is always a nice choice, and the Old Carlsberg Porter was lovely. There’s a lot to see and do at Carlsberg, and it’s well worth a visit, even to the most anti-big-brewery person out there – even if just for the horses and the bottle and can collection.

We also managed to find some excellent cask ale at The Bishop’s Arms – one of a chain of English-style pubs across Sweden, with two locations in Malmö. For once, the food was not BBQ, but more standard pub grub, with an excellent burger and chips. And while I had a little taster of a local Maibock – so local it was brewed in the cellars under the pub – it was the English cask bitters I was going for – an excellent and well-kept selection from Marble (which I’ve had even more recently – another story to come), Red Willow and Rudgate. 10/10 no notes.

Katie and Lisa at the Mikkeller Beer Fest, in their finest Eurovision garbIn the midst of the swirl and glitter of Eurovision, we took a bit of time out to head back into Copenhagen for the Mikkeller Beer Fest, because there’s nothing better for your overall well-being than going to a beer festival at 10 am in a week when you’ve barely been sleeping, but hey ho, needs must. Perhaps ironically, I didn’t end up having that much beer…the long queues were all for what I can only describe as Barrel-aged Nonsense or Pastry Stout Silliness, so, with the exceptions of tasters of a few white whales (the Focal Banger from The Alchemist was very nice, just not earth-shattering), I largely stuck to small pours of some really rather pleasant pale ales and low-key dark lagers, with a lot of water – and no waiting! By far, my favourite beers of the festival were Pedes pale ale from Ebeltoft Gårdbryggeri – a Danish brewery I’ve enjoyed before when visiting Odense – and Toska Bryggj, a Scottish ale from OY Brewing in the Faroe Islands. We also stopped in just around the corner from the festival site at WarPigs for (more) BBQ and a surprisingly straightforward bitter called Hogshead.

Adorable mural at Hyllie BrewingUpon our return to Malmö, we also discovered Hyllie Bryggeri, and this was much more to my taste than some of the more hipster-fied options elsewhere: yes, an industrial taproom with some local art flourishes, but a warm welcome and some excellent beers all around. The Hapi Pils, described as a Pacific lager, was absolutely top-notch: crisp and grainy, but clean, and with some flavourful New Zealand hops – a proper banger, and something I would have as a regular go-to, were it generally available to me. All in all, a highly-recommended spot to sit and relax.

In summary, a trip to Eurovision is exhausting – you can see I’ve barely included anything around the shows themselves (though HUZZAH to Bambie Thug for absolutely SLAYING for Ireland), nor the many, many Irish fan meetups we attended in and around the multiple Irish pubs on offer in Malmö, but they were all top class, and we met so many wonderful people on the trip – we Eurovision fans were easy to spot at the beer festival, of course, so it was simple to Find Our People in the crowd. It would be an absolute delight to do it again, ideally in a year with a bit less controversy, though Switzerland is not going to be cheap, nor will their beer selection be as varied, and yet…well, we’ll see what happens next year!

A Long-overdue Return to Sheffield

Kelham Island Tavern, Jarvis Cocker muralAfter a thirty-year absence, I made it back to Sheffield. My last visit was to interview for the University of Sheffield’s then-top-ranked PhD program(me) in archaeology, and although they offered me a tempting research opportunity, I opted for the bright lights of London and a master’s degree instead…and, alas the powers that be decided that Sheffield no longer needed an archaeology department (even though my degrees in archaeology and library science are *the core reasons* I am successful in a STEM career – because that’s the only important thing, obviously – but I digress).

Red doors at St Mars of the DesertThe purpose of this trip was to attend Indie Beer Feast, where my friend and fellow Beer Ladies Podcast host Christina was pre-launching her book, The Devil’s in the Draught Lines, and to have a bit of a wander around Sheffield in general. While I cannot say I recognized anything from that previous trip, I did meet something of an old friend in a visit to The Brewery of St Mars of the Desert, which was an utter delight. As a long-ago fan of the brewery’s previous US incarnation, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, I absolutely adored their Jack D’Or and Saint Botolph’s Town, and would purchase them whenever they surfaced around Philadelphia, which was, to be fair, not infrequent. I especially loved their collaboration beer, KK, a collaboration with Ron Pattinson – one reviewed long before we ever met in person, in 2010 – and so it was a real thrill to see how the Yorkshire edition of things was faring. Things would appear to be in fantastic shape, as the brewery, tucked away on an industrial estate, was hopping early on a Friday afternoon, though it was their first day back open for the season. I had a glorious D’Or Mouse – a descendent of Jack D’Or – and Laska Pils, a thing of Czech-inspired beauty. It was also fantastic to see such a diverse crowd; all ages, backgrounds and genders seemed to be represented, and there was even an adorable dog.

Lisa at ParkrunBut I had to be responsible and only have some small pours, as there was a beer festival to manage later, and a highlight there, for both evenings, was finally meeting so many people I’d only ever known online (or by their books); everyone was truly lovely (special shoutout to Jules and the Hop Hideout crew!). I snuck in a Parkrun as well, and though Endcliffe is a lot more like a trail run than my usual Parkrun stomping grounds in Dublin, it was great to see a different part of Sheffield, and to explore the area a bit. I also got a few sneaky cask bitter halves; one of the Kelham Island pubs I stopped in must have had more beer engines than we have in action in the entire Republic of Ireland (still, to be fair, in single digits).

Christina and her book at Hop HideoutBack at the festival, there were quite a few new-to-me or only-vaguely-known-to-me breweries, and while Torrside may not be a ‘discovery’ to people in the UK, I’d only had a single bottle before, and Abbeydale was a revelation. We get cans from Track nowadays too, but trying them much nearer the source was a treat.

Mostly, though, it was wonderful to see the response to Christina’s book – if you can make one of the upcoming launch events, go for it!

Will Travel for Cask (But You Knew That)…

Cask ale and Des De Moor's Cask bookIt’s been a minute, and while we have no new Weirdo Dublin Pub this week, thanks to an epic period of work/kid/theatre/music travel that isn’t quite done yet, I did get to indulge in one of my favourite things a lot last week – cask ale! Just, well, not in Dublin.

The first bit of cask enjoyment was not unexpected: I was on one of my regular work trips to the office in London, and finally managed to squeeze in some evening theatre with Sondheim’s Old Friends* and a Mandy Patinkin** concert, so stopping off at The Harp in Covent Garden was a no-brainer, even it was for just a brief pint. But I have also finally discovered what feels like my Work Local in The Dean Swift – it’s a short walk from the office, beautifully renovated, and it had a well-curated list of craft and craft-cask options, as well as some excellent food (gorgeous pumpkin ravioli!). Having an Irish nod in the name is a nice bonus, and I will most certainly be stopping back in regularly, now that I’ve properly discovered it. I also saw that Whiplash will be pouring their Slow Life stout there, so it’s nice to know there’s an interest in Irish craft beer in the Big Smoke. I’ll be back again in a few weeks…just for a bit of quality control, you see.

A pint at The Dean SwiftBut I also enjoyed that rarest of rare events – a cask ale festival, in Ireland! We used to go to regular cask fests in both Philly and Seattle, and had plenty of good options for local and imported cask, so it was a bit of an adjustment to have essentially none available locally when we moved here (though initially, both The Underdog and The Black Sheep had regular cask offerings – it’s been a very slow return) – but this is old news to any semi-regular readers. Fortunately, the team behind the Mullingar Wild Ale Festival decided to organize a cask festival as well…and a good time was had by all. I think Simon’s write-up is an excellent place to start – he was much speedier than I ever manage to be, but he has some useful insights into why cask just isn’t much of a thing here, as well as some great photos; I neglected to take many myself (and not for any ‘living in the moment social media break’ reasons – just pure laziness).

Your girl with her wee dimpled mugBut it was a really lovely little festival – all out the back of a pub in Mullingar, but sheltered from the elements. I’d never previously been to Mullingar and cannot claim any real familiarity with it now, but it was a convenient location – on a direct train line from my local station, so a very short walk on both ends. And, perhaps even more crucially, space to sit down and relax, and a generally unhurried pace of events. The only urgency was around grabbing a glass of the Dead Centre Sham Maths, which was correctly predicted to run out early, so after making that my first pour, all was well (and it was delicious on cask, as amber ales should be).

And while I adored having the chance to try some of my usual go-tos on cask – special shout-out to Ballykilcavan’s Bin Bawn Pale Ale – the overall ‘best of the fest’ for me was from Third Barrel, whose Afternoon Delight was a joy – a hoppy stout, very much in the vein of my inaccessible Pennsylvania fave, Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter; I may have gone back for a few. The tiny dimpled mugs were a nice touch, too.

So while I have some cask-adjacent trips planned in the lead-up to Christmas – back to London a few times, and up to Belfast for Uncanny Live – It was so pleasant to have a cask-filed afternoon out that required only minimal travel. Yes, it’s a bit annoying that cask is rare here, but it also makes finding it a bit of an adventure, and that’s never a bad thing.




** I last saw Mandy Patinkin live in about 1991, and we met him after the show; he was absolutely lovely and ‘did’ Inigo Montoya for a couple of starstruck theatre kids who couldn’t have been happier. He also gave us some snacks from the green room, as he was worried we’d skipped dinner for the show. I didn’t hang around to stagedoor after this one, as I’m a lot older/more tired nowadays, but his voice is just as wonderful, and his storytelling sublime.

Weirdo Guide to (Some) Kilkenny Pubs: A Weekend in the Country

Kilkenny hurlersWe’re back in my busy travel time of year, so this week, it’s a quick selection of pubs from Kilkenny, rather than anything more local-to-me in Dublin. And I’m sure Kilkenny residents will rightly point out that these are all touristy in one way or another, but hey, you have to at least tick some of those off the list when it’s a flying visit. I was only in town overnight to catch Fra Fee singing Sondheim (AND LIZ CALLAWAY WAS THE SURPRISE GUEST – my fellow Sondheim nerds will understand the all-caps here – normals, feel free to move on*), so beer was not super-high on the agenda, for once.

Inside Kyteler's InnBut that said, I had a few hours free after a nice lunch with friends, and some poking around the various museums and historic sites, so I had to at least make a stop in at Kyteler’s Inn, which leans all the way in to its association with Dame Alice Kyteler, the subject of one of Ireland’s very few witchcraft trials in 1324. Not coincidentally, this is the date given for the foundation of the pub, and while that seems a bit too good to be true, we do have good documentation for Dame Alice owning the property (among many others, in her varied marriage-and-land-acquisition career), and it does seem genuinely ‘old’ – though I would guess more of the rambling pub is more of 15th century-and-onward date, but I would happily believe bits, at least, are older and have been reused. We have, naturally, covered Dame Alice and her unfortunate servant, Petronella, who was the one who ended up in the flames after Dame Alice fled abroad (Petronella now has a restaurant named after her, so, um, yay?) in a previous (AWARD-NOMINATED) Beer Ladies Podcast episode or two, which always gives us an excuse to re-bust the alewives/witches myth, but this was my first visit back to Kyteler’s Inn since a quick lunch there during some version of Covid protocols.

Well, she got that signAnd while it is absolutely in the tourist camp – I mean, that cat logo and the €7 pint – I can’t fault that in any way; you gotta get a gimmick**. And I’m here for the rebadged O’Hara’s Red Ale as their house Witches Brew, which is clearly designated as such for The People Who Worry About That Sort of Thing (you know who you are). My only knock on the place – beyond the proliferation of North American accents – that many of My Countrypeople in one place always makes me a little nervous, but more on that in a moment – is that the tour-bus numbers make it a little too busy to have especially attentive service; I would absolutely have purchased one of the incredibly silly t-shirts if I’d been asked, but after my token pint, I never could catch anyone’s eye again, despite sitting at the bar. That said, I wasn’t planning to linger, so it wasn’t a terrible hardship.

I had a quick walk into the Smithwick’s Experience, just to check it out, but I almost immediately backed right out when I heard louder-than-usual Boomer American Men in Caps confidently declaring that this was where they made the beer that’s ‘just like a red Guinness‘ that ‘you can’t get back home’ and as the conversation was about to turn to ‘socialism,’ I had to flee. I wouldn’t mind doing the tour at some point (I am curious if they show off or describe anything about the medieval abbey that was here), but feel I’d need to go with friends who don’t have my accent, just to provide a sort of buffer.

Tasting flight at Sullivan'sAfter more pleasant strolling and some actual relaxation in my hotel, I ventured back out for dinner, this time, to Sullivan’s Taproom (‘established 1702’). They have considerably expanded their covered outdoor seating since our previous visit, and it’s a thoroughly pleasant spot, with a variety of nooks and crannies in the Craftonia style, and I saw A Thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen in this country – Young People being asked for ID before being served drinks. You can order via QR code or go to the bar, and while I know some are not fans of the QR code approach, as a solo diner/drinker, it’s very handy – no worry that your table will disappear if you need a refill. And while I’m not an unabashed fan of all of the house-made offerings at Sullivan’s – barring the red ale, which is very pleasant indeed – they do a lovely tasting tray, and the guest beer lineup is very good indeed. On my visit, there were options from Third Barrel and Bullhouse, to name just a few, and the pizza is excellent; all in all, a successful pre-theatre stop.

I had a very quick post-show pint (well, really, two glasses) at Cleere’s Bar, which was just across the street from the Watergate Theatre, and was obviously the spot for the creatives, too – it was nice to be able to give a quick ‘great job, loved the show’ and then let them enjoy their evening (and it was a fantastic show), and while there weren’t many craft options, it was nice to grab a Murphy’s as a bit of a change, and it had a very welcoming, traditional pub vibe.

All told, Kilkenny is a lovely little city for a quick break; I know there are a few other craft-supporting pubs I didn’t have the chance to get to, but it’s always good to leave something for next time. I’ll drink to that***.



*sorry/not remotely sorry

** still not sorry

*** everybody RISE

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Old Spot

Not in Dublin: A lovely beer at Beer Run in NYCI had every intention of writing something about the couple of new-to-me bars I had a chance to pop into in New York while I was over for work – Beer Run, for obvious running-nerd/beer-nerd reasons was a standout to me, and I was thrilled to have a few festibiers from around the region (I’m the weirdo who prefers the darker, grainier, more bready American festbiers to their modern German counterparts – sorry/not sorry), but instead, I ended up with a longer hiatus as I came back from the States with Covid – thanks, Obama!

Luckily, I was recovered by this past weekend, and I had the chance to get to one of our favourite pubs on the fancier side of Dublin: The Old Spot. We don’t get over this way terribly often, although we used to live around the corner, just on the other side of the Aviva, so going to the stadium in question gave us a perfect opportunity. After watching the Irish Women’s National Team beat Northern Ireland, we headed around the corner to The Old Spot for dinner – and it does feel very much, to me, like a ‘nice dinner’ spot (Spot?).

In Dublin: A pint of HopeIt’s certainly on the ‘gastro’ end of the gastropub spectrum, but it doesn’t try to hide this, and with that said, it’s entirely family-friendly and has both ‘good’ kids’ options and ones my currently-very-picky younger one will accept. As a side note, the vast majority of pubs and restaurants, even the ‘higher end’ ones here in Ireland tend to be welcoming to children (presuming it’s not terribly late) in a way that just isn’t as common, at least in my experience, in either the US or UK, where there is often a tendency to treat even older children as annoyances or somehow not members of the same species. And while I am not, on the whole, the biggest fan of ‘other people’s children,’ I find them much better-behaved and more like fully-baked humans when they are given the opportunity to exist comfortably in public spaces. Again, this is by no means universal in either direction, but Ireland seems to sit more in the ‘European’ camp in this regard, with the Anglo-American attitude being typically (though not always) considerably less inclusive – but I digress, back to the food and drink!

I’m a big fan of the food at The Old Spot – even the burger simply seems ‘elevated’ compared to what you find in most pubs, and there are always interesting specials that I would consider actually ‘special,’ but by no means fussy. And in addition to a really lovely cocktail menu, they have Hope and Kinnegar on tap, and in their own glassware, so Irish craft beer is well-supported. There is also an excellent whiskey selection, which pairs well with the always-interesting dessert menu, so I’ve never left in any way hungry.

DessertI know that some find the décor a bit twee, but I really enjoy the whimsey of it – plenty of on-theme pigs around, and there’s always the more ‘bar’ bar area at the front if you prefer simply stopping in for a pre- or post-match pint.

I need to get back that way more frequently.

Where: The Old Spot, 14 Bath Ave, Dublin 4, D04 Y726
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 7, 7A, 38, 38A, 39 39A, 56A, 77A, DART
Food: Gastropub, with many specials
Sport: Better for before or after the game
TVs: Nope
Music: I always feel targeted
Family-friendliness: Thoroughly welcoming
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – The Bath Pub, Slattery’s, The Chophouse, The 51, The Gasworks and The Merry Cobbler are all a short stroll in various directions
Local sites of note: Aviva Stadium, Beggars Bush Barracks, National Print Museum
Haunted: There are some lovely older homes in the area – maybe some ghosts wander in?
Other notes: Worth making a reservation, it can fill up

Vienna: We Did Not Walk in the Cold Air

We’ll return to our regularly scheduled Weirdo Dublin Pubs programming next week, but first, some notes on a holiday. Last week, we went to Vienna for the first time, and in between the usual tourist spots like the Spanish Riding School, the Natural History Museum and the Haus der Musik, we managed to grab a few local beers; given the hot weather, the sheer number of radlers on offer was much appreciated. Also: TRAINS.

To keep this blog hyper-local for one moment, I have to share how exciting it was to go straight from our arrival gate in Vienna to A TRAIN IN THE AIRPORT – and not just one, there were various options, as well as buses! (For the uninitiated, Dublin is one of two European capitals without a train to the airport, though Budapest does have plenty of other transit modes – it’s been in the works for…well, a long time. It was last ‘guaranteed to open’ in 2007). And there was no need to take the (relatively) expensive express train, either; the S-Bahn to the U-Bahn got us to our hotel in mostly-air conditioned comfort, and very affordably, too.

After dropping off our bags, we headed out for lunch and had the first radler of the trip; I’m sure my Zwettler Radler from Salzburg is the sort of thing locals find unremarkable, but as someone who much prefers lemon vs grapefruit in my radler, I was very excited to have it – an ideal option for 30+ degree weather (something else we’re unaccustomed to, though it was much less welcome than the wonderful public transit, clean streets and ample public seating – we’re not built for heat or sunny conditions), especially with a tired child and a long (though much enjoyed) afternoon of excellent museum-ing on the cards.

Hop Devil!After a tour around the excellent Natural History Museum, which houses the Venus of Willendorf* as well as a broader prehistory collection, plus the more usual rocks (honestly, pretty great) and taxidermied animals (a very chill-looking thylacine was my highlight – I always seek out the thylacine, if there is one), we headed to the much-recommended 1516 Brewing Company for an early dinner – and there, we were in for a treat. In addition to an absolutely gorgeous lager (also used for the radler), they produce Victory Hop Devil under license, whole hops and all. As former Pennsylvanians, this was an extremely exciting discovery, and it tasted absolutely like ‘the real thing’ in Downingtown. In a world with so many hazy IPAs, it was such a delight to have it on this side of the Atlantic, and fresh as could be. And given that my most recent Hop Devil would have likely been in a plastic cup in a car park before a Union game, it seemed very civilized indeed to be drinking it from a glass, seated at a table in Austria. Top marks for the pretzels, too – regular readers know that I have a grand unified theory about how all pubs and bars should have soft pretzels available, and my notion was only reinforced. The Kimber Ale, a sort of Altbier-ish sipper, was also very nice on a hot day. Before an early night, I did repair to the Prater with the child to ride a few rides, and while none were remarkable, at least we weren’t injured – this time. More on that later.

After a good night’s sleep, a decent hotel gym and an excellent breakfast buffet, we took in the Spanish Riding School, and while the tour was very well-done, we were graced with the presence of That Sort of American, who wanted to discuss, at length, how the Lipizzaners were rescued by THE UNITED STATES ARMY who then FREED EUROPE AND SAVED EVERYONE FROM COMMUNISM – yes, he seemed to speak in all-caps. He also complained that the signs from the Hop On Hop Off bus weren’t clear enough for him to understand them (and yet, there he was), and that perhaps all the signage should be reconsidered. The two young women guiding the tour had the sort of fixed smiles I could only admire; they were patience itself, although one did remark, ‘well, I do work here,’ upon being told by the gentleman in question that she had been ‘mostly right’ when he quizzed her on the horses’ wartime rescue (‘I read a book all about these horses and Patton’) – though, for someone who had done so much of his own research, he was shocked to discover the Spanish Riding School horses are all stallions – this is simply the most basic of all basic Horse Girl knowledge. I really needed a drink after that.

Inside 1516Unfortunately, there was nothing particularly local, beer-wise, on at the Philly-themed restaurant we tried – both taplines had kicked – so I had to make do with a Budvar. Now, it’s never a bad beer, and it was a pretty fresh bottle, but I’ll just say that this place was no Passyunk Ave, though the cheesesteak mac & cheese was not bad. And we returned to the Prater again, this time, rather less successfully. The indoor roller coaster gave me a really bad whack on the head (which they insisted was ‘impossible’), and I still have a painful lump there, over a week later. It’s more or less on a 0/10 – would not return now. I wasn’t expecting a Disneyland standard from it, but I did think it might be on a near par with Tivoli – alas, this was not the case; the overall impression after the injury (and seeing the middling state of the park overall) was less grand theme park, more temporary carnival. And not in a good way. It’s a shame – the child did really enjoy the IKEA advertising all over the famous Ferris wheel (no, really – she spoke of it for days after). So, not everything was perfect, though trips rarely are – though that said, I don’t think I’ve ever come home with an actual injury before.

An Anchor Steam! Sic transit gloria.But on to happier notes…I managed to score another radler at the Zoo, this time from Ottakringer, and again, it was lovely to get there and back again easily on the U-Bahn, and the rare breed cattle and horses were a special bonus for me – yes, I get excited about these things, and the Noriker mare and her colt were a delight. We made another pit stop at 1516 between tourist sites, and then finished up our evening at Mel’s Craft Beer and Diner. We chose this more out of necessity – there were things a picky child would eat – than design, and while the overall beer list was a bit basic, there were some interesting little highlights, and another unexpected American treat – they had a bottle of Anchor Steam. It was also the only place we could find a Vienna Lager – again, in a bottle that didn’t seem terribly fresh, though not by any means bad – but I suppose that’s the curse of the travelling beer nerd; the historic local style is always difficult to find, but there are plenty of the sort of things you could find absolutely anywhere, well, absolutely everywhere. Still – Anchor Steam!

Despite the knock on the head, I’d very much like to go back to Vienna again; there are quite a few museums and music-related sites we didn’t have the chance to check out, and I would absolutely go back to 1516 for any seasonal offering – I certainly wouldn’t say no to another lager or Hop Devil.



*For People Like Me who read all of the Earth’s Children/Clan of the Cave Bear books in the 1980s, you too can re-experience their very Mary Sue-ness with an entire wall of replicas of the artifacts referenced in the books. It would not have been weird to see someone cosplaying Jondalar and Ayla, or maybe Creb. It was a Whole Thing.

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Spring Break

The Divine Comedy and a divine ESBNo, no new entry this week, but fear not – the Guinness Enthusiast story is still coming! I’m taking a brief break for the offsprings’ Easter holidays, and I’ll be doing a bit of travel over to London as part of my NEW JOB (full details to follow in due course for those who are into that sort of thing), so it’s a bit busy for the next few weeks.

But in case you were worried about missing my Important Thoughts, do check out this week’s Beer Ladies Podcast on pairing beer and music (including what ChatGPT thinks goes well with some Divine Comedy tunes), and here’s a round-up of Weirdo Dublin Pubs so far; I’ll be back later in April with more.

In the meantime, kid-friendly London pubs with good cask options or current Bermondsey Beer Mile standout suggestions are most welcome!

The Bald Eagle, Phibsborough
The Cat & Cage, Drumcondra
Doyle’s Corner, Phibsborough
The Underdog, City Centre-ish
The Black Sheep, Capel Street
Juno, North Inner City
The Back Page, Phibsborough
L. Mulligan. Grocer, Stoneybatter
The Big Romance, Parnell Street
The Hut, Phibsborough
BRÚ House Fairview, in, uh, Fairview
Fidelity, Smithfield
JR Mahon’s, City Centre
The Oak, City Centre
Rascals HQ, Inchicore
The Palace Bar, City Centre
The Flowing Tide, North City Centre
The Beer Temple, City Centre
Cassidys, City Centre
The Underdog (yes, again – new location), Capel Street
Bonobo, Smithfield
Kimchi Hophouse, Parnell Street
Piper’s Corner, North City Centre
The Porterhouse, Temple Bar
The Old Spot, Beggars Bush
The Brickyard Gastropub, Dundrum
The Botanic, Glasnevin
The Gravediggers, Glasnevin

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…