Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Palace Bar

The exterior of The Palace BarI know it’s been a minute, but between offspring, work, Eurovision and work travel, I had a lot on, so going out anywhere in Dublin wasn’t happening over the past few weeks, though going out in London for delicious cask mild and bitter was a nice bonus of the work travel.

On a side note that, back when I worked for dot-coms in the 1990s would have been a pop-up (this is before pop-up blockers were invented, children), I did very much enjoy a quick pint of ‘modern’ beer at The Kernel, but it’s always cask I seek out when on the Neighbouring Island, though I am happy to continue to report on the small-but-something cask resurgence happening here at places like The Black Sheep and the soon-to-be-reborn-again Underdog. Up North, homebrew stalwarts Get ‘Er Brewed have had a lovely series on cask by Matthew Curtis, and it was a nice coincidence to read the third part this week, especially the note on the cask line at Bullhouse East in Belfast, since I’m headed in that direction this weekend to celebrate a certain beer historian’s birthday. I was fortunate to live in places in the US with easily available cask – indeed, regular cask festivals – in both Philadelphia and Seattle, so I do hope that an increased focus on how great cask can be will encourage more of it on the island of Ireland – and this, dear reader, is where you would have closed your pop-up window, likely with an actual button, possibly animated, at the bottom of your window.

The stained glass inside The Palace BarAnd so back to regular service, and this week’s Dublin pub – which does contain unused (or possibly entirely prop) hand pulls, as it happens – but we’ll give it a pass. We’re heading back into more touristy realms and crossing the river to the south side, but only just; The Palace Bar sits in between visitor hotspots like Temple Bar and Trinity College (plus, uh, the National Wax Museum), but I’ve always found it a pleasant place to stop in, even with a crowd, as you can still get beers from Rye River or The White Hag in addition to your Guinness, plus a top-notch whiskey selection. And it has a proper history to it – the Victorian interior is genuine, not the sort of ersatz mix you find in IrIsH pUbS elsewhere (and, regrettably, even in Dublin, sometimes – anyone who spends much time in my neighbourhood knows exactly which recently-renovated pub I’m likely being wildly unfair about; honestly, all would be forgiven if they would just put in one local craft line – sorry, yet another digression). But from its beautiful exterior which regularly features on the sort of ‘pubs of Dublin’ posters tourists buy at Carrolls to the dark-wood interior, it would be well worth a look-in, even without the welcome variety of beers, though I’m partial to the (often less crowded) back room with its glorious stained glass. Indeed, Publin has an entire feature on stained glass in Dublin pubs that is also well worth your time.

And there are the literary associations as well – of course, Brendan Behan, since few pubs, like the previously-featured Cat & Cage and Doyles Corner,  do not claim him as a former regular, but also the likes of Patrick Kavanagh (currently the subject of much anger in our household, at least for a few more weeks, since the Leaving Cert requires much memorization of his works), Flann O’Brien (whose typewriter is here), Con Houlihan. Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, per The Inquirer. As it’s been here since 1823, per the bar, or 1828 after conversion from a corset factory, according to Whisky Magazine, it’s quite an old pub by Dublin standards; we simply don’t have much in the way of really old pubs in the city, regardless of what some might say, but this certainly works.

Inside The Palace BarGiven its location and atmosphere, it gets more than its share of tourists; I don’t think I’ve ever been in and not heard a North American accent declare that yes, it’s true, the Guinness really is just better here – it’s a modern-day ritual. And it’s not one I mind, either, though I suspect the ‘better’ has much more to do with ambience and the fact that Diageo makes sure the tap lines in the city are clean, but that’s fine. It’s the same reason I’m always seeking out cask when I head to England, or traditional lagers in Germany…we all have our fair share of broadly similar craft beers – and I absolutely adore our local Irish ones, and they are my usual go-tos – but if I’m travelling, I want the local speciality.

I have great respect for a pub like The Palace Bar that lets you experience both options – your ‘classic’ Irish pub with a pint of Guinness, plus the opportunity to support your smaller, local independent breweries. And for the whiskey nerd or novice, there’s plenty to try, and lots of expert guidance, too – don’t be too shy to ask.

Where: The Palace Bar, 21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 H950
Access from the city centre: You are in it
Food: Crisps?
Sport: GAA: hurling is especially big here
TVs: I’ve only ever seen the GAA on, though it’s possible there’s other sport
Music: Keep an eye out for evening trad sessions
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen kids in with crisps, but they are probably bored
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar if that is your thing, but other, better options within a short walk include Bowes, The Flowing Tide, Mulligan’s, The Stag’s Head,
Local sites of note: Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Ha’Penny Bridge, GPO, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: Perhaps haunted by its former Irish Times regulars?
Other notes: In the same family since the 1940s; now (edited 20/08/2023) also stocking Ballykilcavan bottles – huzzah!

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Rascals HQ

At the bar at RascalsDublin is not – and this may shock some – a pizza destination. When we first moved, finding halfway-decent delivery pizza was something of a challenge. Granted, as ex-New Yorkers, we are picky; it was probably equally challenging when we lived in Seattle, so perhaps there’s some kind of damp weather equals mediocre pizza law of nature. As an aside, the worst pizza I’ve ever had was in Belgium, though, so even relative proximity to Italy doesn’t seem to come into it – but I digress. In many places in the US, you can find ‘taproom pizza’ – it’s usually pretty decent, and it at least goes well with the often-excellent beer on, with some examples being truly wonderful.

Beer Ladies at RascalsFortunately, Dublin has Rascals – where excellent pizza and fantastic beers meet. Although I often feel I don’t get there often enough, I seem to be darkening their doors quite frequently of late; they are top of mind as we had a fun day out at their Happy Days Beer & Food Festival last weekend (THERE WAS GOOD MEXICAN FOOD TOO, IT WAS A REVELATION), and they were kind enough to host a live episode of our little beer podcast earlier this year. In truth, they have been killing it recently with events of all stripes – a Father Ted night, some movie evenings here and there, a ska/beer release party last year, and a Eurovision screening in the offing, too – so much to enjoy!

Pints at RascalsFirst, though, some context for the visitor: Rascals is situated on a semi-industrial estate in Inchicore, with the brewery and restaurant all under one roof, so it’s much more of a ‘taproom’ than ‘pub’ vibe, and certainly not unlike many spots in the US or Canada in that respect; indeed, it reminds me very much of Victory before they had their renovation at their OG brewery in Downingtown, PA, USA, some years ago. I had never gotten around to doing the brewery tour before this past weekend’s festival, so I don’t think I had a sense of just how large it was, by local standards – so many tanks! As Rascals is one of the typical craft options you often seen at other pubs and bars around town, it makes sense that they need to keep cranking out their core beers like Happy Days, Yankee White and Wunderbar. But as with most taprooms, there’s always an interesting mix of pilot beers and one-offs only available on-site, and I always enjoy checking them out, even if they aren’t necessarily my sort of thing – and sometimes, they hit the jackpot with something like a gorgeous black IPA – looking at you, Rude Girl!

Inside the brewery at RascalsBut it’s also an incredibly family-friendly spot – even my weirdo kids can have their strange pizza needs catered to (to be fair, only the smaller one is weird now, and cannot manage exotic ingredients like ‘sauce’ on pizza). There are a few outdoor spots, too, with heaters for chilly weather.

It’s also worth noting they support the local football club, St Pat’s (as Bohs fans, we are required to boo here) – but given the size and budget of the League of Ireland, honestly, it’s just exciting to see the local teams get a look-in – the rivalries are still (mostly) friendly, and it’s great to be able to get locally-made beer at the teeny-tiny stadiums.

In short, given that the 13 bus goes from just outside my house directly to Rascals, I should get there (even) more often!

Where: Rascals HQ, Goldenbridge Estate, Tyrconnell Rd, Inchicore, Dublin, D08 HF68
Access from the city centre: Buses 13, C1, C2, C3, C4, G1, G2, Luas Red Line to Blackhorse
Food: PIZZA
Sport: Sometimes, if it’s a big game
TVs: Screens for certain events
Music: DJ nights and a very professional sound system; always a fantastic mix
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: Low – but there is a distillery next door, and an interesting bar nearby in The Saint – and it’s easy to hop on the Luas and head to Fidelity
Local sites of note: Stillgarden Distillery, Gravity Climbing Centre, Goldenbridge Cemetery
Haunted: Perhaps a candidate for a ‘modern liminal places’ hauntological experience
Other notes: Don’t miss their Instagram videos in advance of events – they are always very funny

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Oak

Pre-gaming for NeilThe time has come.

Yes, it’s the Guinness Enthusiast story, at last! And it takes place at one of my favourite city centre pubs – The Oak.

The Oak is a bit of a hidden gem, despite being physically attached to its fellow Galway Bay pub, The Beer Temple (one we’ll cover separately in a future post), and being smack-dab in the middle of Dame Street. It nearly always seems a bit quieter, no matter what’s going on next door or more generally in town. It’s my not-so-secret go-to spot before a show at the Olympia, just a few doors down, as the Olympia is an utter wasteland from a drinks perspective – nothing but Heineken and Island’s Edge as far as the eye can see. It’s important to be prepared.

The Oak’s interior is cosy and ‘pubby’ – lots of dark wood, repurposed from the RMS Mauretania, so they say, and small seating areas – and, perhaps because it’s small, it can be easy to overlook; Dame Street is busy. But because of its central location, it is a handy spot, both for locals looking for a pre- or post-event pint or for tourists from near and far – and that’s how it happened.

I was enjoying a quiet solo pint before a show, and there was a healthy mix of accents in the pub – some of my fellow North Americans, Irish of all descriptions, a sprinkling of Yorkshire and Lancashire, plus the common local Brazilian and Spanish regulars. There had already been a few ‘no, we don’t serve Guinness, but we do have our own stout’ encounters that evening – while some looked a bit surprised, all had at least given it a go on this occasion. A woman of middling years (as one of their number, I’m allowed to say so) with a pronounced Dublin 4 accent strode in purposefully and asked, not entirely impolitely, for a Guinness. The usual ‘no, but we have -‘ response began, and she immediately cut off the bartender mid-sentence, with rather more volume this time. ‘That can’t be. This is an IRISH PUB, you must have Guinness.’

Glances were exchanged all around the bar – after all, many of the tourists were here specifically to try other local beers – but she wasn’t done yet. ‘Are you SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING I cannot get a GuinnessIRELAND’S NATIONAL DRINK – at this so-called Irish pub?’ There was a pause, as she looked around for support, and she continued, at a further-increased volume, ‘do any of you here find this AT ALL ACCEPTIBLE?’ To the credit of absolutely everyone in the pub, not a single person responded directly, though there was a light chuckle toward the back of the room. After another dramatic pause, she tried once more to garner some kind of support – once again, upping the decibels: ‘I cannot BELIEVE that a business like this can exist, in this day and age, calling itself an IRISH PUB without Guinness.’

And with that, she turned on her heel and flounced out of the pub.

Slimer knows how to behave in the pubFinally, everyone smiled, and the visiting Canadian next to me made sure to leave a tip for the bartender, who just shook her head at the whole business. Someone else at the bar noted joking/not joking that surely a pub was Irish by dint of being, you know, in Ireland, but that they’d be more careful in future. He continued, ‘I bet she doesn’t even like Guinness,’ and with that, headed out.

He was probably right.
Or maybe it was performance art.

In any case, I was happy enough with my Weights & Measures.

Where: The Oak, 1-3 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 AN28
Access from the city centre: You’re in it; 5 min walk from many sites
Food: Usual Galway Bay menu – I’m partial to the halloumi fries
Sport: Nada
TVs: No
Music: Always a nice background soundtrack, but not too loud
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is right there if you have a fondness for stag parties and overpriced beer, or hit up The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Brazen Head or simply walk through to the other side
Local sites of note: Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: Really, everything in this part of town should have a ghost or two – did the wood from the ship bring something with it? Would that make it Wood Tape Theory, vs Stone Tape Theory?
Other notes: If you really fancy something from The Beer Temple, you can simply walk through and order it, though there’s usually a guest beer or two on at The Oak as well

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: JR Mahon’s

Inside the newly-renovated JR Mahon'sI tend to do most of my pub-going on the north side of the Liffey because it’s, well, just better over here, and it means I usually avoid most of the more touristy areas of Dublin. However, the city centre is so called for a reason, and it cannot be denied that the south side of the river is an incredibly convenient spot, especially for out-of-town guests, or when one is trying to get people from other parts of the city to find a location that suits most, transit-wise.

Spooky cask pintAnd so, even though it’s not one of my more usual haunts, I’ve certainly spent a fair bit of time in the former JW Sweetmans, now reborn as JR Mahon’s (it should be noted that local punctuation is consistently inconsistent when it comes to pub names – I try my best to roll with it). We apparently all dodged the proverbial bullet when the pub changed hands late last year, with the Mahon family, who own a number of what I think of as rugby-with-light-Irish-branding bars in NYC, outbidding Professional Main Character Conor McGregor for the spot.

By local standards, the renovation was quite swift, especially considering the winter holidays, and it reopened a few weeks ago with the new name, plus three house beers and – most importantly for me – the return of the beer engines that had been dormant post-lockdown. With the return of cask last weekend – and with a pre-planned event there anyway – it was a perfect opportunity to check out the changes. The pub occupies the same enormous spot on the Liffey, with multiple floors and masses of dark wood, but it has been beautifully renovated and considerably brightened up – the stained glass on the ground floor gives some much-needed colour, and while the warmth of the wood remains, things certainly seem lighter and much more airy than in the previous incarnation. There are still many – possibly more – little snugs, nooks and crannies, but the flow is much better overall, with all four floors of space having a bit of their own character.

Another snugThe beer is once again brewed by Barrelhead/Hopburgh/Hopkins & Hopkins, who also make a lovely (usually) bottled helles and schwarzbier, with the current offerings being a stout, pale ale and a red ale. It was the stout on cask for our visit, and this dry-hopped version was very much to my tastes – if you want to hear me drone on at length about my love for hoppy dark beers, we will shortly have a Beer Ladies Podcast episode for you, but I digress. Fresh cask beer doesn’t come cheap here, though – this was a €7.30 pint, with the kegged beers only slightly cheaper at €7 for the same size. Now, it’s not *much* cheaper at The Black Sheep, where cask options have also recently returned (huzzah!) for €6.75, but at least it is the same price for cask or keg there. It remains to be seen what cask prices will be when they return to The Underdog in (hopefully) a very short time when they make their move to Capel Street, but I suspect it won’t be hovering quite as close to €8. I quite enjoyed the pale ale, too, I have to say, possibly because it was simply a solid, old-school pale ale – no hazebois here!

Lights at JR Mahon'sIn the before-times, I had a series of disappointing-to-actively-bad food experiences under the old name, and as I’ve only had the chips so far, so I don’t feel fully qualified to speak to the food options at JR Mahon’s, at least, not yet. Back to the beer side, though, I do hope that Ambush appears on the tap lineup soon, to give another local option; it was listed on the printed menu, but not visible anywhere on this visit. Early days, though.

In short, this will never be your cheapest pint in Dublin, but the cask is good and the surroundings are lovely – and hey, it still beats Temple Bar!

Where: JR Mahon’s, 1-2 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, D02
Access from the city centre: You’re essentially there; 5 min walk from many sites
Food: General pub grub
Sport: Horse racing, Premiere League, rugby, GAA, etc.
TVs: In the various bars, though not always visible from every snug
Music: Live music Thurs-Sun evenings; general background tunes otherwise
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is a quick walk if you wish to continue parting with your money (though the Porterhouse there may help some), or O’Neill’s, Bowes, The Palace Bar, The Oval, Mulligans, The Flowing Tide & Piper’s Corner are all within a short stroll
Local sites of note: National Wax Museum, Trinity College, Abbey Theatre, Irish Whiskey Museum, O’Connell Street
Haunted: I should hope so, but have heard nothing
Other notes: There’s a ‘Spoons across the river if you have nearly bankrupted yourself, but need to carry on a pub crawl

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Fidelity

A glass of beer at FidelityAnd…we’re back!

After a brief Easter break, which included starting a new job and a quick trip to London (two not-unrelated activities – although I am mostly remote, my new office is a short stroll from the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and I am not *cough* remotely *cough* mad about that – sorry/not sorry), it’s back to business as usual for Weirdo Dublin Pubs, with more or less weekly updates.

We’ve previously covered The Big Romance, and this week, we’re heading to their sister bar, Fidelity, which is very much brought to you by Whiplash, with the music-geek vibe begun at The Big Romance turned to 11 (or whatever it would be people who are *really* into their sound systems would say in 2023 – I just appreciate the tunes). But that respect for the music and the atmosphere still means that it’s not too loud to enjoy conversation, except when the currently-still-smallish spot is packed in the evenings, though there is work going on to expand the space. And while they also have great cocktails and some things I am told are called ‘wines’ on a few taps, this is a proper Beer Appreciation Chamber, with the taps not only as the aesthetic focal point of the bar (MANIFOLD POURING SYSTEM, FOLKS!), but with the form following function – each one can be dialled (literally with an analog dial, so I am told) exactly to the ideal temperature for the specific beer it dispenses. This level of nerdery may be lost on many, perhaps even most, patrons, but it’s not simply window-dressing; the emphasis on quality is real.

manifold taps, y'allThe beer list over the bar is also very intentionally designed in a way that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I quite like it, and, more importantly, I love what it communicates – a varied lineup of styles, strengths and guest taps, often from a brewery that’s in town to do a collaboration with Whiplash; recent and upcoming partners include England’s Left-Handed Giant and Track, as well as Spain’s Garage, plus other Irish breweries like Mescan. I’ve especially enjoyed Whiplash’s own Bowsie Brown Ale (everybody knows that I love…brown ale) and The Dead, a heritage-recipe porter, and it’s been a treat to try beers I’ve only ever previously had canned fresh on tap – Dark Steering, their glorious schwarzbier, is especially nice.

It's like that - speakers & artAnd while it’s slightly disappointing that there won’t be a Fidelity beer festival this year, it’s great to have another craft beer outlet within a reasonable walking distance – the fact that it’s ‘only’ Whiplash and Friends is no bad thing.

I still prefer to visit Fidelity relatively close to when they open – as an official Old, I like my bars to be a bit less crowded – but I’m also very glad to have Fidelity in the mix; it’s a great addition to Dublin (and, of course, on the Right Side of the Liffey, too).

Where: Fidelity, 79 Queen St, Smithfield, Dublin 7, D07 DW3R
Access from the city centre: Buses C1, C2, C3, C4, 37, 39, 39A, 70, 83, 83A, Red Line Luas, 20ish minute walk
Food: Not at the moment
Sport: No
TVs: Definitely not
Music: Very serious, but Good Serious
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen people with hipster baby carriers in for a drink (not judging, I’ve been that person), but it’s not a great spot for the small folk
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Bonobo, The Cobblestone, The Belfry, The Brazen Head and L Mulligan, Grocer are all within a few minutes’ walk – and that’s just getting started
Local sites of note: Collins Barracks, Four Courts, St Michan’s Church, St Audoen’s Church, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: There is a history to the spot, so perhaps there are ghosts from the former Dice Bar
Other notes: Keep an eye on the socials for tap takeovers and collab announcements

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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: BRÚ House Fairview

Inside BRÚ House FairviewWhile I do have a few pubs closer to the city centre in the Weirdo Dublin Pubs backlog, this week, we’re heading a bit further out to BRÚ House Fairview – (now) a part of the Galway Bay family that’s less likely to be intruded upon by tourists and/or the special type of Guinness Enthusiast we’ve discussed before – and yes, the particularly egregious story about one of them is still to come.

BRÚ and Galway Bay merged in 2021, with BRÚ’s then-head brewer Francesco Sottomano eventually heading to Lough Gill, where they have been making some fantastic beer of late, including a rare-for-Ireland bitter – perhaps an entry point for the future topic of ‘breweries I wish there were a car-free way to visit’ rant that you may hear parts of from time to time on the Beer Ladies Podcast (and not just from me). Mergers, though, were nothing new to the BRÚ team, who had previously hitched up with Carrig Brewery, with everything subsumed under the BRÚ name, in that instance. Post-Galway Bay merger, the BRÚ House in Fairview is the only one still operating with ‘BRÚ‘ in the name, but that aside, the only major change is the inclusion of more Galway Bay beers on tap, in addition to the BRÚ offerings, plus a few guests as well.

A bell jar beer canThat said, I have to admit I was a little bit – really, very mildly – annoyed when Galway Bay took over BRÚ; despite the fact that they ensured the BRÚ beers kept their identities and, indeed, began to put them on tap in their various other locations, it did mean that the food menu in Fairview also eventually became the standard Galway Bay menu. Now, there are plenty of good reasons for this, and I completely understand why it made economic sense, and, I’m sure, made things easier for the staff – I just really liked the veggie burger they used to offer that was quite different from the usual Galway Bay version – it was one that as a non-veggie, I still sought out regularly. Of course, I am easily mollified with the standard halloumi fries as an only moderately-less-healthy replacement, so all is forgiven on that front, especially when a steady supply of Weights & Measures is on offer.

Always, some Ted art - entertaining Father Stone, in this instanceWe’ve made some BRÚ House Fairview part of some family traditions since we moved to this side of the river; it’s one of two spots (along with the Cat and Cage) I like to go after getting my hair purpled-and-cut nearby, and it’s become the mid-point of our Halloween trick-or-treating journey with the smaller child – for the past 2 years, we’ve stopped in for an in-costume pint for me and a rare-treat Coke for her before turning around to hit the other side of Clonliffe Road (for the record, an excellent street for trick-or-treating) on our way back home. Like most other Galway Bay locations, there’s always a warm welcome for everyone, children included, and a lot of little nooks and crannies to settle in – plus a bit of Father Ted art. And with Fairview Park and its very impressive recently-redesigned playground just across the road, it’s often an easy sell, despite it being a longer walk than many of our other usual haunts. I’m reminded weekly when I’m trotting past on my way to or from my local Parkrun that I should sign up for more runs in the general area – there are a fair few just up the road in Clontarf, along the water – it would be a fantastic post-run pint location.

Yes, it's the back of the building, but it has some lovely brickworkIt’s also well worth mentioning BRÚ’s own beers, too – their lager is one of the few gluten-free options that really hits the mark for me, and the BRÚ IPA reminds me very favourably of Yards ESA – this is a Very Good Thing. With a selection of their core beers, plus the Urban Jungle range on tap alongside their Galway Bay stablemates, it means there is usually a very handy mix of styles and strengths.

All in all, it’s every inch the neighbourhood pub, and I’m always happy to have an excuse to pop in, whether it’s on my own, meeting friends or with the kids in tow. I’ve never quite managed to go on a day that made the pleasant little rooftop garden a good option, but someday…

Where: BRÚ House Fairview, 12 Fairview, Clontarf, Dublin 3, D03 C998
Access from the city centre: Buses 14, 15, 27; DART to Clontarf Road
Food: Typical Galway Bay pub grub menu
Sport: The usual big ones: football, rugby, GAA
TVs: In the main bar area
Music: Usually a nice soundtrack, also the odd bit of live music from time to time
Family-friendliness: Very high – Santa visits for photos before Christmas, usual Galway Bay kids’ menu
Pub-crawl-ability: Low, unless you prefer a walk up to The Yacht Bar in Clontarf, though Gaffney’s is very close for a more traditional pub experience
Local sites of note: Fairview Park, Croke Park, Clontarf Promenade
Haunted: Not that I’ve heard…
Other notes: Very handy for Martin’s Off-License, one of Dublin’s best; in theory, the Battle of Clontarf may have happened not far away, but that could also be LIES

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Hut

Outside The HutIn contrast to last week’s visit to The Big Romance, this time, for the week that’s in it, as they say here, it seemed appropriate to share a pub that doesn’t serve any real craft beer, and isn’t much on the tourist trail, but does tick all the boxes for what people from elsewhere – as well as the local neighbourhood – (should) think of when they conjure up ‘Dublin pub’ in their heads, Guinness included, of course.

And so to The Hut: while The Long Hall rightly lands on many a must-visit list, with its beautiful Victorian interior, The Hut gives it more than a run for its money, with its tiled floor, dark wood bar, converted gaslights and mirrors galore, and that perfectly-poured pint of Guinness won’t set you back quite as much here in Phibsborough (€‎5.80 at last check) as it will in the city centre, even though it’s only a relatively short distance out. The fact that it’s a spot I need to walk by several times a day makes it all the more convenient for me personally, and on a chilly, wet day, sometimes that’s just what you need. I stopped in this week to catch a bit of the action from Cheltenham (for those not in the know, I had a horse racing blog for a decade – yes, I should probably fix it up a bit, even if I don’t write anything nowadays) over a quiet pint, and it’s the ideal spot for it – this is when Old Man Pubs come into their own, especially if you’re keeping an ear out for tips.

Inside The HutBut The Hut has its surprises as well – the small upstairs bar hosts music events, and sometimes, there are quite big names there on the down-low; it’s tough to beat seeing your favourite father-daughter folk duo a short walk from your home on a school night, even (especially?) if it wasn’t an official gig. It’s a wonderful space for a small, intimate show, and it’s well worth keeping an eye out for other folk- and trad-themed evenings.

Shh, don't tell!Interior notwithstanding, there’s nothing fancy nor downtrodden about The Hut – this is neither gastropub nor dive bar, just an authentic, old-school pub. Indeed, if it were magically transported to North America or continental Europe and deposited in a city centre (or worse, in a strip mall) as an ‘IRISH PUB,’ it would probably be dinged for not having any rural signage (something that would be wildly out of place here, of course) or random old photos around the place. But that’s what gives it its character; it’s a true urban pub, and it just gets on with it as it has done since the 19th century.

And as for the name – well, it seems it’s a bit of an open question

Where: The Hut, 159 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 HA21
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Irish beef stew, as per the sign outside, plus some old-school pub classics
Sport: All of them. Horse racing, football, GAA, rugby…
TVs: In both sides of the downstairs bar(s)
Music: Live sessions upstairs
Family-friendliness: Not much for the kids to do
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Doyle’s Corner 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: Well, if Doyle’s Corner is, perhaps their ghost wanders through the shared wall
Other notes: You’re probably not really coming here for a meal, but perfect for a relaxed pint

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Big Romance

Inside The Big RomanceThis week, we’re venturing over to Parnell Street to The Big Romance.

This is our first visit to what I would class more as a ‘beer bar’ vs a ‘pub’ – whether traditional or otherwise – indeed, on their Instagram, The Big Romance describes itself as ‘A vinyl bar with a Hatchett Soundsystem serving craft beers & cocktails.’ As someone who was last vaguely aware of anything to do with sound systems (is it one word or two? Do cool people know something I do not?) based on a handful of visits to London indie clubs in the 1990s, obviously the draw for me isn’t the tunes (though they have always been excellent – more on that shortly), it’s the beer and the welcome.

Although in some respects it seems you could pick up the whole of The Big Romance and transplant it to parts of Brooklyn or Manchester without anyone noticing – certainly, the clientele looks pretty similar when it comes to beards, tattoos and hair colour – and yes, I’m very much aware my own purple hair is adding to this stereotype – there are still uniquely ‘Dublin’ touches about it that make it very much at home in this city, and that starts (for me, anyway) with the beer.

Slow LivesBarring tap takeovers – and this is one of the few places in Dublin where visiting breweries do such things relatively regularly – the tap list is usually majority-Whiplash, and it always has Guinness and Hofbräu for those who only want to adventure with their ears, though recently, Whiplash’s own excellent stout, Slow Lives, has been on quite frequently, and one wonders whether anyone has secretly done a Pepsi Challenge on their Guinness Enthusiast friends while visiting. There is usually a good balance to the beer lineup in any case – nearly always something sessionable from Whiplash, like their Rollover or Body Riddle, as well as a mix of higher-octane IPAs or imperial stouts from their own stable, or from the likes of New York’s Other Half or perhaps a Spanish or Scandinavian brewery or two for good measure. Also worth noting is that the bartenders always know the beers, cocktails and wines (yes, they have those, too) inside and out – they are incredibly knowledgeable, always friendly, and make sure the really heavy things get served in an appropriately-sized glass.

The preponderance of Whiplash beers is what keeps me from calling The Big Romance a more generic ‘craft beer bar’ – while it’s not as wholly dedicated to (Mostly) Things Whiplash as its half-sister, Fidelity, which we’ll cover in a future entry, it does tend to be ‘Whiplash and Friends’ – but this is no bad thing; as mentioned, this is one of the features that makes the bar feel really ‘Dublin’ from my perspective – and perhaps even just that little bit specifically ‘Northside,’ especially since Whiplash is brewed in Ballyfermot. Now, I am certainly biased, as I live a short walk away, but I would struggle to picture a spot like The Big Romance on the other side of the Liffey, but it just ‘fits’ on a place like Parnell Street, with its long, varied, not un-messy history (for which I’d highly recommend a read of Donal Fallon’s Three Castles Burning – and I’ve seen him in a few times as well), and eclectic mix of shops, cultures, cuisines and characters.

More inside The Big RomanceAnd so, back to the music; The Big Romance is owned by Hidden Agenda, who started off producing club nights and suchlike (again, I am far too out-of-the-loop to know about These Things), and they’ve made the spot a haven for the audiophile, but never in a way that seems pretentious or unwelcoming to the uncool – I’ve enjoyed a few pints over one or two of my favourite Divine Comedy albums (entirely serendipitously – I wouldn’t have even thought to ask, yet there was the vinyl, already playing) and I have always been impressed by the jazz offerings as well – I realise how awful that probably makes me sound, but that’s the kind of thing they had around the house when I was growing up, my dad was born in the 1920s, so…not my fault! But back to descriptions…

The interior also hews strongly ‘vinyl bar’ vs ‘pub,’ but it comes across as creative reuse of an old space, rather than as a cold, try-hard re-do; I’ve always found the booths and chairs comfortable, and also welcome that it’s usually quite dark inside, but again, this is a feature, not a bug: it’s soothing! It’s equally pleasant as a slightly cavernous spot on a hot summer’s day or, as of this writing, a bit of a cold, wet and miserable one  – as an additional aside, if you’re curious as to why there’s no external photo this week, this is why – it suits both moods, with low lights and a few candles.

A holiday photo from The Big RomanceAnd if you’re wondering what specific ‘big romance‘ it’s named after, well, wonder no more: it’s to do with the street’s namesake, Charles Stewart Parnell, and his career-destroying affair with Kitty O’Shea – though no signs of such complications exist at this Big Romance – just tasty, tasty pints, and some great tunes.

Where: The Big Romance, 98 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 T2T3
Access from the city centre: 15 minute walk; buses 1, 11, 9, 13, 16, 44, 46, 155, Luas Green Line
Food: Small nibbles; pizza from a neighbouring shop can be delivered
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope
Music: Live music some evenings, DJs & so much vinyl
Family-friendliness: Leave the kids at home for this one
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – Kimchi Hophouse, The Flowing Tide, The Confession Box and Piper’s Corner are not terribly far, but don’t feel right on the doorstep, either – still, very central
Local sites of note: Mountjoy Square, Rotunda Hospital, Hugh Lane Gallery, Garden of Remembrance, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: No obvious tales
Other notes: Cocktails are tasty, and while there’s always (great) music, it’s only too loud for conversation when it’s really packed – the music itself is at a sensible level

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: L. Mulligan. Grocer

Outside L. Mulligan. Grocer, at night. Some offspring pictured.I have a relatively small list of ‘must visit’ pubs that I recommend to overseas visitors, but, especially for those who are looking to sample local ingredients, craft beer and unique Irish whiskies, this week’s pub is very much in the top portion of that shortlist.

My first visit to L. Mulligan. Grocer, back in 2019, was an auspicious one. At that point, we knew we were moving to Dublin, but we were still waiting for the details and paperwork to fall into place. We had been looking at neighbourhoods online, though without knowing much more than what we could see and read there. We had made an initial connection with our relocation agent, who had what I can only describe as an idée fixe about which parts of Dublin were ‘appropriate’ for ‘people like us,’ and it was clear we had very different ideas on that front. I had heard nothing but good things about the beer and food at L. Mulligan. Grocer, and so made it a point of stopping in on a work trip to check it out, as well as the surrounding area, which looked from afar very much like one that was (shock!) suitable for ‘people like us.’

Halloween decor on that first L. Mulligan. Grocer visitI had an event at the nearby Lighthouse Cinema, so walking the extra 5 minutes from Smithfield to Stoneybatter was a no-brainer, and I immediately felt at home upon crossing the pub’s threshold. It was suitably dark and ‘pubby,’ but with a selection of unfamiliar-to-me (then) tap handles – definitely a good sign. I had a Trouble Dark Arts Porter and a lovely chat with everyone behind the bar; it was a quiet weekday, so a perfect way to do some fact-finding. I’d not been in long when a man came in and ordered a Guinness; upon being told they did not serve Guinness, but did have some alternatives from smaller local brewers, the man simply turned and walked out without another word. I was somewhat slack-jawed, but was told it happened not infrequently – indeed, I’ve now seen similar behaviour (and worse) at a number of local pubs – this is something we will be revisiting as a theme in this series. Don’t get me wrong, I like Guinness, but I find that specific type of Guinness Enthusiast very odd indeed, and they are legion – but I digress.

My sortie around the area after the pub visit confirmed that this was much more our style than the suburban, South Dublin newish-build/bland gated townhouse ‘communities’ we had been sent – having a pub like this nearby could only be a positive; this was somewhere I could see visiting regularly, and I made a mental note to do so. But such things took a little bit longer than expected…

Inside L. Mulligan....atmospheric.Fast-forward a global move, a pandemic (during which we enjoyed some online whiskey tastings and take-out meals from the crew) and pubs finally being able to re-open, and we finally had the chance to start visiting L. Mulligan. Grocer more often. Although we did not end up moving especially close to it, we’re not terribly far, either, and we’ve enjoyed some lovely events there – pumpkin painting two years in a row for Halloween (accompanied by Trouble Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale, of course), community book sales and, most recently, a lovely belated birthday dinner for me (there was a Lough Gill Mac Nutty Brown Ale on tap, so BROWN ALE JOY was all around).

While there are many wonderful Dublin restaurants featuring local ingredients, it’s more of a rarity for them to also promote Irish beer and spirits beyond those from the familiar megacorporations; on the flip side, relatively few pubs champion Irish meat, cheese and produce as well as drinks from smaller local producers; L. Mulligan. Grocer, covers that full spectrum, and they do so in a friendly, inclusive way – it’s never pretentious, it’s simply baked into its DNA.

Sometimes the longer walk is just what you need…

Where: L. Mulligan. Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, D07 KN77
Access from the city centre: Buses 37, 39, 39A, 70, 83, 83A; Luas Red Line, 30ish minute walk
Food: Fab chips and charcuterie boards, ‘fancy’ mains – definitely not your typical pub grub
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope
Music: Has always been GenX-friendly on my visits
Family-friendliness: Elevated-but-approachable kids’ menu & house-made soft drinks
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium-High: The Cobblestone, The Belfry & Bonobo are quite close; Fidelity and (at present) The Underdog aren’t too much further away
Local sites of note: The Lighthouse Cinema, Arbour Hill Cemetery, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: Haven’t heard any stories, but… Update: CASUAL GHOSTLY VIBES
Other notes: Amazing whiskey selection