Last Updated : 07/10/07
Dublin, April 2006 by Gazza.
“ow very nice of them” I thought as I put down the phone; work had just asked me if I would do a weekend job in Dublin at the beginning of April and, obviously, I’d agreed without hesitation even though I’d have to actually work the Friday night and all day Saturday - I reasoned that with the limitations of beer drinking options around the city I’d have more than enough time to cover all the available beery options!
With Sue and I not taking any flights in January it transpired that my landmark 100th takeoff would be achieved without Sue, although on the plus side it would be on a winning airline and on a decent plane - I’d received the confirmations from the office that I was travelling with Aer Lingus and their website very sociably informed me that the flight was booked for an Airbus A320! I’d checked the sports fixtures and was confident that there were no matches in town that weekend, so wasn’t too concerned when I found we’d been booked into the very posh four-star Jury’s Ballsbridge hotel, a mere stone’s throw from Lansdowne road rugby ground, although the prices being paid raised my eyebrows; €700 for the three nights! I wondered if, for that money, you got to take the fixtures and fittings home with you but soon gave up on that idea as Aer Lingus’ cabin baggage limit is only 6kgs…
Friday 31st March 2006.
A veritable lie-in.
The flight was at 08:00 from Birmingham so I had the luxury of a lie-in until 04:45 (on our Stansted trips we’d be on the M11 by this time, or even in that pachydermic carpark!) before setting off along the deserted M42 for the short run up to the airport. I was soon parked up in the long-stay surface carpark and jogging for the bus which had, inopportunely, chosen the exact time I’d parked the car to arrive. Inside the terminal I quickly found the Aer Lingus check in, situated right next to the 07:55 Ryanair flight to Dublin, and for once was relieved that I was flying with a flag carrier as the Ryanair queue was full of lary groups of young men and women who, in the confines of an aircraft, I reasoned would quickly become very annoying. Thirty seconds later I was checked in and decided it was time to stock up on provisions for the day ahead – and work were paying for my breakfast so it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the situation.
I stocked up on butties from the Spar shop in arrivals then headed upstairs for an espresso to kick-start me into action for the day ahead. The building site of our last visit had yielded an “Espresso” coffee bar so I strolled up to the counter and ordered a double espresso – easy enough, you’d have thought? Me too, but the entry qualifications for the job of Barista here were obviously low.
“That’ll be £3.80 please” stated the barista.
This suddenly jolted me awake better than any shot of strong coffee.
“How much?” I spluttered, “I only want a coffee not the bloody machine!”
“Two large espressos, £1.70 each” the barista restated.
I was confused. I’d asked for, in my opinion, quite a simple drink but he’d still managed to cock it up.
“No, one double espresso!” I asked again. “Not two, one! There’s only one of me!”
The barista tried to pass off his mistake by indicating that it was me who’d asked for the wrong thing but I was in no mood to argue and told him I simply wanted one large espresso and that was it! “Bloody hell, why are the simplest things always so fecking difficult sometimes?” I asked myself.
After contacting my workmate, who was just checking in, I decided on a quick return trip to the train station on the skyrail because – well, I’m just sad, ok? – before we boarded the Airbus and settled into our comfy leather seats for the short 55-minute flight. I’d worked with my colleague before and we had some catching up to do so before I’d had time to gaze out over the clear North Wales coast we were descending into Dublin over the sparkling bay of Howth.
Note to self: check sporting fixtures more carefully in future!!!
Ten minutes later we were in a taxi heading for the centre. In the usual manner of Irish taxi drivers we were soon treated to a torrent of abuse directed at officialdom and Dublin council in general;
“See this feckin’ tunnel?” asked the driver, pointing at an unfinished excavation surrounded by roadcones. I followed his accusing finger and saw that the roadworks which had been here three years previously were still in place and the tunnel to the port still wasn’t completed – he certainly had a point!
“Well, it’s a feckin’ shambles” he went on. “They’ve realised that the big trucks can’t fit down the thing so it’s going to do absolutely feck-all about the number of lorries going through town!” he declared with thinly-disguised loathing at the incompetency of officialdom and I had no argument with him on that one; it did indeed seem like a total shambles.
“And that’s not all!” came the unrelenting barrage, “All the feckin’ workers from Latvia or somewhere have all fucked off so there’s no-one to build it – I suppose the Irish will have to do the job properly!”
I opened the window as, for once in Ireland, the sun was beating down and it felt as if we’d arrived in Spain instead of Ireland and I suddenly wished I hadn’t brought my thick coat…
“You here for the rugby?” chimed in the cheery driver, “your hotel will be feckin’ rammed this weekend, so it will!” (He actually did speak like this; I’m not making it up, honestly).
Alarm bells started ringing in my head – there shouldn’t have been any matches on, I’d checked!
“Which match is this?” I enquired with a deepening sense of gloom.
“You don’t know?” he exclaimed, “it’s Munster against Perpignan in the Heineken cup – it was supposed to be played at Limerick but their ground’s fecking shite, so it’s being held here now. You won’t be able to move in town for feckin’ tractors on Saturday!” he declared, alluding to the old Irish stereotype that “the only culture outside Dublin is agriculture”.
Bollocks, I thought, this wasn’t good news – 40,000 drunken Irishmen might cause a slight problem when trying to get into pubs! Well, it was too late to do anything about it now so I sat back and enjoyed Dublin’s horrendous traffic problems from the back seat of the taxi. As we turned into Nassau Street, however, I suddenly sat upright as I saw a new Porterhouse bar; this had to be done at some point during the weekend! I knew there was a new one in Glasnevin, but knew nowt about this one…
Tram (and beer) scooping.
Almost 45 minutes had passed before we eventually arrived at our hotel where Des, my colleague, went to catch up on some much-needed beauty sleep (!) whilst I dumped my bag and quickly headed out again to scoop in the new “Luas” tram system and see if my beery target of the trip, Porterhouse Chocolate Truffle Stout, was available anywhere. I was soon at Connolly station and purchased a day ticket for the tram system for €4.60 before scooping one in all the way to Tallaght, which is a lot further than I thought it would be! Interest along the way was provided by a derelict council estate (Fatima mansions) and a canal where various species could be seen chasing around in the frenzied manner of animals in springtime. The weather had deteriorated somewhat and between the blasts of sun there were heavy downpours which drenched everything within seconds.
At the end of the line I swiftly visited a large Tescos where I bought a few bottles of Carlow beer before joining the next tram back to Connolly. I then went back two stops to Abbey Street before walking down to St Stephens’ green where the other tram goes from (the lines aren’t linked!). On the way there I called into Messrs Maguire – as I was passing – and saw that the beer choice was quite limited with only five beers on. There seemed to be a special named “Blossom”, but closer inspection revealed that it was in fact a cider; lucky escape there, then! I settled for a glass of the new Guinness limited edition beer called “Brew 39” which was quite acceptable with it’s easy-going chocolate malt flavour but it suffered from an industrial, caustically-bitter finish.
I then crossed the Liffey and called into the new Porterhouse at 45-47 Nassau Street which I’d seen from the taxi on the way into town. It’s a big place inside and sells the whole range of beers; in fact it also had the Winter-only Vienna lager on so it actually had more beers on sale than the Parliament street branch! I saw, with relief, that the Chocolate Truffle stout was available so I ordered a quick half of it; imagine my feelings when, expecting yet another excellent Porterhouse brew, I was confronted with something which tasted like a mixture of Baileys, cocoa powder and sugar! To say I was unimpressed would be an understatement… I pressed on to St Stephens’ green and scooped the other tramline which turned out to be a lot shorter than the one I’d just done and I was back within the hour. As I was working that evening I couldn’t really indulge in any more beer, so spent an hour wandering around the southside before I met up with Des and we did our three-hour shift at American Express.
After work we’d decided to go for a few beers to break the ice so, deviously, I suggested the Porterhouse Central as it was only five minutes away but, more importantly, this meant I wouldn’t have to drink Guinness! We arrived at around 21:00 and found the place heaving with bright young things but we eventually found ourselves a table and had a few pints of plain porter; I was devastated to find that my favourite Porterhouse beer - Wrasslers’ XXXX - was off although, naturally, I avoided the chocolate truffle stout offered in it’s place!
We decided on an early night as we’d been up for a long time so did a taxi back to the hotel. We were due to work all the following day so I had a little longer to wait for my session at Porterhouse… Back at the hotel we found, to our amazement, that one of the three restaurants was open until 04:30 in the morning for food and, more amazingly still, the hotel has been sold to developers who are going to flatten it and build luxury flats in it’s place! Apparently Ballsbridge is one of Dublin’s most prestigious addresses; must be for them to pay €600,000,000 for the place… apparently, the little O’Briens kiosk over the road recently went for €1,000,000 but we couldn’t tell if the taxi driver was pulling our legs or not!
Saturday 1st April 2006.
Beer at last.
Saturday dawned bright and clear… did it feck, it was pissing down as it usually does in Dublin although, by the time I staggered out of bed, the sky had the promise of a nice day ahead. We had breakfast, noting with alarm the amount of rugby attired people present, before taking a taxi into town. Those who know me may wonder why I’m taking taxis all the time but, in my defence, let me state that the bloke I was working with always offered to pay and it’s a good half-hour walk into the centre, not recommended after stuffing yourself with the “full Irish”, and I didn’t know the bus schedules… that’s my excuse anyhow. That and I’m a lazy bastard.
Before I’d gone to Dublin an email had come through listing the gigs by one of my favourite bands, Eastfield, who were playing at various locations in Ireland but had the Sunday free. In hope more than expectation I’d texted Jessi (Mr Eastfield) to say that if they, by some chance, were anywhere near Dublin over the weekend then if he let me know I’d come along and say hello. I certainly didn’t expect to receive a text from him during the day to say that not only would Eastfield be in Dublin on Sunday night but they’d be doing a free gig at the Voodoo lounge on Arran quay – this was an unexpected bonus and too good to turn down! The last time Sue and I had been in Dublin we’d found out Julian Cope was playing after we’d booked so maybe it’s something about the place? This piece of news put me in a very good mood and I thought that work had done me a big favour by sending me here so, for once, things were working in my favour!
After a full day’s work doing not very much I eventually escaped at just gone 17:00 with a resolute look about me; I was gagging for a pint of stout and nothing was going to stop me… except, maybe, 40,000 drunken Munster rugby fans. I headed straight for Messrs Maguire and found it a lot less full than I’d imagined, although I reasoned that most people would be at Lansdowne road watching the match! This was being shown on a large screen in the downstairs bar and I made an executive decision to have one pint and go having seen the other two floors were a bit cosy for my liking.
The extra stout was still off so I “made do” with a pint of plain porter; when I say “made do” I’m being facetious as I love Maguires’ porter, in my opinion it’s a classic Irish brew and makes Guinness taste like the thin, bland rubbish it is – I was just a bit disappointed that the extra wasn’t on as I wanted to try it again as, the last time I’d been there, my tasting notes had complained about it being “overhopped with inappropriate American citrussy hops” and I wanted to see if this was still the case. The plain was an excellent full, nutty, roasty, bitter and slightly smokey brew, very complex and tasty, with a roasted grain finish with hints of roast chestnuts and treacle in the finish; I was glad that it was as good a beer as on my last visit and it’s still one of my top three Irish brews.
My €4 badly-filled glass of porter drained (you soon realise that beer in Dublin is very expensive and glasses are always underfilled as, presumably, a matter of policy) I reluctantly headed off down Temple bar towards the Porterhouse, avoiding the stag and hen parties all the way. En-route I tried to have a quick look in the Palace on Fleet Street, but owing to the crowds of locals watching the rugby on a TV I couldn’t see what was on the bar and gave up - and people wonder why I hate sport! Halfway along Temple bar the heavens opened and I got absolutely soaked but, in the true British spirit, I stiffened my upper lip and increased my pace – then immediately decreased it again as I almost did a passable impression of that moment in Bambi where he first tries to stand and his legs go in all four directions! Trying to move on the slippery cobbles was like walking on ice so I very sensibly decided that it was best to get there wet than to get there with one or more limbs fractured from impact with the floor.
A shrine to Saint Brendan.
Predictably, the rain eased off as I got to the door of the Porterhouse but I wasn’t bothered by this point – I could see the rows of taps and I was happy! I’ve always loved Porterhouse beers, probably due to most of the recipes being created by the legendary Brendan Dobbin (who, according to their website, when not brewing grows bananas in West Cork), so was literally salivating at the prospect of revisiting as many of the beers as I could; I’d been in Dublin a couple of years back and had drunk the stouts but hadn’t had time for the other beers so I was ready for a session!
Now I know some people will be shaking their heads and generally mumbling about “keg” beer, but to them I say – “you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!”; Yes, Porterhouse beer may be served from kegs, but it’s unpasteurised and, most importantly, tastes superb so I don’t really care if it’s dispensed from a vagrant’s pestilent sock if it tastes as good as it does! It may be cold-filtered but that’s not what kills the flavour of a beer; it’s pasteurisation which is the culprit and, as far as I know and can taste, Porterhouse beers aren’t treated thus.
I began with a pint of TSB from the lonely handpump hidden behind the central pillar and as I took my first sip I had trouble summing up my feelings about this beer – I didn’t remember it being this good, not in a million years! It was deep red with delicious, inviting and very intense aromas of treacle toffee, caramel and malt which led to a similar flavour which was sweetish yet balanced beautifully by a brambly, fruity bitterness and a long, full, mellow malty and treacle toffee finish with ample stalky, brambly hops and bitterness; this was one complex and tasty beer and it was only 3.7%!
The required “Haus Weiss” was next; in most brewpubs around the world I’d have flagged a wheat beer but here I was intrigued to see if Porterhouse had managed to pull off their usual magic and make something which I’d like. The good news is that it’s very true to style with loads of banana and Bazooka Joe bubblegumminess (remember those!?) but the bad news, for me at least, was that it’s just this mix of flavours that makes me dislike wheat beer so much! One amusing quote on the website is that “Weiss yeast is used for wheat beer and this explains the banana scent. It has nothing to do with Brendan Dobbin's greenhouse”!
I was getting into my stride now and ordered a pint of Hersbrucker Pilsener which I’d not had since I first scooped it in March 1997 in the Head of Steam at Euston! It was a glorious brew with an excellent fresh, resinous hop aroma and flavour with fruitiness, toasty malt and a lip-smacking hop flavour and bitterness then a long malty, bitter aftertaste. Whilst enjoying this brew I got talking to the bloke sat next to me at the bar who just happened to be an Irishman who loved his proper beers; he told me of the time he argued with the brewer at Carlow that their stout wasn’t a “real” stout as it is (so he says) bottom-fermented and thus a dunkelbier or Baltic porter. I was pleased that there seemed to be at least someone in Dublin who didn’t think the sun shone out of the arse of St James’ gate and we had a long discussion, which would have almost certainly have been incredibly tedious to anyone listening in, about the situation of micro-brewing in the republic and the merits of the brewpubs scattered around the country.
I then decided to re-sample the Chocolate Truffle stout just to see if it was as bad as when I’d first scooped it in the central pub the day before. Bad mistake – if anything I disliked it even more the second time around! Forcing the revolting fluid down I quickly ordered a pint of plain porter to wash the taste away which, fortuitously, took two pints to annul. By now I was into my stride and, with the Wrasslers XXXX tragically unavailable (there had been a stout festival a week previous to my visit so I blamed this on the lack of this classic beer), I settled for a pint of oyster stout with it’s strange ozoney, perfumed and intriguing flavours; I’m sure oysters don’t taste as good as this, or at least they didn’t the last time I tried one…
As an aside here, when I was working for Whitbread hotels many years ago we were in the enviable position of working in the County Hall Marriott (the ex-GLC building almost opposite Parliament) on full expenses so, naturally, we took full advantage of the situation in as many ways as possible. My favoured tipple at the bar was “Black Velvet” made of half a bottle of stout and half of vintage champagne; this rang in at £70 a glass… I must admit that, despite not really liking champagne, I acquired quite a taste for this cocktail although I’ve not partaken since. One night we decided to have a half-dozen oysters each on the premise we weren’t paying so with black velvet in one hand and oyster in the other we sat at the bar… and I vowed never to eat oysters again! Imagine a lump of mucous you’ve sucked up from the lowest recesses of your lungs flavoured with salt and the emissions of photocopiers and you’ll be some way to realising why I loathe and detest oysters!
Anyhow, back in the Porterhouse things were getting busy as the rugby had finished (Munster won) so I decided on one final pint before leaving. With no Wrasslers available I finished with a final pint of plain porter which I could still taste after a fair few beers; this is the sign of a quality beer when, at the end of a session, you can still appreciate and enjoy a glass of it. With my beer appetite sated it was time to walk back to the hotel which took a good half hour although cabaret was provided most of the way by drunken Muster fans, most of whom who seemed to have great difficulty walking, talking and crossing roads…
Back at the hotel I once again indulged in the restaurant (which, in a blatant exhibition of extortion, had hiked it’s prices shamelessly) before heading off for some sleep. During the night I woke with a pain in my leg and, in my drowsy state, hoped that it wasn’t the bends caused by ingesting a large quantity of nitrogen in my beer intake… luckily it was just a bit of cramp and I soon dossed out again.
Sunday 2nd April 2006.
A lemon muffin and a veg samosa please.
I awoke the next morning not with the bends but with a headache – quite rare for me, but I blame the gas in the beer… after a “full Irish” with gallons of orange juice I was back to my usual self and decided on a day on the Dart (Dublin’s local trains) to visit the Porterhouse in Bray and a few other places too. After a quick stroll to Lansdowne road station I acquired my Rambler ticket for €7 and took the first train to Howth which is a fishing port overlooking Dublin bay from the north.
Leaving the station I took a quick glance at the train times for later, seeing them to be at 05 and 35, before sauntering off along the harbourside to see what was there. With a particular stroke of luck there seemed to be a farmer’s market in progress so, being a fat greedy bastard, I bought a lemon muffin and veg samosa for later on (although they only lasted about 15 minutes before I ate them) and continued with my perambulation along the quay noting the various fishmongers which looked superb with their displays groaning under vast ranges of fish and assorted fish products. At one I almost indulged in a fish and chilli pie before reading the ingredients and seeing octopus and squid – erm, I don’t think so! If I want to eat rubber I’ll go and chew on an inner tube, thanks…
I wandered further along the harbourside until the fishmongers gave way to fish processing works, then boat repair offices and then to nothing as I neared the end of the breakwater. An intensely cute family of fluffy baby oystercatchers was wandering around on the rocks so I stood and watched the babies totter and flap around for a while before climbing the steps to peer over the wall into the bay – or at least that was my plan, for the wind coming over the wall was unbelievably strong and almost blew me off the steps, literally! I’ve not felt wind this powerful for a few years so, after finding a more appropriate perch on a lookout tower, I stood and let the full blast of the wind, ozone and spray blow away the rest of the cobwebs from the night before; after five minutes I felt totally re-energised from this encounter with nature and returned along the harbourside feeling a lot better about the day and life in general.
I made my way towards the station but decided to take a walk along the beach instead; after all, it was still early and I had all day to kill! The beach was a broad curve of sand with, despite the ferocious wind, a gentle swell lapping against it so I wandered along it in a state of relaxation which was soon shattered by a large beige dog which bounded up to me, drooling in that revolting doggy manner. I fixed it with a withering stare and bellowed “Pes – ne dobre!” (Czech for “Dog – no good!”) at it which had the desired effect and it bounded back the way it had come depositing slaver all over the beach as it went; result!
I arrived back at the station for the 13:35 train but noticed that the train wasn’t there – and when I looked at the timetable I realised that, had I read it properly the first time, I’d have known that the times changed to 25 past the hour from one o’clock; cheers then! There was nothing for it but to have another wander around the farmer’s market and quayside before presenting myself for the 14:05 train to Bray where I planned to visit the original Porterhouse pub situated opposite the beach.
Blackpool without the trams...
I’d forgotten how slow the Dart trains were, especially as I was travelling along almost the whole route, and over an hour later I finally alighted at Bray station, 14 miles to the south of Dublin, and walked the short distance down to the seafront. The stroll began in bright sunlight however, as I neared the seafront, a particularly nasty-looking black cloud hurried overhead and deposited it’s considerable load of water over me; how I laughed as the water hammered on my hat and ran in torrents down my back… fortunately the shower soon passed and the previous weather of beaming sunshine was restored so I continued down to the beach.
Bray could be compared to one of the English coastal resorts and, indeed, it’s development mirrors a lot of the English examples (Southport, Southend, Bognor) in that it was developed in the Victorian era by the coming of the railway which enabled the occupants of the nearby big city (Dublin in this case) to visit at weekends much in the same way as those from Manchester used to visit Blackpool or Southport. Bray followed its English counterparts into a downwards spiral of dereliction during the latter half of the 20th century, primarily due to holidaymakers travelling abroad, and now presents a rather shabby front to the casual visitor in much the same vein as Southend or any of the similar English Victorian resorts do, although it’s still pleasant enough for a quick visit although I don’t think I’d want to spend much longer than a couple of hours there.
I wasn’t there for the history lesson, however, I was there for the beer – and when in Bray there’s only one place to visit – the Porterhouse on Strand road which it situated around 500 metres along the front from the railway station towards the looming bulk of Bray head. This was, in fact, the first Porterhouse to be founded, in 1989, although I don’t know if beer was ever brewed here before the Parliament street site opened in Dublin’s Temple bar during 1995.
I wandered along the beach which was liberally sprinkled with families enjoying the seaside air or walking their dogs but the frequent showers soon drove me to drink and I headed for the Porterhouse. It’s a big old building with a newly-opened hotel above and a new bar to the rear and the first thing that struck me was that they sold Guinness and Heineken! None of the other Porterhouse pubs sell this rubbish so I can only assume the general level of customers they get in there (think fish&chips&lager) isn’t up to drinking proper beer… my disgruntlement at having to see people order this dross was tempered by the availability of Wrassler’s XXXX – the strong stout – and I enjoyed a pint of this huge, burnt, black monster of a brew with it’s massive bitter hoppiness and liquoricey, burnt grain character and it served to remind me why this is my favourite Irish beer in all those I’ve tasted thus far.
A last few in town.
I decided to call it a day and head back into Dublin for a few more pints before going to see Eastfield play, so I left the pub and began the short walk back to the station. However, after having gone no more than 50 metres, the heavens opened again and this time they really let me have it; the rain was torrential and drove straight into me with surprising force but there was no point in going back so, stoically, I plodded on, becoming more sodden with every step, until the rain eased off – true to form when I was a short distance from the station!
One thing to remember with Bray station is that the Dart trains depart from both sides for Dublin depending on where they originate from (those from Greystones use the main platform over the level crossing) although most leave from the platform on the seaward side of the station. Inevitably, with the way my day in Bray was going, I hauled myself over the footbridge only to have to cross it again to board the train on the correct platform…
Back in Dublin I immediately headed for Messrs Maguires as by now I was starving and the food there had been very acceptable on my last visit. I soon found a table in a small room opposite the bar on floor two and had a most enjoyable meal of bruschetta followed by chicken in a creamy whiskey sauce all washed down with a pint of plain porter. My hunger sated, I sauntered along Temple bar to the Porterhouse for a few more pints of their fine beers which comprised of a plain porter and a TSB, both as excellent as the night before. My drinking done and the time at 20:00 I decided it was time to head off to Aran Quay to find the bar where Eastfield were playing later on that night and, maybe, find another decent bar on the way – not that I had much hope of that but it’s good to have aspirations or so I’m told.
I spent half an hour trolling around the area looking for a decent bar and found a few possible candidates although all only seemed to serve Guinness. Now I think it’s time I set out my stall on this one – what the fuck is wrong with a country which consumes only two beers en masse – Guinness and harp? I’d been assailed by various people in Porterhouse the previous evening who couldn’t believe that I had the gall to think that their beer was better than Guinness – I reckon they must put some mind-altering drugs into the mash at St James’ gate to make everyone believe it’s the best beer in the world; there’s no other explanation in my opinion! If you have any reservations, just taste Guinness “blind” with Porterhouse and any other stout and you’ll see how thin, caustic and bland it really is. The saddest thing is that respectable beer writers also praise the stuff…
I gave up looking for a bar selling anything apart from the omnipresent one and entered the Voodoo lounge where, almost immediately, Jessi from Eastfield collared me and explained there were two bands on before they were onstage so, with a couple of hours of free music being thrown my way, it only seemed right to buy at least one beer – and, predictably, Guinness was the only choice apart from random “ice” and “lite” abominations. I allowed it a chance to warm up but, with absolutely no preconceptions, it still tasted thin with a slightly burnt, roasted flavour and a slightly chemically bitterness in the short toasty finish; easy to drink yes, but a classic stout? I don’t think so.
The music was excellent with a local band called the Upgrades who played a lively ska sound, then a manic hardcore punk outfit with short punchy songs and finally Eastfield with a very strange lineup including old-time member Ben on drums and his other half on vocals! A most enjoyable evening was had before I ventured outside to find a taxi and, to my amazement, one appeared within a minute and I was back in the hotel within ten! On the way, the driver recounted a tale of how it took him a year to get his license and insurance sorted and how much he hated other taxi drivers’ driving habits before time cut him short mid-rant and we arrived at the hotel. Back in my room I drank a bottle of Carlow Molings Red prior to dossing out as the Guinness had left me wanting some proper beer to wash the taste away!
Monday 3rd April 2006.
We were working all day and flying back on the 19:00 Aer Lingus flight that evening so no beer was consumed at all – I considered nipping out for a swift half of Porterhouse at dinnertime but came to the conclusion that I’d had enough the last couple of days and gave it a miss for once! We arrived at the airport, checked in and arrived at the gate where I saw the aircraft which would form my 100th takeoff sitting on-stand and, for a second, I thought that I’d been dealt a cruel hand by it being the same plane we’d had across – IE-DEE – but it was just a trick of the light and it transpired that it was in fact IE-DEF, St Declan! We boarded on-time and after takeoff were treated to a glorious view of the Irish countryside and Dublin bay before heading off over the sea towards North Wales.
The flight back only took 45 minutes and we were on the ground at Birmingham 10 minutes early. I said goodbye to Des then took the bus to the carpark where I saw some shady looking characters loitering around the parked cars so I decided to see what was going on – but they turned out to be nothing more sinister than plane spotters! I resisted the urge to brag about knowing “Planey Wayney Groves” and stormed off, leaving them discussing variants of 737’s. The main benefit of Birmingham airport was soon apparent as I was walking through our front door 40 minutes later; in comparison to the 2½ hour journey from Stansted I was very pleased to be flying locally for once and, even better, I’d had a great weekend away, scored a few beers and drunk plenty more, seen Eastfield for free, scooped a new airline and two planes and I’d paid for none of it… and if that’s not a result, I don’t know what is.
Dublin isn’t the place to go if you want to scoop beers, unless you’ve never had a Porterhouse or Maguires beer in which case you’ll score at least 15! With the closure last year of the Dublin Brewery, Guinness has more or less got the city sewn up tight with literally nothing else worth drinking in the whole place – no beers from any other Irish micros are sold anywhere as far as I have been able to discover through extensive research. Guinness (or “the omnipotent one” as I call them) seems to be plumbing new depths of blandness and, coupled with it being served at near-freezing temperatures, I’d really not recommend drinking the stuff apart from through curiosity to see how something so dark can taste of so little! You could always go and visit the Guinness hopstore, but be warned that –
1) You don’t actually get to go round the working brewery, just an exhibition of old bits of kit they had left over after the last upgrade,
2) It’s very expensive,
3) It’s very full of tourists and stag do’s – i.e.; very gullible people, and
4) You don’t get unlimited free beer afterwards.
Although the view is very nice from the top of the tower and the food is actually excellent, or at least it was three years ago when Sue and I went.
There is now just one brewpub in Dublin (Messrs Maguires) as Porterhouse has moved it’s brewing out into the suburbs somewhere - maybe Glasnevin, I’m not sure - to, presumably, free up more space in their Temple bar pub. The beers are as good as ever though and I saw an amazing eleven different beers available during my visits to three of their pubs although Wrasslers XXXX was only on sale in Bray, presumably due to the recent stout festival. The bottled beer list in their pubs has also increased in size although, lamentably, it seems to be chosen by someone with an old copy of a “world beer guide” as many of the brews aren’t the best examples available – Chimay for example is nothing like as good these days as the glorious write-up it gets in the menu. There are some decent beers on the list, such as Baltika 6 porter, Rochefort, Schlenkerla and many others, but there are too many “yoof” beers for my liking. The new Porterhouse pub near to Grafton Street is a bonus and there’s another in the north of the city somewhere too.
Messrs Maguires is the only brewpub left now and it needs a bit of a refurb in my opinion although the beers are still very good, as is the food. The main problem at Maguires was illustrated by the barman who, as I walked up to the bar, held up a pint glass and asked “Guinness?” – why the fuck do they want to push that stuff when their own beer is many times better in every way? I don’t know but they do… still an essential visit though through lack of anything better!
Stay more than about ten minutes in Dublin and you’ll notice the prices; how they can justify €4 a pint (and more) needs to be explained to me in simple terms. I know that the “Celtic tiger” economy is still in full swing and house prices in Dublin are amongst the highest in Europe but the place is still a rip-off in almost every facet of expenditure to my eyes. The stag or hen nights who come here must be the really stupid ones who don’t realise you can jet off to Praha or Bratislava and get a half-litre of half-decent beer there for around 40p rather than paying £2.80 a pint for some freezing cold dross in packed bars full of gawping, gullible tourists with the obligatory fake “craic” and crap plinky-plonky music… just walk along Temple bar and you’ll see what I mean.
Speaking about stag and hen nights, the problem doesn’t seem to be half as bad as it was three years ago when I was there last although there were still a few making complete arses of themselves and showing why being English abroad isn’t an asset for the independent traveller (I usually say I’m Danish if anyone asks when I'm in Czech). Most Temple bar pubs seem to have relaxed their entry requirements recently so the bouncers (Maguires and Porterhouse do have them, but they’re very polite!) will let you in unless you’re obviously drunk or being obnoxious!
In my humble opinion, Dublin itself isn’t really all some people crack it up to be – I’ve visited a lot of capital cities throughout Europe recently and Dublin doesn’t come near to many of them in architectural terms, never mind beer terms! Yes there are some nice Georgian houses around, but the majority of buildings seem to be bland neo-Georgian clones or concrete monstrosities and very little in the way of historic structures to gawp at. There aren’t that many things to do either compared to other cities so my view of the place hasn’t really changed 12 years after first going there – I don’t really like it that much and the beer prospects are almost as bad as Bratislava… now that’s saying something!
Getting there and getting around.
Getting to Dublin is very, very easy. The quickest option is to fly with flight times being around an hour from anywhere in the UK and it’s easy to fly there being Ryanair’s biggest base outside Stansted, and some other budget carriers will take you there for around £40 or so as long as you book it a month or so in advance. Basically, Ryanair fly from every rabbit-holed field in the UK to Dublin although Aer Lingus are now showing some initiative and have drastically lowered their fares at off-peak times. Air Wales, who flew from Cardiff to Dublin, have recently suspended all operations. Here are some examples of who flies where –
Birmingham – Aer Lingus, Ryanair
Bristol – Ryanair, Air Southwest, Aer Lingus.
Cardiff, Luton/Stansted or East Midlands – Ryanair.
Liverpool or Manchester – Ryanair, Aer Lingus.
If you don’t want to fly you could also do the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin port (Irish Ferries, take a bus to the central bus station) or Dun Laoghaire (Stena line, take the Dart into Dublin) with some good offers available in conjunction with the trains – you can get a return from London to Dublin for £58 or from Birmingham for £54; see the sailrail website for more details and bargains although you can’t book online, you have to ring up. Another option would be to travel with National Express (via Eurolines) and, being close, it shouldn’t be too bad a journey either; for example, there are three departures a day from Birmingham, taking on average 8 hours, for around £45 return which if you dislike flying might be an option although personally I’d take the train to Holyhead.
Getting into town from the airport is currently a total shambles and, despite it only being 9km north of Dublin, you should allow a good 45 minutes for the journey, more in rush hours which seem to go on all day! You have a myriad of choice available to get into town; the posh (and therefore expensive) pale blue aircoach goes every 20 minutes or so to Grafton Street and Merrion square for €7 single or €12 return, the Dublin Bus 747 goes from stop 1 to the central bus station (close to Connolly) for €5 single, although Dublin Bus rambler tickets are valid making this a bargain – get these from the machines outside the doors of arrivals, €5. Those on a budget could take the No.41 to Lower Abbey Street, close to the central bus station, for €1.80 single although you need the correct change in order to purchase a ticket from the driver; the rambler is valid on this service too. Taxis charge anything from €20 upwards – unless someone else is paying just don’t bother!
Dublin has a new tram system, the Luas (meaning “speed” in Gaelic), which goes nowhere of any use for the beer enthusiast but should be taken purely for the scoop value; the only possibly useful journey you could take on it would be from Connolly rail station to Heuston rail station which are a good couple of miles apart. Day tickets are (Apr 06) €4.60 for the whole network of two lines. A metro system is also on the cards but that could take years to build, although it’s rumoured to be going to the airport first… don’t hold your breath.
Buses cover the whole city comprehensively although there’s not a lot of scope for scooping elsewhere so I doubt you’d find them useful. As for trains, Iarnród Éireann run the local Dart service which can take you to Bray every 10-15 minutes or so, a run recommended for the lovely seawall scenery en-route. There are regular trains to most other cities in Ireland or Belfast leaving from Dublin so if you want to move on to Cork or Limerick it’s easy if not that cheap – avoid travelling on Fridays and Sundays and you’ll pay less! Tickets are bookable via the website.
Here is my list of pubs in Dublin worthy of a visit – and you may have noticed that it’s pretty short and mostly the same company. OK, there are loads of pubs out of the centre which have a decent atmosphere and, if you can stomach the omnipotent one, you’ll be able to have a drink but as most people reading this will be scoopers and don’t give a toss about pubs with just a multinational beer on draught I’ll let you search these out for yourselves, OK? So, to avoid any further misunderstandings, this list is a personal one of the best beer pubs in Dublin. Enjoy.
The Porterhouse, Parliament Street (corner of Essex Street), Temple Bar. ()
The best pub in Dublin by a long way; not the friendliest staff, but the best beer and you even get real ale too! Huge bottled beer selection, choice of at least ten house beers on draught, and good food served all day. It’s location just off Temple Bar means it doesn’t get as mobbed as many of the places a hundred metres down the road. The essential visit.
Simply wander westwards along Temple bar trying to avoid the stag and hen parties until you get to a t-junction; this is Parliament street and the Porterhouse is immediately on your right.
The Porterhouse Central, 45-47 Nassau Street. (Close to S end of Grafton Street). ()
During the day a good pub serving food and at least ten of their own beers on draught plus a wide range of bottled brews from all over the world, but beware nighttimes when the local Celtic tigers come out to play and the pub turns into a kind of “disco pub”.
At the North end of the pedestrianised bit of Grafton Street, opposite Trinity college and close to the Dublin tourist office.
The Porterhouse Bray, Strand Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow. ()
The usual thing you expect from Porterhouse with around ten of their own beers on tap plus lots of bottled brews. Unfortunately, this branch seems to have caved in to the lager&chips brigade and serves Guinness and Heineken for some reason; listen guys, your own stuff is a hundred times better - make them drink that instead! I don’t like it as much as the others, but it’s worth a trip along the sea wall for a pint and they have rooms to let too which look quite tasty.
Leave the station and walk over the level crossing, following the slope towards the sea. When you reach the Strand road turn right and the Porterhouse is around five minutes walk along here on the right and very obvious.
Messrs Maguires, 1/2 Burgh Quay. (close to Tara Street Dart station). ()
The only true brewpub in town, this three-storey pub (with a bar on each) serves up some cracking beers as well as some not so good ones for high prices. The stouts are superb and amongst the best but some of the other beers are a bit ropey in my opinion. If you can find a seat the food is pretty decent too. In need of a bit of TLC but still a good pub if a little busy with tourists and a touch expensive, even by Dublin standards.
Situated 200m from Tara Street Dart station almost at the Junction with Westmoreland Street. You can’t miss it owing to it’s size, the prominent brewkit in the window and it’s lurid décor!
The Palace, Fleet Street, Temple Bar. ()
Excellent pub inside with lots of wood and a couple of little rooms, the Palace used to sell Dublin beers but now only seems to do Guinness so I’d only bother going in here to have a look at the inside over a swift pint. They claim to do the Guinness special beers but I didn’t see any on tap but they now serve Galway Hooker, itself a reason to go there!
This classic Dublin pub is on the right just as you enter Fleet Street from Westmoreland Street.
Gazza’s top beers of the weekend.
This was easy with so little choice!
1) Porterhouse Wrassler’s XXXX Stout in the Porterhouse, Bray.
2) Porterhouse TSB in the Porterhouse, Temple Bar.
3) Messrs Maguires Plain Porter in the brewpub, Burgh Quay.
© Gazza 09/04/2006 v1.0
|Skyrail at BHX||Messrs Maguires, Burgh Quay, Dublin||Brewkit in Messrs Maguires, Dublin||Porterhouse Central Nassau Street, Dublin||A Rainy afternoon on Temple Bar, Dublin|
|Porterhouse, Bray||Bray beach||Luas at Connolly station, Dublin||Eastfield at the Voodo, Dublin|
|Porterhouse TSB beermat||Porterhouse Brainblasta beermat||Porterhouse Templebrau beermat||Porterhouse Plain Porter beermat|