"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
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attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Newlyweds in the Old World: Dublin

After years of living in sin, Nicole and I made an honest man/woman of each other and tied the knot thus making our union official in the eyes of God and the tax collector.  Although I could gush on-and-on about my beautiful, vibrant wife, methinks it best to stay on point, forgo saccharine verbiage, and remain relevant to the raison d'être of this blog—beer.  While the ceremony and reception were boozy affairs indeed (click here for more info on that), I’ll focus on what happened afterwards, what happened when we set sail on an adventure in craft beer, cask ale, and small-batch whiskey.  Let me tell you about our honeymoon in Ireland and Scotland.


Our trek across the Old World began in the medieval capital of Ireland: Dublin.  With stone-walled buildings weeping wet, black sediment and narrow, cobblestoned alleyways, Dublin is everything your mind’s eye sees when reading James Joyce (except for the automobiles, contemporarily dressed citizens, and modern-day fast food restaurants).  The only discrepancy was the lack of melancholic gray haze oft associated with the city; in fact, Dublin was experiencing a near-unprecedented heat wave during our visit.  Hell, I got sunburned!  I imagine the fair-skinned natives must have shut their doors and windows, warned their children to stay out of the light lest they curl up and sizzle like a strip of bacon.

Soaking in the rare rays of sun, we enjoyed a stroll through the Dublin Zoo, a seaside hike along the craggy bluffs of nearby Howth, and hopped from pub-to-pub visiting such noted establishments as the quintessential Temple Bar and the Uber-Victorian Long Hall which, if it were built today, would be derided for its garishness: beveled mirrors, intricate woodworking, dangling chandeliers, and jubilant ruby-red color scheme.  However, since it’s historical, one is more forgiving in their judgment and magnanimous words such as “opulence” and “classical” are more apt descriptors. 

We also stopped at The Brew Dock, a craft beer bar operated by the Galway Bay Brewery that boasts traditional pub atmosphere with the improvement of Irish craft beer on tap.  Here’s my official endorsement: when in Dublin, do not miss The Brew Dock.  The staff is over-and-beyond friendly, willing to dole out free samples, and eager to engage in a beer geeky conversation.  It’s like chatting up your best beer buddy (if your buddy sports a thick brogue).  Bull & Castle, an upscale steakhouse with a craft beer bent, is also worth a visit if you have a little extra cash in your pocket.  I told the waiter to bring me a flight of random Irish-made beers and it turned out to be a smart tactic; I received some mighty tasty brews and got a handle on what Irish craft beer is all about.

The Brew Dock
As avid brewery travelers, Nicole and I made sure to drink Irish beer at the source by visiting two Dublin breweries—neither one Guinness.  Yes, yes, I’ve heard the old chestnut: “It tastes better over there!”  That’s true but it’s still just goddamn Guinness.  A fine beer it is but it’s nothing special.  I can drink the slightly-diminished version on U.S. soil (although I rarely do as there’s usually a better, Colorado-made stout pouring from the next tap over).  I have had Guinness in Ireland before—it didn’t astound me as much as people would have you believe.  So, no Guinness for us.  Instead, we visited J.W. Sweetman Craft Brewery and The Porterhouse Brewing Co.

Sorachi Ace Brown

Situated along the banks of the River Liffey, J.W. Sweetman looks like any other pub in the land of Éire save for the tiny, glass-enclosed room near the entrance where cramped brewing equipment huddles like a quad lift carrying a five-man ski team.  Nearly all buildings in the heart of Dublin are antiquated and, as such, feature many tight corners and narrow hallways (if Ireland had the same ADA laws as the U.S., they’d have to raze the whole country).  Ergo, it's necessary to shove all the brewing equipment in one corner; the elbow room isn’t exactly ample.  The flagship line-up was a list of the standards: porter, Irish red, pale ale…etc.  I chose from their specialty menu and ordered a classic brown ale hopped with Sorachi Ace.  The Japanese hop is said to possess a gamut of flavors ranging from lemon to dill to bubblegum to coriander and beyond and, while I’m not sure I was detecting much of that, I appreciate the innovative effort.

Oyster Stout
Porterhouse has several locations but the first one—the one we visited—sits squarely in the pub-crawling neighborhood of Temple Bar.  This multi-leveled brew pub is like an M.C. Escher drawing with its numerous stairways and hidden alcoves; leave a trail of breadcrumbs when you go to the bathroom.  I ordered their best-selling stout, Oyster Stout, which is the Dublin stout you should be drinking; it’s thicker, creamier, and packed full of more sweetness than its famous counterpart from St. James’s Gate

General musings on Dublin

·         Pedestrians beware!  The sidewalks in Dublin are about as wide as your shoulders, packed full of people, and run parallel to busy streets.  If you’re feeling crowded and flustered by the hordes, duck into a dark pub and recollect yourself over a pint as we did.
·         For a quick getaway from the urban hustle and bustle, hop a train to the fishing village of Howth.  It smells a bit funky and it’s infested with seagulls but the trail skirting atop the rims of the ocean-side cliffs is rugged and beautiful—a perfect outing for the avid Colorado hiker wishing to experience Ireland’s natural wonders.

Hiking around Howth
Howth from the start of the trail
Musings on Dublin’s beer scene

·         I had been to Dublin five years prior to this trip and, in the span of a half-decade, I noticed a lot more pubs advertising craft beer, a testament to the far-reaching power of the craft beer movement.  I, of course, stuck to Irish-made craft beer but Colorado’s own Odell Brewing Co. was a popular offering; if a pub had American craft beer, they had Odell.
·         To compare the Colorado craft beer scene to Ireland’s (it seems fairer to make a state-to-country comparison than a country-to-country one since Colorado alone is already three times as large as Ireland; to compare the entire U.S. to Ireland is much too lop-sided.  Colorado and Ireland also have similar populations), I’d say Ireland is a fledgling.  The beer’s great, of course, but Irish brewers haven’t, as far as I noticed, yet entered into unknown territory (unless you count the Sorachi Ace brown ale I mentioned earlier).  The tap lists were inundated with porters, stouts, red ales, IPAs, pale ales and other such entry-level beers but Belgian-style beers were few and far between.  Imperial anythings seemed unheard of.  Finding a sour beer was like finding a seven-leaf clover in the lapel of a 5'11" leprechaun. 

Ireland already has the Irish dry stout and the Irish red to its name but, other than that, there’s nothing distinctly Irish on the market.  Here in the states we’ve eked out unique niches.  We’ve Americanized and/or imperialized the IPA, the pale ale, the stout, and many other styles.  We’ve created the Cascadian dark ale, the chili beer, the cream ale, the steam beer, and the divisive pumpkin beer.  We have styles that were conceived, born, raised, and loved right here in our own country.  Currently, Ireland’s still coasting on the dry stout and Irish red.  I’m excited for Irish beer’s future, I’m curious if brewers over there will catch the creative bug.  Might we one day see an Irish-style barleywine?  An Irish-style saison?  Or perhaps something completely new and tasting distinctly of the Emerald Isle?  Time will tell.

Dublin Zoo
Favorite beers from Dublin

·         The aforementioned Oyster Stout from Porterhouse.
·         Buried at Sea, a decadent chocolate milk stout from Galway Bay Brewery.  On par with Odell’s Lugene.  Enjoyed at The Brew Dock.
·         Sunburnt Irish Red from Eight Degrees Brewing.  A darker Irish red with hints of molasses.  Enjoyed at Bull & Castle.
·         Irish Red from O’hara’s.  Complexly malty with notes of vanilla, wood, and molasses.  Enjoyed at Bull & Castle.

Stay tuned for the next leg of our honeymoon: Northern Ireland.



Dubh Linn Gardens
Dublin Castle
Dublin Zoo
St. Patrick's Cathedral

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