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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Newlyweds in the Old World: Glasgow

To read about the previous leg of our honeymoon, Northern Ireland, click here.


After Belfast, Nicole’s and my journey took us on a ferry ride across the North Channel from Larne, Northern Ireland to Troon, Scotland.  Catching a train from that seaside village, we continued on to our next major destination: Glasgow.

Our first stop after exiting Glasgow Central and checking into the hotel was The Meat Bar, an underground BBQ joint with ribs and pulled pork to rival any in Kansas City or Memphis.  Aside from the succulent, juice-dripping, carnivorous feast, The Meat Bar was our first encounter with Williams Bros. Brewing Co.  While their golden ale, Birds & Bees, isn’t much to crow about (it’s good, not mind-blowing, and quite simple), it was the first of many, many beers we enjoyed from this avant-garde, Dogfish Head-esque brewery.  I’ll discuss them further in our next post on Edinburgh. 
A pint of Dark Moor, a dram of BenRiach

We finished our night at The Pot Still, an old-school whisky bar (Scots don’t put the “e” in “whiskey” and they don’t call the whisky distilled in their land “Scotch,” either; they simply call it “whisky”) sporting so many shelves of that golden-brown liquor that it necessitated the use of a library-style rolling ladder to reach all the wares.  We sipped a dram of 12-year-aged BenRiach, a pint of cask ale, and called it good for the evening. 

The next morning we wandered the Glasgow Green, took artsy-fartsy photos of local bridges, and checked out the botanic gardens in an effort to waste some time before WEST Brewery—the brewery with a “Glaswegian heart.  German Head”—opened its doors.

Sitting on the edge of the Glasgow Green in the resplendent Templeton Building, a construction of intricate architecture modeled after the Doge’s Palace in Venice (if you ask me, the arching windows, Arabesque brickwork, and pointed, casbah-like parapet is more Turkish in design but, then again, what the hell do I know about architecture?), WEST can never complain for lack of curb appeal.  In addition to the opulence, there’s also a small biergarten out front (good) but, unfortunately, it’s carpeted with AstroTurf (tacky).  The interior is less extravagant than the exterior but, with a heaping dose of old wood floors, copper kettles, and wainscoting, WEST isn’t hurting in the sophisticated column.  Except for that AstroTurf.  

The Templeton Building
The beers at WEST are comparable to those at Prost Brewing: traditional German beers replicated outside of Deutschland’s borders.  The Reinheitsgebot-embracing brewery does indeed make a mean Märzen and a hell of a Helles but, as a beer traveler, I was a smidge disappointed in WEST and not because of any fault on part of the brewery.  I came to Scotland to taste Scotland.  I’ll go to Germany when I want to taste Germany.  I realize I’m being totally unfair and hypocritical because, in Denver, we have breweries whose offerings are decidedly non-American, not of the local flavor (e.g. the English-inspired Hogshead Brewery, the Belgian-esque River North Brewery, and the aforementioned slinger of German suds, Prost) but Denverites like them nonetheless.  In the end, WEST is a nice place.  A stellar place, really.  The beer is expertly crafted and the taproom is stunningly beautiful.  But it’s not even a little bit Scottish.

The next brewery of the day, Drygate Brewery, is in as iconic a location as WEST but for immensely different reasons.  Imagine, if you will, the Coors brewery, sitting like the monolith it is on the outskirts of downtown Golden.  It’s huge.  It’s (inter)nationally known.  It runs the show.  Now, imagine a group of renegade brewmeisters opening a craft brewery right next door to Coors, closer even than Barrels & Bottles Brewery.  Imagine it abutting up to Coors’ property, overlooking the loading docks, close enough to be mistaken for an addition to the larger brewery, close enough for David to chuck rocks at Goliath.  Substitute Coors for Tennent’s—Scotland’s primary macrobrew—and that harassing little brewery next door is Drygate.

Just beyond Drygate's front entrance is Tennent's property
Drygate simultaneously emits the ambiance of a decrepit factory and a chic gallery.  On one hand, the soggy, seemingly-crumbly brick wall is visible but, at the same time, protected and encased by a grid of windows that frame the dilapidated façade as if it were a piece of modern art.  The ceiling is nothing but concrete and HVAC but the tap handles are set against a shiny copper backsplash, glinting enticingly as customers peruses their choices.  Drygate’s propensity for metal mesh as a design element lends to the space an element of Industrial Revolution but the bright, white brew room behind floor-to-ceiling glass belies the ostensible rough edges and reveals Drygate’s true, modern heart.  In so many words, the taproom at Drygate is pretty badass.

The beer’s worthwhile, too.  I’m usually not one for fruit beer (well, sometimes I am; my ill-advised faux-machismo often forces me to deny my proclivity for fruity ales) but their apple ale, Outaspace, is phenomenal!  It tastes enough like apple to be an apple beer but not so much that it’s basically just hard apple juice.  It’s well-balanced and worth a try.  Their Gladeye IPA is good, too, but not much different from a typical American IPA and the Bearface Euro lager, in addition to having wonderfully absurd label artwork, is a crisp and clean beer perfect for sunny days (of which Glasgow sees few).  Also, they have a "hamburger" made completely of mac n' cheese that's then topped with pulled pork.  Uh, how is that not a thing in America?  Get crackin' on that, chefs.

In addition to breweries, Nicole and I also stopped by numerous beer bars.  Munro’s is a decent one; they’ve an impressive line-up of cask ales and the environment is comfortable like a pastoral pub (especially the “country gentleman” nook with over-stuffed armchairs, distressed wood tables, red brick walls, a tight-knit rug, and cast-iron stove).  The car tire chandelier is a bit unconventional as is the assortment of random seating options (wood stools, metal stools, leather stools, swivel stools…etc.) which stray from the old-fashioned aura but the warm, wood paneling and stone walls maintain a classic pub atmosphere.

Nicole and I never made it to Aberdeenshire to visit inarguably Scotland’s most famous (to Americans, at least) craft brewery, BrewDog, but the trip up north wasn’t necessary since, in 2011, BrewDog: Glasgow opened.  Eschewing tradition (as BrewDog is known to do), the bar isn’t decorated in the usual pub trimmings e.g. dim lighting, tin ceilings, overly ornate woodcarvings…etc.  Instead, BrewDog: Glasgow appears much like the average American brewery taproom (save for the absence of actual brewing equipment).  Its puffy, leather, coffeeshop-esque couches, modern metal-and-wood bar stools, and collection of empty craft beer bottles from around the world (lots from Colorado plus Brewdog’s own very special, very famous squirrel-encased bottle) provide a fresh twist but, since Glasgow is an ancient city and because one can’t and shouldn’t entirely strip a historic building of its Old World charm, the mosaic floor and original brick walls remain, connecting the innovative spirit of BrewDog with its country’s storied past.  The bartender was exceptional, too, and certainly willing to chat us up about craft beer.  Once he ascertained just how passionate we were about suds he offered us a few free samples which we greedily imbibed.
The End of History (empty)

The third beer bar we sought out was the best.  The best of Glasgow.  The best of the trip.  Quite possibly, the best I’ve been to.  The selection isn’t massive, there’s just enough, but the beer menu’s only part of the attraction.  The main attraction at this bar, Inn Deep, is its setting.

Describing Inn Deep is like describing an M.C. Escher drawing; too many ups and downs and configurations that don’t make any sense.  You’d do well to simply look at the pictures but, for the sake of a challenge, I’ll attempt to put it down in words.  First, imagine a fairly major city street spanning a narrow river.  The bridge is supported by a green arch and there are buildings at street level on either side.  The river itself is wedged between gray stone retention walls, there is no natural bank.  A bike path rides alongside the water and a concrete stairway leads from the street to the path.  Next to the bike path are two long, narrow, semi-circular tunnels burrowing under a side street and a grand, spired, brownstone building.  In one tunnel there’s an open-fronted beer garden/grotto, in the other there’s the actual bar plus additional seating outside on the bike path.  It’s hidden from view, somewhere below street level and above water level.  When you walk into Inn Deep, you feel like you’re entering an underground punk rock concert venue or the headquarters of a secret society; except for the taps pouring local craft beer, of course.

Those two tunnels in the wall? That's Inn Deep.
Inn Deep from the other side

Nicole and a young kilted man at Inn Deep
General musings on Glasgow
·         It’s a happening town.  The West End is generally considered the hippest part of Glasgow but the eastside, where Drygate and WEST (ironically) sit, is equally as cool as far as I’m concerned.  It has a misty, hilly, San Francisco or Seattle vibe to it.
·         Taking a break from the urban hustle, Nicole and I took a day trip to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, our sole venture into the Scottish Highlands.  There, we attempted to summit The Cobbler, a 2,900’ peak outside the village of Arrochar.  While we’d been lucky in terms of weather up to that point, Scotland decided to show its true colors on our hike, misting us with a constant drizzle and blinding us with a hanging fog.  Soaked to the bone and constantly losing the trail, we had to call it quits before we made it to the top. 

Looking back from the trailhead to The Cobbler
Still, we came close and, from what little we saw, I’m impressed with the mountains of Scotland.  They can’t hold a candle to the Rockies’ overall elevation and they’re cursed with a less amiable climate but the peaks are still ruggedly awe-inspiring, craggy, and often reminiscent of Colorado save for the intense greenery and ethereal, draping haze.  Truly, hiking The Cobbler was entering a mystic wonderland.  It’s hardly any wonder Scottish folklore is filled with faeries and hobgoblins and trolls; it’s easy to imagine such fantastical creatures when walking through such fantastical landscapes.
·         The national flower and symbol of Scotland is the thistle.  The thistle!  With prickly leaves surrounding a stalk topped with a medieval mace head of stiff thorns and a tiny patch of purple flowers, the thistle is possibly the ugliest national symbol in existence.  Not only is it the orneriest plant known to humankind, it’s also not unique to Scotland.  Hell, take the Clear Creek bike path to Golden and you’ll see a forest-worth of thistle.  In the United States, we don’t call the thistle a flower (let alone one worthy of being the anthropomorphized mascot of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games which were about to be hosted in Glasgow at the time of our visit), we call it a weed.  Then again, having one’s country represented by a tough little thorn bush has its charms; it certainly plays into the stereotype that the Scots themselves are, like the thistle, rugged survivors.  Plus, the story of how the thistle became Scotland’s symbol is an interesting, if mythologized, account (read about it here).     

Musings on Glasgow’s beer scene
·         Less prevalent in Ireland but the norm in Scotland, when ordering a drink at the pub, the bartender would ask, “what size?”  There are choices?  Indeed, in addition to buying an entire pint, one could imbibe a one-thirds pint, a half pint, or a two-thirds pint.  I love this practice!  I have a promiscuous palate and I want to try everything but I can’t keep downing whole pints—that kills the liver as well as the wallet.  Presented with different size options, I was able to drink entire taplists without getting wasted.  Yet, it was enough liquid to assess and truly indulge in my beer; that’s not so easy when given the paltry pour of an American taster glass.

German Pale Ale (actually a Kӧlsch-style ale)
Why don’t American bars do this?  It probably has something to do with gratuities: America has a tipping culture, Scotland does not.  Your Scottish bartender doesn’t expect any more money than the cost of the beer.  In the United States, it behooves bartenders to serve large format drinks as they incur a higher bar tab thus entailing a generous tip.  If you’re not expecting a tip, however, you don’t care if the patrons drink £5 or £500 worth of booze, the money you take home at the end of the night is always the same.  Then again, this set-up isn’t necessarily beneficial to the business itself which would rather customers spend more money, not less.  Something tells me, though, most Scottish drinking establishments don’t have a problem with people drinking too little.
Beers in the grotto at Inn Deep

·         Cask ales: I can’t get enough of ‘em.  Warm and flat, you have to be a true beer geek to re-train your brain and appreciate a beer that’s so contradictory to the ultra-fizzy, icy cold image of beer with which the macrobreweries have been brainwashing the public.  I love the look of a hand pump, the hiss it makes when it’s pulled back, the cascading beer, and the enhanced aroma and flavor.  When I’m visiting U.S. breweries and beer bars, I almost always order their cask ale (if it’s even available) because they’re rare; they’re a treat for the American beer geek.  Not so much in Scotland.  CAMRA’s been effective in the U.K. and most of the places in which Nicole and I drank had at least half of their selection on cask.  So, I drank cask ale.  A lot of cask ale.  Too much cask ale.  Even now, several weeks after leaving Scotland, I’ve been forgoing cask.  I’m tired of the cellar temperatures and I’m tired of the lack of bubbles.  Right now, I want to drink American-style.  I’ve had too much of a good thing.  In time, I’m sure I’ll find my way back to cask but, in the meantime, I’m enjoying my cold and effervescent brews.

Copper kettles at WEST     
Favorite beers from Glasgow
·         The aforementioned Outaspace from Drygate.
·         Dark Moor from The Kelburn Brewing Company. This dark and smoky cask ale was the perfect accompaniment to our dram of whisky at The Pot Still.
·         Black Ball Stout from William Bros., a strong, solid, roasty beer perfect for a cloudy Glaswegian afternoon.  Enjoyed at Inn Deep.
·         Punchline from Magic Rock Brewing.  A chipotle porter that’s actually from England, not Scotland.  This was the first beer of our honeymoon I felt went outside style guidelines.  Up until this point, everything I had was of high quality but pretty straightforward and, to the adventurous palate, sometimes boring.  Finally, something brewed outside the box!  Enjoyed at Inn Deep.

Stay tuned for the next leg of our honeymoon: Edinburgh.



Glasgow was one of my favorite parts of the honeymoon.  We didn’t rent a car during any part of the trip because we didn’t want to drive on the opposite side of the road.  Besides, I think walking is the best way to see a city; when you’re walking, you see things you wouldn’t from a car.  One of my personal highlights from the trip happened as we walked through Kelvingrove Park near the University of Glasgow.  We’d just finished dinner at The Bothy Restaurant and were walking toward the Inn Deep when we rounded a corner and came across bagpipers and drummers from the university’s band.  They formed a circle in the middle of the path as they practiced their piping skills and it was amazing to hear them play and to receive an impromptu concert with instruments so deeply rooted in the local culture.  Click here for video.

Never Forget
Two of my favorite meals of the trip were in Glasgow.  The first was at Piper’s Tryst, part of the National Piping Center.  After several meals of fish and chips, we were ready for something different.  One of the specials at the Tryst was chicken pot pie filled with peas, mushrooms, potatoes, and gravy—it was fantastic!  The restaurant also had on display a memorial portrait of Roddy, the tam o’ shanter-wearing guinea pig.  It was an odd commemoration but cute; I can’t help but smile when I imagine my own guinea pigs in a tam.

The second exceptional meal was at The Bothy Restaurant in the West End.  The restaurant itself is hidden away from the main road and down an alley.  It looks like an old cottage and feels like one in the inside, too.  I enjoyed the haddock and chips while Chris indulged in the Bothy Burger, a mix of steak and haggis.  Chris, more so than myself, likes to experiment with the local fare.  I figured I might as well give it a try since Chris already ordered it.  It was pretty tasty but I don’t think I’ll add haggis to my weekly meal rotation here at home.  I also noticed the desert menu featured banoffee pie.  Banoffee pie is an English dessert made with bananas, toffee, and cream (bananas + toffee = banoffee).  It didn’t disappoint.

When we were planning our trip to Scotland, I expected to see a lot of people strolling through the park with either Westies or Scottie dogs as both breeds of terriers originated in Scotland.  I’m a dog person and, more specifically, a Westie person.  I got my first Westie when I was in high school and, when I moved from a condo to an actual house, I got another from the Westie Rescue.  I even named him White Rascal after Avery Brewing’s witbier.  My parents have one named Peyton, named for the Broncos' quarterback (or, as Chris would say, the Colt’s quarterback).  Clearly, I love this breed.  Well, I was quite disappointed when I only saw one—maybe two—little white dogs on our trip.  I did, however, spend time playing with a schnauzer puppy at BrewDog.  Also, Scotland has an organization called Dugs n’ Pubs which directs pet owners to dog-friendly places in Scotland and the rest of the U.K.  Check out their website if only to pick up on the local slang.


Hiking the trail to The Cobbler
Hiking the trail to The Cobbler
If nothing else, Tennent's has a nicely painted brick wall surrounding it. Just a bit to the left is Drygate.
Glasgow was amping up to host the Commonwealth Games which is just like the Olympics except only with countries that are or were a part of the British Empire (unless said country was very naughty and happened to revolt against The Crown).
The Templeton Building

Monday, July 14, 2014

Newlyweds in the Old World: Northern Ireland

To read about the first leg of our honeymoon, Dublin, click here.

Northern Ireland

Having drunk the Irish capital dry, we hopped a train at Connolly Station and headed to Northern Ireland which—as a tidbit of information to the geographically challenged—is a constituent country of the U.K. making it a distinctly different nation from normal Ireland (or, the Republic of Ireland if you prefer).

Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
Our first stop in Northern Ireland was the village of Bushmills where we stayed at the Rest A While B&B.  I only mention the name because we had such a pleasant experience and I want to give them the recognition they deserve.  Rest A While is close to town, the proprietor is exceptionally friendly and helpful (she gladly stored in her fridge the bottles of beer I brought so I could enjoy them chilled), and the room was as comfy as the backs of the bleeting sheep outside our window.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Rest A While also provides a bike rental service which Nicole and I used to great effect, spending an entire day riding the rugged, Cliffs of Insanity-esque coastline of County Antrim (the actual filming location of the Cliffs of Insanity is in southwestern Ireland).  Meandering through the rolling pastures dotted with puffs of white—and the occasional black—woolen ruminants, we pedaled narrow, winding roads to Dunseverick Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and the real-life Q*bert game board known as the Giant’s Causeway.  Indeed, while this particular portion of our journey featured very little beer, it was my favorite.  This rural soul of mine often needs a break from the stuffiness of the city.  Sitting atop a craggy sea cliff, one simultaneously feels akin to a Celtic warrior on watch for Viking marauders, a tweed-coated poet inspired by the brutal majesty of the rock-strewn shores, and an archaeologist/adventurer à la Indiana Jones exploring hidden caves and ancient ruins.

Dunseverick Castle
Take note: I said the day featured very little beer; I didn’t say it was devoid of booze, though.  The astute reader may be thinking to themselves, “They’re in Bushmills, eh?  I wonder if there’s any connection to that famous distillery.”  There is!  The world’s oldest licensed distillery, the Old Bushmills Distillery, sits at the edge of town.  We took the tour and, while my alcohol familiarity pertains mostly to beer, I felt I was at least half-knowledgeable on the inner workings of whiskey since, before distillation, it’s basically hop-less beer.  After the beer stage, though, it’s all Greek to me.  I suppose that’s why one takes the tour, though: to learn something new.  Heck, I didn’t even know whiskey’s clear before being put in barrels; that’s 101 stuff to a true aficionado, I'm sure.  But, hey, I just drink the stuff (occasionally).  We also learned that Bushmills bottles for Jameson, that all the barrels used by Bushmills previously held a different liquid (usually Bourbon or sherry), and that bungholes smell quite lovely when they're of the whiskey barrel variety.  After the tour, we received a dram of our choosing.  I had the spicy Bushmills Black Bush and Nicole tried the Distillery Reserve, a whiskey only available at the actual, physical distillery. 

Black Bush
After a very full day riding country roads, we left Bushmills for Belfast.  We were lucky to get out, too; we left on Sunday morning and, apparently, because the nearby town of Portrush is home to numerous nightclubs (and the home of two crappy roller coasters we rode despite their shoddiness), the taxi drivers are too pooped from chauffeuring drunk Saturday night revelers that they take Sunday off.  Thankfully, our host at Rest A While personally knew a driver and basically made him give us a ride.  So, once again I say, Rest A While’s a good place to stay when in Bushmills; they’ll go up to bat for ya.

We only had two half-days in Belfast so we didn’t fully immerse ourselves in the local scene.  We went to the weekend market at St. George’s and, most pertinent to the nature of this blog, The Crown Liquor Saloon, likely the most ornate pub one can hope to set foot in.

Across the street from Europa Hotel (which claims the notorious title of “most bombed hotel in Europe”), The Crown, a masterpiece of Victorian design, envelopes patrons in a cocoon of opulence.  Impervious to the passing of time, the palatial Crown is firmly stuck in the 1880’s with intricately tiled floors, stained glass windows, pressed tin ceiling, elaborate wood-carved lions, fish-scaled pillars, and bar dividers, and, a treat for those familiar with a certain bar on Denver’s Colfax Avenue, authentic Irish snugs.  Though we were but two people and the snugs large enough to comfortably seat the Nuggets’ starting line-up, Nicole and I snuck in and enjoyed the gilded cubicle for a few minutes.  We left the door open to signify our openness to company but I think it’s an unwritten rule that if the snug is occupied even by only two people, stay out.  Topping off the lavish atmosphere was true, traditional, CAMRA-approved cask ale—the first we’d seen on the trip and certainly not the last. 

General musings on Northern Ireland
·         If you decide to engage in any outdoor activities along the northern coast, beware the stinging nettle (urtica dioica).  It’s a prolific, tall, purple-stalked weed and, as the name suggests, it stings like a S.O.B. when brushed up against.  Seriously, for 15 minutes it feels like a swarm of disgruntled bees on the infected area and it bubbles the skin like a burn from a cast-iron stove.  After a quarter-hour it subsides but, until such time, it’s a world of pain.  I came in contact with it so many times I started to develop an immunity.

This plant sucks
·         On our bike ride worthy of a Kerouac novel, we stopped at the world famous Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge but, honestly, my favorite site was Dunseverick Castle.  It’s not the most impressive castle in the world (it’s not even the most impressive castle in the vicinity [See: DunluceCastle]).  In fact, it’s basically two rock walls.  It’s heap of rubble.  And that’s what I love about it. 

One feels a stronger connection to the ancient ones when visiting a structure that’s not been polished and refurbished by modern hands.  Also, since it’s not quite as awe-inspiring as other castles, most tourists forgo Dunseverick Castle, leaving alone people such as myself to peacefully sit by the lapping North Atlantic and contemplate human history, our place in the natural order, and the legacy we leave for future generations.  It’s kind of hard to engage in such meditative exercises when kids in popsicle-stained shirts, angsty teenagers, and suburban parents with clicking cameras are running around.  It’s for these reasons I also prefer Hovenweep slightly more than Mesa Verde.

Into the snug at The Crown
Aside from the castle itself, Dunseverick’s setting is a place of grandeur.  The castle sits atop a seaside, grassy mesa which, itself, is surrounded by a horseshoe of cliffs with a U-shaped valley in between.  At the ends of the valley there are secluded, rocky beaches sheltered by the soaring bluffs and it’s all absolutely magnificent.  And dangerous.  Being a fan of the Moab area, I’m used to being at cliff’s edge.  A dry cliff’s edge.  At Dunseverick Castle, the rim is covered with wet grass, mud, spongy soil, and sheep droppings—it just begs for the foot to slip.  Plus, those damn stinging nettles everywhere.
·         Probably the best burger in Europe can be found at one of the booths in St. George’s Market.  I don’t know how they make “pepper sauce” but it tastes like crushed black pepper in viscous liquid form.  Superb!

Musings on Northern Ireland’s beer scene
·         Northern Ireland’s Beer Scene?  Well, it exists, I’m sure.  We simply didn’t get to experience much of it during our short visit.  I drank a lot of Whitewater Brewery’s offerings while in Bushmills but we never actually went to the brewery as it was quite a bit out of our way.  They have a few breweries in Belfast, too, but most were not within our general area and one was only a Guinness outpost.  Truly, I cannot comment much on beer in Northern Ireland as we spent too little drinking time there.

Favorite beers from Northern Ireland
·         Colorado Red from Thornbridge Brewery.  This is actually an English beer and I bought it in Dublin.  But, I drank it in Northern Ireland so I’m counting it.  I bought it for the name which derives from the fact it was a collaboration with Odell Brewing Co.  Enjoyed at Rest A While.
·         Nicholson’s Pale Ale from St. Austell Brewery, our first cask ale of the honeymoon.  I liked this more for the environment I drank it in, The Crown Liquor Saloon.  This beer is also of English origins.

Stay tuned for the next leg of our honeymoon: Glasgow.



Atop a seaside mountain overlooking Giant's Causeway
Most bombed hotel in Europe

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