Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: BRÚ House Fairview

Inside BRÚ House Fairview2024 Edit: Currently closed. Shortly to re-open under a new name and new management.

While 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