I know it’s been a minute, but between offspring, work, Eurovision and work travel, I had a lot on, so going out anywhere in Dublin wasn’t happening over the past few weeks, though going out in London for delicious cask mild and bitter was a nice bonus of the work travel.
On a side note that, back when I worked for dot-coms in the 1990s would have been a pop-up (this is before pop-up blockers were invented, children), I did very much enjoy a quick pint of ‘modern’ beer at The Kernel, but it’s always cask I seek out when on the Neighbouring Island, though I am happy to continue to report on the small-but-something cask resurgence happening here at places like The Black Sheep and the soon-to-be-reborn-again Underdog. Up North, homebrew stalwarts Get ‘Er Brewed have had a lovely series on cask by Matthew Curtis, and it was a nice coincidence to read the third part this week, especially the note on the cask line at Bullhouse East in Belfast, since I’m headed in that direction this weekend to celebrate a certain beer historian’s birthday. I was fortunate to live in places in the US with easily available cask – indeed, regular cask festivals – in both Philadelphia and Seattle, so I do hope that an increased focus on how great cask can be will encourage more of it on the island of Ireland – and this, dear reader, is where you would have closed your pop-up window, likely with an actual button, possibly animated, at the bottom of your window.
And so back to regular service, and this week’s Dublin pub – which does contain unused (or possibly entirely prop) hand pulls, as it happens – but we’ll give it a pass. We’re heading back into more touristy realms and crossing the river to the south side, but only just; The Palace Bar sits in between visitor hotspots like Temple Bar and Trinity College (plus, uh, the National Wax Museum), but I’ve always found it a pleasant place to stop in, even with a crowd, as you can still get beers from Rye River or The White Hag in addition to your Guinness, plus a top-notch whiskey selection. And it has a proper history to it – the Victorian interior is genuine, not the sort of ersatz mix you find in IrIsH pUbS elsewhere (and, regrettably, even in Dublin, sometimes – anyone who spends much time in my neighbourhood knows exactly which recently-renovated pub I’m likely being wildly unfair about; honestly, all would be forgiven if they would just put in one local craft line – sorry, yet another digression). But from its beautiful exterior which regularly features on the sort of ‘pubs of Dublin’ posters tourists buy at Carrolls to the dark-wood interior, it would be well worth a look-in, even without the welcome variety of beers, though I’m partial to the (often less crowded) back room with its glorious stained glass. Indeed, Publin has an entire feature on stained glass in Dublin pubs that is also well worth your time.
And there are the literary associations as well – of course, Brendan Behan, since few pubs, like the previously-featured Cat & Cage and Doyles Corner, do not claim him as a former regular, but also the likes of Patrick Kavanagh (currently the subject of much anger in our household, at least for a few more weeks, since the Leaving Cert requires much memorization of his works), Flann O'Brien (whose typewriter is here), Con Houlihan. Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, per The Inquirer. As it’s been here since 1823, per the bar, or 1828 after conversion from a corset factory, according to Whisky Magazine, it’s quite an old pub by Dublin standards; we simply don’t have much in the way of really old pubs in the city, regardless of what some might say, but this certainly works.
Given its location and atmosphere, it gets more than its share of tourists; I don’t think I’ve ever been in and not heard a North American accent declare that yes, it’s true, the Guinness really is just better here – it’s a modern-day ritual. And it’s not one I mind, either, though I suspect the ‘better’ has much more to do with ambience and the fact that Diageo makes sure the tap lines in the city are clean, but that’s fine. It’s the same reason I’m always seeking out cask when I head to England, or traditional lagers in Germany…we all have our fair share of broadly similar craft beers – and I absolutely adore our local Irish ones, and they are my usual go-tos – but if I’m travelling, I want the local speciality.
I have great respect for a pub like The Palace Bar that lets you experience both options – your ‘classic’ Irish pub with a pint of Guinness, plus the opportunity to support your smaller, local independent breweries. And for the whiskey nerd or novice, there’s plenty to try, and lots of expert guidance, too – don’t be too shy to ask.
Where: The Palace Bar, 21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 H950
Access from the city centre: You are in it
Sport: GAA: hurling is especially big here
TVs: I’ve only ever seen the GAA on, though it’s possible there’s other sport
Music: Keep an eye out for evening trad sessions
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen kids in with crisps, but they are probably bored
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar if that is your thing, but other, better options within a short walk include Bowes, The Flowing Tide, Mulligan’s, The Stag’s Head,
Local sites of note: Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Ha’Penny Bridge, GPO, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: Perhaps haunted by its former Irish Times regulars?
Other notes: In the same family since the 1940s; now (edited 20/08/2023) also stocking Ballykilcavan bottles – huzzah!