Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Palace Bar

The exterior of The Palace BarI 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.

The stained glass inside The Palace BarAnd 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.

Inside The Palace BarGiven 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
Food: Crisps?
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!

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Rascals HQ

At the bar at RascalsDublin is not – and this may shock some – a pizza destination. When we first moved, finding halfway-decent delivery pizza was something of a challenge. Granted, as ex-New Yorkers, we are picky; it was probably equally challenging when we lived in Seattle, so perhaps there’s some kind of damp weather equals mediocre pizza law of nature. As an aside, the worst pizza I’ve ever had was in Belgium, though, so even relative proximity to Italy doesn’t seem to come into it – but I digress. In many places in the US, you can find ‘taproom pizza’ – it’s usually pretty decent, and it at least goes well with the often-excellent beer on, with some examples being truly wonderful.

Beer Ladies at RascalsFortunately, Dublin has Rascals – where excellent pizza and fantastic beers meet. Although I often feel I don’t get there often enough, I seem to be darkening their doors quite frequently of late; they are top of mind as we had a fun day out at their Happy Days Beer & Food Festival last weekend (THERE WAS GOOD MEXICAN FOOD TOO, IT WAS A REVELATION), and they were kind enough to host a live episode of our little beer podcast earlier this year. In truth, they have been killing it recently with events of all stripes – a Father Ted night, some movie evenings here and there, a ska/beer release party last year, and a Eurovision screening in the offing, too – so much to enjoy!

Pints at RascalsFirst, though, some context for the visitor: Rascals is situated on a semi-industrial estate in Inchicore, with the brewery and restaurant all under one roof, so it’s much more of a ‘taproom’ than ‘pub’ vibe, and certainly not unlike many spots in the US or Canada in that respect; indeed, it reminds me very much of Victory before they had their renovation at their OG brewery in Downingtown, PA, USA, some years ago. I had never gotten around to doing the brewery tour before this past weekend’s festival, so I don’t think I had a sense of just how large it was, by local standards – so many tanks! As Rascals is one of the typical craft options you often seen at other pubs and bars around town, it makes sense that they need to keep cranking out their core beers like Happy Days, Yankee White and Wunderbar. But as with most taprooms, there’s always an interesting mix of pilot beers and one-offs only available on-site, and I always enjoy checking them out, even if they aren’t necessarily my sort of thing – and sometimes, they hit the jackpot with something like a gorgeous black IPA – looking at you, Rude Girl!

Inside the brewery at RascalsBut it’s also an incredibly family-friendly spot – even my weirdo kids can have their strange pizza needs catered to (to be fair, only the smaller one is weird now, and cannot manage exotic ingredients like ‘sauce’ on pizza). There are a few outdoor spots, too, with heaters for chilly weather.

It’s also worth noting they support the local football club, St Pat’s (as Bohs fans, we are required to boo here) – but given the size and budget of the League of Ireland, honestly, it’s just exciting to see the local teams get a look-in – the rivalries are still (mostly) friendly, and it’s great to be able to get locally-made beer at the teeny-tiny stadiums.

In short, given that the 13 bus goes from just outside my house directly to Rascals, I should get there (even) more often!

Where: Rascals HQ, Goldenbridge Estate, Tyrconnell Rd, Inchicore, Dublin, D08 HF68
Access from the city centre: Buses 13, C1, C2, C3, C4, G1, G2, Luas Red Line to Blackhorse
Food: PIZZA
Sport: Sometimes, if it’s a big game
TVs: Screens for certain events
Music: DJ nights and a very professional sound system; always a fantastic mix
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: Low – but there is a distillery next door, and an interesting bar nearby in The Saint – and it’s easy to hop on the Luas and head to Fidelity
Local sites of note: Stillgarden Distillery, Gravity Climbing Centre, Goldenbridge Cemetery
Haunted: Perhaps a candidate for a ‘modern liminal places’ hauntological experience
Other notes: Don’t miss their Instagram videos in advance of events – they are always very funny