Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Underdog 3.0

Outside the (new) UnderdogAnd…it’s back!

Yes, as of this very week, The Underdog has been reborn again, and all 20 taps are now present and accounted for at the top of Capel Street. Happily, the iconic yellow neon sign is also now in place above the door, offering that extra little level of comfort and security. In the new spot – the former Galway Bay joints Taco Libre and Paddle & Peel – it’s now a dangerously-convenient walk from my house, and as I’d missed the opening night with some last-minute work travel (and then a nightmarish extra night away in Amsterdam, a city I would like to visit on purpose some day, but whose airport did not impress in any way), I had to stop in for a quick beer as I was walking past anyway mid-week.

At the bar in the new UnderdogAs it was the summer solstice, and I was on my way to see the 50th anniversary screening of The Wicker Man as per the custom of my people, it was especially appropriate to try a beer from Verdant on my way. While I still have yet to find their Weird Walk collaboration beer, Ritual, I did very much enjoy The First Note. And I *wish* I could make it to the brewery in Cornwall for their Leyline event, which features all sorts of folk horror-adjacent oddness, but well – this had to do (and it did it beautifully).

Back room at the new UnderdogBut back to the new Underdog – what’s it like? Well, it’s brighter and fresher than either previous incarnation – not difficult, no longer being in a cellar or in a dark, dark room – and it feels like there’s more space to spread out, with a variety of seating types, from barstools and solo tables to some more communal spots in the main rooms. The taps are still displayed on the screens above the bar, with another set of screens in the back room; very handy for planning that second drink without having to take up valuable bar space thinking. But as before, Paddy and team can be relied on to give top-notch recommendations, and there’s an extensive bottle and can selection in addition to the fresh taps.

Cask is comingWhat there is not – yet – is cask, but the cask sign is in place, and ready for the two handpumps that will be appearing in the not-too-distant future (I’ve been promised this, no one would lie to me about cask ale). Food is also not an option just at present, but there are plans to add some bites later in the summer if all goes well. But with so many food options on Capel Street, there is plenty of opportunity to stay well-fed.

As before, the digital taplist seen in the bar is available online as well, so you can easily do some advance planning. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the socials for events like tap takeovers and general ‘hey, look what we just tapped’ updates. And for a bit of a sense of that taplist, it’s still the most diverse in Dublin – an ever-changing mix of strengths and styles, with beers from near and far – everything from a straightforward Irish stout (the Whiplash one, not the Other One) to a Lapsang Souchong-infused lambic from Belgium. Sure, there are lots of hazebois from all over at the moment, but it’s what people are asking for, so that’s understandable (and they tend to be the actually good ones), and things are always rotating.

I am very much not mad about the new location being so conveniently located for me – just far enough away to feel like I’ve had a bit of a walk, but close enough to simply drop in on a whim. All hail Underdog, thrice-born of its kind!

Where: Underdog, 199 King St N, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D07 PR5X (essentially, the top of Capel Street)
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 16, 44, 46A, 155, Luas Green Line, 15-20 minute walk
Food: Patience
Sport: No
TVs: Also no
Music: Always a great indie soundtrack on the speakers
Family-friendliness: There are some outdoor tables if you need to stop off with your kids on the way to Penneys
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Black Sheep, J McNeill’s, The King’s Inn, Bonobo, Bar 1661, The Church, Slattery’s…and many more – not too far to L Mulligan. Grocer
Local sites of note: National Leprechaun Museum, Wolfe Tone Square, 14 Henrietta Street, King’s Inns, Smyth’s Toy Superstore is a must-visit, per my smaller child
Haunted: I’ve heard the site is mildly cursed, but hope that has been resolved
Other notes: An incredibly speedy turn-around – last pints poured at the old location in April, first ones poured here in mid-June
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Cassidys

I must admit, the immediate vicinity of this week’s pub is something I typically speed through as quickly as possibly – the visual clutter from its side of Westmoreland Street is not the most inviting vista, featuring, as it does, the National Wax Museum (NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM), lots of plastic major-brand logos, and CCT Dublin’s building in that block must be one of the worst insults to architecture in any European capital (and I have a soft spot for a lot of ‘ugly’ kinda-Brutalist buildings, but this…is not that). The other side is no better, with a KFC, Kingdom of Sweets, various shops selling tourist tat and TGI Fridays all taking up just slightly too much space in their tired-looking mostly-19th century buildings, some very much in need of a bit of kind restoration.

The bar at CassidysAnd yet, walk a few blocks in most directions, and you’re back in ‘tourist’ Dublin, with (slightly) cleaner streets, and Trinity College and the Central Bank/Parliament buildings just steps away – even nearby Temple Bar tends to look tidy compared to this particular section of road. And while I’d been curious about the nerdy art outside Cassidys – yes, finally, we’ve come to the pub itself – it’s only open in the evenings, and as a Tired Person who doesn’t tend to go out very late, I’d never had the chance to stop in – and, frankly, being-targeted-by-Star-Wars-art notwithstanding, I didn’t expect much from this spot – but that all changed, thanks to the hot weather that doesn’t seem to be ending.

Waxy candles at CassidysI had an event at the National Library of Ireland, and happened to be walking home past Cassidys as it was opening – and, as wearing adult clothes and walking to and from the Library had happened at the hottest part of the day, I thought I’d break up the trip home and grab something low-key to cool off; I’d heard they had a craft tap or two, so surely, I could find a refreshing Ambush or something along those lines. I was more than a little pleasantly surprised to discover that this was not a case of a few local beers, but what could nearly map onto a good bar in Brooklyn or Philly in terms of selection – local beers were represented by the likes of Rye River, Trouble, Rascals, Barrelhead, Crafty Bear and The White Hag – and not always with the most commonly-spotted beers, either. UK craft came in the form of Thornbridge, with the US represented by craft and crafty options: Cigar City, Blue Moon, Stone and Lagunitas (feel free to judge some as you prefer). There was also plenty of normal-person beer – Guinness, of course, but also Estrella, Murphy’s and Erdinger, plus a few others – and that’s before mentioning the cans.

FEELING SEENAdd in the mix of gothy-meets-nerdy dive bar décor – drippy red candles, dark wood, Star Wars art (again – I realize I am being Personally Targeted), beer and beer-adjacent stickers everywhere – and I immediately felt at home – indeed, I was annoyed with myself for not having known just what was hidden away in this otherwise-best-avoided block of Dublin. Granted, there was also a slight sense in the air that the bar staff here had ‘seen things’ – indeed, they had to remove someone only shortly after opening, but it was all handled swiftly and as politely as possible, before it became a bigger problem – I’ve mentioned it before, but I am always thoroughly impressed by how well Dublin bar staff can defuse a situation before it becomes a larger issue; I’ve not seen it done nearly as well anywhere else I’ve lived – there’s probably a larger lesson of some sort there.

They don’t seem to update any social media or websites at a useful cadence, so perhaps that’s why they had not really been on my radar; IYKYK, I suppose. Well, now you know, and knowing, as I’m sure you’re aware, is half the battle…

Where: Cassidys, 27 Westmoreland St, Dublin, D02 PX77
Access from the city centre: You are in it
Food: Pizza, apparently
Sport: Not a priority
TVs: Didn’t see any
Music: Bit of a would-be metal-bar vibe, but plenty of indie faves mixed in
Family-friendliness: Let’s not
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Palace Bar is a short walk, JR Mahon’s, Piper’s Corner, The Flowing Tide and many more are nearby; there’s also Temple Bar, top, but you know how to manage that
Local sites of note: Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Ha'Penny Bridge, GPO, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: I sense something…a presence I’ve not felt since…
Other notes: Handy whiteboard with wifi details, beer specials and events near the front – also, plenty of cans; not to be confused with the other Cassidys in D2

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Beer Temple

Inside The Beer TempleThis week, we are back to a Galway Bay pub – The Beer Temple. Opened in late 2021, it is the bright, Shiny and Chrome conjoined sibling to The Oak, whose dark wood and deep colours we’ve discussed previously. Somewhat ironically, as it’s very much a Craft Beer with a capital Craft pub, you can get a Guinness here – whereas the Guinness Enthusiast story took place mere steps away in The Oak. But given its city centre location, right on the tourist trail, you do get Guinness Amateurs: on more than one occasion, I’ve seen customers take their 3/4 filled pints and begin to walk off, and the patient barstaff have to call them back to tell them that no, they will get full pints, it’s just going to take a moment. While I can’t personally imagine walking off with a partially-filled glass I’d paid something in the neighbourhood of €7 for (still cheaper than many, if not most, pints around Temple Bar), perhaps it’s a tradition somewhere.

The tapsI’m drawn to The Beer Temple because they typically have a very interesting list of guest beers from other Irish breweries like Third Barrel, Lineman and Boundary, as well as some of the more unusual Galway Bay beers; my current obsession is I Hear You Like IPA, their cold IPA (is it a ‘real’ style? don't at me, it’s tasty). However, my most recent visit this past weekend was Purely Medicinal – I was incredibly thirsty after running 10K in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon, in unusual-for-Ireland heat and sun, and desperately needed something isotonic and food so pairing a BRÚ IPA (plus a lot of VitHit Hydrate) with some halloumi fries was the order of the day.

Post-race refreshmentAgain, given its city centre location, The Beer Temple does get a lot of tourists, but quite frequently they are there specifically to find new-to-them beers, and on this visit, I ended up in a lovely chat with a few of them, offering tips on other places to go and beers to try, and I also got some great suggestions for their cities in return. I always advise they make sure not to skip The Oak, given that it’s literally on the other side of the wall, and that they can order from either bar, but it seems many do not notice it’s there, despite the two bars sharing a staircase and toilets – so this is part of my justification for having two separate entries – not just do the pubs have different VIBES, but they do seem to end up with different customers. Indeed, I do find I am usually visiting one or the other, rather than both, depending on what I’m in the mood for or what has brought me to this part of town.

And while all 18 taps may not always be on, I love the blackboard above the bar, listing out each beer – it’s a cliché I am always here for, even if Dave and Barbara aren’t necessarily the ones to refer me to it…

Where: The Beer Temple, 1-3 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 AN28
Access from the city centre: You are in it – nearly everything touristy is within a 5-10 minute walk
Food: Usual Galway Bay menu
Sport: Not so much
TVs: Nope
Music: Always plenty of bangers on the speakers
Family-friendliness: All Galway Bay pubs are pretty family-friendly, but I would usually head to The Oak if in town with the smaller one
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is right there if you enjoy watching money disappear, or hit up The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Christchurch Inn, Dudley’s, The Brazen Head or simply walk through to the other side
Local sites of note: Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: Did the renovation unearth any ghosts? Or are they all up the road at The Lord Edward?
Other notes: Don’t be like me and forget there’s often a Dungarvan tap on The Oak side

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Flowing Tide

Outside The Flowing TideWe’re sticking near the city centre in the series this week, though on the Correct Side of the river, with The Flowing Tide. While likely best known as a theatrical pub – it’s right across from the Abbey Theatre, and has been associated with actors, writers and other ne’er-do-wells since the early 20th century – there’s a lot of other history to this spot, too. It’s been a pub since the 1820s, and, as reported by the Irish Times, was even hit by an artillery shell meant for the nearby GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916. And back in 1907, it was one of the scenes of the Playboy of the Western World Riots, as angry crowds spilled out of the Abbey Theatre; give the Three Castles Burning episode on the topic a listen, it’s fascinating stuff. So, for a theatre nerd like me, this is an ideal spot to stop pre-show, but it’s also pleasant to simply wander in on a Sunday afternoon for a quiet pint. Indeed, the last time I did just that, I ran into an older gentleman from my neighbourhood who does it on a weekly basis – it’s his standing trip away from his/my usual haunts, and we had a lovely chat about it, and about which of our closer-to-home locals we most enjoy for different occasions.

One of the snugs at The Flowing TideAlthough the pub closed last summer, it re-opened, now under the same ownership as The King’s Inn, another Northside pub, after only a few months of well-considered renovation – it was, to be fair, looking a little rough beforehand. Now, as in the nearby Palace Bar, the stained glass is very much a focus, the theatrical posters are thoughtfully distributed around the walls – and the snugs are especially inviting.

As mentioned, I do love a good theatrical pub; The Harp in Covent Garden fills a somewhat similar niche, albeit on a larger scale, catering to theatre-goers, performers, tourists and locals alike (but with good cask options as well – you knew I’d have to bring that up). And while there’s no cask in The Flowing Tide, there is a broader-than-you-might-expect tap list, with Irish craft stalwarts Scraggy Bay and Ambush, as well as Beamish for the Corkonian stout enthusiast. You’re more likely to run into That Person who insists that Beamish is better than Guinness, versus the Guinness Enthusiast, but both are well catered for, as are whiskey fans.

Inside The Flowing TideAnd as for the pub’s name, I’m partial to both the Shirley Collins and Eliza Carthy versions of Just As The Tide Was Flowing (Roud 1105), although the probably-correct local lore says it’s simply down to its proximity to the Liffey rather than being named after the song. And while the music here isn’t always trad, but it does tend to (understandably) be more Irish than English folk, but every time I walk by (or stop in), the song gets stuck in my head. Normal folk music nerd problems…

Where: The Flowing Tide, 9 Lower Middle Abbey St, North City, Dublin
Access from the city centre: You are just north of it; the Luas Red Line is directly outside (Abbey Street stop)
Food: Toasties
Sport: While it’s a theatrical pub, it does draw pre- and post-GAA crowds on match days and there are screens
TVs: More downstairs, though there’s a big screen on big GAA/rugby days
Music: Lots of different acts downstairs, quiet enough to talk upstairs
Family-friendliness: Everyone seems welcome, but there isn’t a huge amount for non-theatrical kids to do
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar if you are a masochist, but other, better options within a short walk include The Palace Bar, Piper’s Corner, Bowes, Mulligan’s and The Confession Box; also near The Silver Penny if you need a ‘Spoons
Local sites of note: Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, The Spire, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, GPO, Ha’Penny Bridge, Trinity College
Haunted: Surely, there’s an imprint of the Playboy Riots? Synge would be a fun ghost, but there’s so much scope for other theatrical ghosts (the best kind, obvs)
Other notes: The Neptune Lounge in the basement is also re-opened and has many screens for sports events and there is live music

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, Cassidys, The Oval, JR Mahon’s
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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Oak

Pre-gaming for NeilThe time has come.

Yes, it’s the Guinness Enthusiast story, at last! And it takes place at one of my favourite city centre pubs – The Oak.

The Oak is a bit of a hidden gem, despite being physically attached to its fellow Galway Bay pub, The Beer Temple (one we’ll cover separately in a future post), and being smack-dab in the middle of Dame Street. It nearly always seems a bit quieter, no matter what’s going on next door or more generally in town. It’s my not-so-secret go-to spot before a show at the Olympia, just a few doors down, as the Olympia is an utter wasteland from a drinks perspective – nothing but Heineken and Island’s Edge as far as the eye can see. It’s important to be prepared.

The Oak’s interior is cosy and ‘pubby’ – lots of dark wood, repurposed from the RMS Mauretania, so they say, and small seating areas – and, perhaps because it’s small, it can be easy to overlook; Dame Street is busy. But because of its central location, it is a handy spot, both for locals looking for a pre- or post-event pint or for tourists from near and far – and that’s how it happened.

I was enjoying a quiet solo pint before a show, and there was a healthy mix of accents in the pub – some of my fellow North Americans, Irish of all descriptions, a sprinkling of Yorkshire and Lancashire, plus the common local Brazilian and Spanish regulars. There had already been a few ‘no, we don’t serve Guinness, but we do have our own stout’ encounters that evening – while some looked a bit surprised, all had at least given it a go on this occasion. A woman of middling years (as one of their number, I’m allowed to say so) with a pronounced Dublin 4 accent strode in purposefully and asked, not entirely impolitely, for a Guinness. The usual ‘no, but we have -‘ response began, and she immediately cut off the bartender mid-sentence, with rather more volume this time. ‘That can’t be. This is an IRISH PUB, you must have Guinness.’

Glances were exchanged all around the bar – after all, many of the tourists were here specifically to try other local beers – but she wasn’t done yet. ‘Are you SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING I cannot get a GuinnessIRELAND’S NATIONAL DRINK – at this so-called Irish pub?’ There was a pause, as she looked around for support, and she continued, at a further-increased volume, ‘do any of you here find this AT ALL ACCEPTIBLE?’ To the credit of absolutely everyone in the pub, not a single person responded directly, though there was a light chuckle toward the back of the room. After another dramatic pause, she tried once more to garner some kind of support – once again, upping the decibels: ‘I cannot BELIEVE that a business like this can exist, in this day and age, calling itself an IRISH PUB without Guinness.’

And with that, she turned on her heel and flounced out of the pub.

Slimer knows how to behave in the pubFinally, everyone smiled, and the visiting Canadian next to me made sure to leave a tip for the bartender, who just shook her head at the whole business. Someone else at the bar noted joking/not joking that surely a pub was Irish by dint of being, you know, in Ireland, but that they’d be more careful in future. He continued, ‘I bet she doesn’t even like Guinness,’ and with that, headed out.

He was probably right.
Or maybe it was performance art.

In any case, I was happy enough with my Weights & Measures.

Where: The Oak, 1-3 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 AN28
Access from the city centre: You’re in it; 5 min walk from many sites
Food: Usual Galway Bay menu – I’m partial to the halloumi fries
Sport: Nada
TVs: No
Music: Always a nice background soundtrack, but not too loud
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is right there if you have a fondness for stag parties and overpriced beer, or hit up The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Christchurch Inn, Dudley’s, The Brazen Head or simply walk through to the other side
Local sites of note: Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: Really, everything in this part of town should have a ghost or two – did the wood from the ship bring something with it? Would that make it Wood Tape Theory, vs Stone Tape Theory?
Other notes: If you really fancy something from The Beer Temple, you can simply walk through and order it, though there’s usually a guest beer or two on at The Oak as well

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: JR Mahon’s

Inside the newly-renovated JR Mahon'sI tend to do most of my pub-going on the north side of the Liffey because it’s, well, just better over here, and it means I usually avoid most of the more touristy areas of Dublin. However, the city centre is so called for a reason, and it cannot be denied that the south side of the river is an incredibly convenient spot, especially for out-of-town guests, or when one is trying to get people from other parts of the city to find a location that suits most, transit-wise.

Spooky cask pintAnd so, even though it’s not one of my more usual haunts, I’ve certainly spent a fair bit of time in the former JW Sweetmans, now reborn as JR Mahon’s (it should be noted that local punctuation is consistently inconsistent when it comes to pub names – I try my best to roll with it). We apparently all dodged the proverbial bullet when the pub changed hands late last year, with the Mahon family, who own a number of what I think of as rugby-with-light-Irish-branding bars in NYC, outbidding Professional Main Character Conor McGregor for the spot.

By local standards, the renovation was quite swift, especially considering the winter holidays, and it reopened a few weeks ago with the new name, plus three house beers and – most importantly for me – the return of the beer engines that had been dormant post-lockdown. With the return of cask last weekend – and with a pre-planned event there anyway – it was a perfect opportunity to check out the changes. The pub occupies the same enormous spot on the Liffey, with multiple floors and masses of dark wood, but it has been beautifully renovated and considerably brightened up – the stained glass on the ground floor gives some much-needed colour, and while the warmth of the wood remains, things certainly seem lighter and much more airy than in the previous incarnation. There are still many – possibly more – little snugs, nooks and crannies, but the flow is much better overall, with all four floors of space having a bit of their own character.

Another snugThe beer is once again brewed by Barrelhead/Hopburgh/Hopkins & Hopkins, who also make a lovely (usually) bottled helles and schwarzbier, with the current offerings being a stout, pale ale and a red ale. It was the stout on cask for our visit, and this dry-hopped version was very much to my tastes – if you want to hear me drone on at length about my love for hoppy dark beers, we will shortly have a Beer Ladies Podcast episode for you, but I digress. Fresh cask beer doesn’t come cheap here, though – this was a €7.30 pint, with the kegged beers only slightly cheaper at €7 for the same size. Now, it’s not *much* cheaper at The Black Sheep, where cask options have also recently returned (huzzah!) for €6.75, but at least it is the same price for cask or keg there. It remains to be seen what cask prices will be when they return to The Underdog in (hopefully) a very short time when they make their move to Capel Street, but I suspect it won’t be hovering quite as close to €8. I quite enjoyed the pale ale, too, I have to say, possibly because it was simply a solid, old-school pale ale – no hazebois here!

Lights at JR Mahon'sIn the before-times, I had a series of disappointing-to-actively-bad food experiences under the old name, and as I’ve only had the chips so far, so I don’t feel fully qualified to speak to the food options at JR Mahon’s, at least, not yet. Back to the beer side, though, I do hope that Ambush appears on the tap lineup soon, to give another local option; it was listed on the printed menu, but not visible anywhere on this visit. Early days, though.

In short, this will never be your cheapest pint in Dublin, but the cask is good and the surroundings are lovely – and hey, it still beats Temple Bar!

Where: JR Mahon’s, 1-2 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, D02
Access from the city centre: You’re essentially there; 5 min walk from many sites
Food: General pub grub
Sport: Horse racing, Premiere League, rugby, GAA, etc.
TVs: In the various bars, though not always visible from every snug
Music: Live music Thurs-Sun evenings; general background tunes otherwise
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is a quick walk if you wish to continue parting with your money (though the Porterhouse there may help some), or O’Neill’s, Bowes, The Palace Bar, The Oval, Mulligans, The Flowing Tide & Piper’s Corner are all within a short stroll
Local sites of note: National Wax Museum, Trinity College, Abbey Theatre, Irish Whiskey Museum, O’Connell Street
Haunted: I should hope so, but have heard nothing
Other notes: There’s a ‘Spoons across the river if you have nearly bankrupted yourself, but need to carry on a pub crawl

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Fidelity

A glass of beer at FidelityAnd…we’re back!

After a brief Easter break, which included starting a new job and a quick trip to London (two not-unrelated activities – although I am mostly remote, my new office is a short stroll from the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and I am not *cough* remotely *cough* mad about that – sorry/not sorry), it’s back to business as usual for Weirdo Dublin Pubs, with more or less weekly updates.

We’ve previously covered The Big Romance, and this week, we’re heading to their sister bar, Fidelity, which is very much brought to you by Whiplash, with the music-geek vibe begun at The Big Romance turned to 11 (or whatever it would be people who are *really* into their sound systems would say in 2023 – I just appreciate the tunes). But that respect for the music and the atmosphere still means that it’s not too loud to enjoy conversation, except when the currently-still-smallish spot is packed in the evenings, though there is work going on to expand the space. And while they also have great cocktails and some things I am told are called ‘wines’ on a few taps, this is a proper Beer Appreciation Chamber, with the taps not only as the aesthetic focal point of the bar (MANIFOLD POURING SYSTEM, FOLKS!), but with the form following function – each one can be dialled (literally with an analog dial, so I am told) exactly to the ideal temperature for the specific beer it dispenses. This level of nerdery may be lost on many, perhaps even most, patrons, but it’s not simply window-dressing; the emphasis on quality is real.

manifold taps, y'allThe beer list over the bar is also very intentionally designed in a way that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I quite like it, and, more importantly, I love what it communicates – a varied lineup of styles, strengths and guest taps, often from a brewery that’s in town to do a collaboration with Whiplash; recent and upcoming partners include England’s Left-Handed Giant and Track, as well as Spain’s Garage, plus other Irish breweries like Mescan. I’ve especially enjoyed Whiplash’s own Bowsie Brown Ale (everybody knows that I love…brown ale) and The Dead, a heritage-recipe porter, and it's been a treat to try beers I’ve only ever previously had canned fresh on tap – Dark Steering, their glorious schwarzbier, is especially nice.

It's like that - speakers & artAnd while it’s slightly disappointing that there won’t be a Fidelity beer festival this year, it’s great to have another craft beer outlet within a reasonable walking distance – the fact that it’s ‘only’ Whiplash and Friends is no bad thing.

I still prefer to visit Fidelity relatively close to when they open – as an official Old, I like my bars to be a bit less crowded – but I’m also very glad to have Fidelity in the mix; it’s a great addition to Dublin (and, of course, on the Right Side of the Liffey, too).

Where: Fidelity, 79 Queen St, Smithfield, Dublin 7, D07 DW3R
Access from the city centre: Buses C1, C2, C3, C4, 37, 39, 39A, 70, 83, 83A, Red Line Luas, 20ish minute walk
Food: Not at the moment
Sport: No
TVs: Definitely not
Music: Very serious, but Good Serious
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen people with hipster baby carriers in for a drink (not judging, I’ve been that person), but it’s not a great spot for the small folk
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Bonobo, The Cobblestone, The Belfry, The Brazen Head and L Mulligan, Grocer are all within a few minutes’ walk – and that’s just getting started
Local sites of note: Collins Barracks, Four Courts, St Michan's Church, St Audoen's Church, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: There is a history to the spot, so perhaps there are ghosts from the former Dice Bar
Other notes: Keep an eye on the socials for tap takeovers and collab announcements

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: BRÚ House Fairview

Inside BRÚ House Fairview2024 Edit: closed and re-opened as The Strand House.

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