Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Old Spot

Not in Dublin: A lovely beer at Beer Run in NYCI had every intention of writing something about the couple of new-to-me bars I had a chance to pop into in New York while I was over for work – Beer Run, for obvious running-nerd/beer-nerd reasons was a standout to me, and I was thrilled to have a few festibiers from around the region (I’m the weirdo who prefers the darker, grainier, more bready American festbiers to their modern German counterparts – sorry/not sorry), but instead, I ended up with a longer hiatus as I came back from the States with Covid – thanks, Obama!

Luckily, I was recovered by this past weekend, and I had the chance to get to one of our favourite pubs on the fancier side of Dublin: The Old Spot. We don’t get over this way terribly often, although we used to live around the corner, just on the other side of the Aviva, so going to the stadium in question gave us a perfect opportunity. After watching the Irish Women’s National Team beat Northern Ireland, we headed around the corner to The Old Spot for dinner – and it does feel very much, to me, like a ‘nice dinner’ spot (Spot?).

In Dublin: A pint of HopeIt’s certainly on the ‘gastro’ end of the gastropub spectrum, but it doesn’t try to hide this, and with that said, it’s entirely family-friendly and has both ‘good’ kids’ options and ones my currently-very-picky younger one will accept. As a side note, the vast majority of pubs and restaurants, even the ‘higher end’ ones here in Ireland tend to be welcoming to children (presuming it’s not terribly late) in a way that just isn’t as common, at least in my experience, in either the US or UK, where there is often a tendency to treat even older children as annoyances or somehow not members of the same species. And while I am not, on the whole, the biggest fan of ‘other people’s children,’ I find them much better-behaved and more like fully-baked humans when they are given the opportunity to exist comfortably in public spaces. Again, this is by no means universal in either direction, but Ireland seems to sit more in the ‘European’ camp in this regard, with the Anglo-American attitude being typically (though not always) considerably less inclusive – but I digress, back to the food and drink!

I’m a big fan of the food at The Old Spot – even the burger simply seems ‘elevated’ compared to what you find in most pubs, and there are always interesting specials that I would consider actually ‘special,’ but by no means fussy. And in addition to a really lovely cocktail menu, they have Hope and Kinnegar on tap, and in their own glassware, so Irish craft beer is well-supported. There is also an excellent whiskey selection, which pairs well with the always-interesting dessert menu, so I’ve never left in any way hungry.

DessertI know that some find the décor a bit twee, but I really enjoy the whimsey of it – plenty of on-theme pigs around, and there’s always the more ‘bar’ bar area at the front if you prefer simply stopping in for a pre- or post-match pint.

I need to get back that way more frequently.

Where: The Old Spot, 14 Bath Ave, Dublin 4, D04 Y726
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 7, 7A, 38, 38A, 39 39A, 56A, 77A, DART
Food: Gastropub, with many specials
Sport: Better for before or after the game
TVs: Nope
Music: I always feel targeted
Family-friendliness: Thoroughly welcoming
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – The Bath Pub, Slattery’s, The Chophouse, The 51, The Gasworks and The Merry Cobbler are all a short stroll in various directions
Local sites of note: Aviva Stadium, Beggars Bush Barracks, National Print Museum
Haunted: There are some lovely older homes in the area – maybe some ghosts wander in?
Other notes: Worth making a reservation, it can fill up

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Porterhouse Temple Bar

Upstairs bar at The PorterhouseThey don’t have German beer on tap any more.

While The Porterhouse has been serving its own beer in Temple Bar since 1996, it used to highlight more overseas craft and traditional beers as well; or, at least, that is how it seems to stick in everyone’s memory – ‘everyone’ here being the group I most recently visited with – we all had pre-Covid memories of finding a range of interesting German, Belgian, British and American craft beers on tap, alongside The Porterhouse’s own well-known porters and stouts.

Bottles from around the worldThe bottles of beer from all over the world – a good portion of them from now-defunct breweries – still line the walls, there are sessions happening in multiple parts of the building, but there does seem to be a sense that things have changed – and perhaps it’s more because the local craft beer scene can now fill more of those taps, even in a huge venue like The Porterhouse. Indeed, the downstairs bar was nearly all local options like Lineman, The White Hag, Kinnegar and Whiplash, which was delightful to see – and the prices were not terrible, despite the Temple Bar location.

When The Porterhouse first opened here, Temple Bar itself was not the combination tourist trap/stag-and-hen destination it has become in the past decade or so, though it is worth noting that while the immediate area is a nightmare for a nice pint at a normal cost (without a bit of effort), there are still interesting places to go for tourists and locals alike – the Project Arts Centre and Smock Alley Theatre are great for performances of all sorts, and the National Photographic Archive has all manner of excellent exhibits. You may well have to avoid or step over certain kinds of revellers, and there are pubs to simply skip because they will charge you something like €‎14 for a Guinness, but having a spot like The Porterhouse that is a known quantity does provide a bit of a refuge from that aspect of the area.

A session breaks outThere is probably some sort of thesis possible in terms of determining whether Temple Bar and its flagship modern businesses, including The Porterhouse, ever had a specific ‘heyday’ in between the overall regeneration of the area to pinpointing when the tourist trap tipping point happened – and I’m far from being best-placed to determine when that happened. And while the recent-ish news that Conor McGregor would be buying the brewing arm of The Porterhouse did not thrill most local beer nerds, it can’t be said that this turn of events is in any way reflected in the pub – yet. There was no sign of his stout, already brewed by the same team, and no obvious change in the overall ‘feel,’ though as the pubs are not part of the deal, we may not expect that to happen any time soon (or it may have already ‘happened’ to the old Porterhouse Central, now ‘Tapped‘ – a makeover about which I Have Opinions).

So, on balance, the absence of German beers nowadays may be a sign of the growth of the local industry – though I wouldn’t mind a nice radler in this hot weather. Mind yourself on the cobblestones.

Where: Porterhouse Temple Bar, 16-18 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 VR94
Access from the city centre: 6-ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pasta, cheese boards, desserts
Sport: It’s on when it’s on
TVs: Scattered around, just keep an eye out
Music: GenX and elder Millennials are aggressively targeted by the playlist before the sessions – this is fine
Family-friendliness: While it can get crowded, its size usually makes it fine during the day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Stag’s Head, The Long Hall, The Lord Edward, The Beer Temple/The Oak…or walk across the river to hit The Black Sheep and Underdog. Oh, and there’s all of Temple Bar, if that is your thing
Local sites of note: Dublin Castle, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia, Olympia Theatre
Haunted: Big old building like this? Surely…
Other notes: Don’t get me started on Tapped

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Bonobo

Bonobo: candles, beer and a menuWhile I very much consider Underdog the only ‘true’ craft beer bar in town, we do have some pubs here in Dublin that reside comfortably in Craftonia, and this week, we’re heading to one of those: Bonobo.

Bonobo is part of what seems like an ever-growing team of bars with animal-themed names – Caribou in Galway, Impala in Cork, and the recently-opened Jackal in Navan, with another sister bar in Dublin, Kodiak, in Rathmines (which I keep going past on the Luas when it is not open – I must remedy this). However, as is usually the case when something is aimed at people who are Much Cooler than I am, the names are less about animals and more to do with electronic music (which, to be clear, is a thing I like, but my close familiarity with any artists ended around 1997, unless you count Philip Glass, or people sampling anonymous numbers stations).

Couch inside BonoboThis introduction may sound like I’m being a bit snarky about it, but in fact, I absolutely love the atmosphere at Bonobo – the weird-old-religious-books-and-jazz-records aesthetic is something I am very much here for, and the different areas of the bar each have a slightly different vibe. I’ve seen the odd complaint on local Reddit that it’s ‘snobby’ but I’ve never personally found that to be the case; I’ve always had a warm welcome. Granted, it’s possible that being a purple-haired woman who knows all the breweries on tap may mean I am already among the elect, but there are plenty of ‘normal’ beers on tap – no difficult entrance exam is required.

Adorable cactus and thumb-printed glass at BonoboI’ve also heard someone refer to it as ‘one of those IPA bars,’ which is an interesting if worrying linguistic development – it’s bad enough that ‘craft’ meant everything and nothing, and now ‘IPA’ seems to be heading the same way. And, in any case, it’s hardly accurate – Bonobo always has a range of styles on tap (often a fair few sours of late), with the likes of Trouble, Kinnegar and Third Barrel representing the Irish contingent, and plenty of Spanish (as in actually from Spain, unlike Madri) and Scandinavian options most of the time as well. Again, there is no shortage of Guinness/Hop House 13/Madri if that’s of interest to someone in your party, along with some quite interesting cocktails – most tastes seem to be catered to.

Also inside Bonobo - a fireplaceThere is also quite tasty pizza – unless you are a monster who refuses to eat pizza with sauce, but I suspect that is unique to my smaller child. And while some may sniff and/or roll eyes at just how Instagrammable Bonobo is, with its candles, plants and vintage lamps, I think it’s quite charming, and I certainly won’t complain at how much better my low-effort photos look there, nor am I the only weirdo photographing my beer.

Plant, pint & lamp at BonoboIt’s true that I may occasionally feel like the oldest person there – not something I mind, incidentally – I (mostly) attribute that to the proximity of the TUD Grangegorman campus – I will have to put this assumption to the test by finally getting over to Kodiak; clearly, I need to head south of the river, for science…

Where: Bonobo, 119 Church Street Upper, Inns Quay, Dublin 7, D07 E128
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 37, 70. 83, 140, 145, 155, C2, C3, Luas Green Line, 20ish minute walk
Food: Pizza & flatbread
Sport: Not really that kind of thing
TVs: I have never noticed any, but it’s possible some are hiding
Music: Typically very GenX-friendly, even if it’s really for their GenZ offspring and/or younger Millennials
Family-friendliness: Depends on the time of day, but I’ve certainly seen the hipster babies and have taken my own smaller offspring for pizza
Pub-crawl-ability: High – it’s essentially in between Underdog and L. Mulligan. Grocer, with The King’s Inn, The Cobblestone, Bar 1661, Fidelity and many more within a short walk
Local sites of note: Smithfield, St Michan’s Church, Collins Barracks, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: Maybe some haunted paintings? Definitely a spot for that kind of thing
Other notes: Plenty of board games available to borrow for a session, lots of doggos, outdoor deck

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: 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: 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

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, The Barber’s Bar & 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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Back Page

Exterior of The Back Page, with Mrs Doyle saying 'Go on, Bohs'Yes, we’re back in Phibsborough again. I promise we will visit other parts of Dublin, but hey, I like convenience, and, as of this writing, am badly jet-lagged for nerd reasons. This week’s pub: The Back Page.

In my home country, I have an aversion to most sports bars; they tend to blare sports I don’t watch, to a largely That Kind of Dude crowd, and frequently have terrible beer. There are, of course, some exceptions to this – there are many excellent soccer pubs all over the US and Canada, and those tend to be a little more my scene: first off, they focus on a sport I actually follow, they tend to have a better beer selection, and are (often) more generally welcoming.

That said, I have also lived various places where the local soccer/football pub was one to be actively avoided; when I moved to East Ham in the 1990s, my brief sole visit to my closest pub, The Hammers, was enough to put me off West Ham for life, and I never made the mistake of crossing their threshold (or, indeed, going outside on game days) ever again – instead, it was the ‘Spoons that was a longer walk away for a safe pint for me.

Inside The Back PageBut soccer (and it is frequently/possibly more often ‘soccer’ vs ‘football’ here in Ireland) in Dublin is a very different beast. League of Ireland teams don’t have anything like the deep pockets their counterparts in the UK (or, for that, Germany, Italy, Spain or even the US) have, and it means that they simply don’t have the same level of awareness; most of the kids in my 8-year-old’s class have a favourite Premiere League or La Liga player, but they would be hard-pressed to pick a local hero – and many of these kids, mine included, actually play for various local teams’ youth sides. But that is a reason I love going to The Back Page – they support Irish soccer, especially at the hyperlocal level – and it’s not just the men’s teams. Best of all, you can nerd out over all things soccer over a good pint – there’s nearly always a fresh Scraggy Bay or other Irish craft option or two on – there was a new-to-me beer from Hopfully on my last visit.

A pint of Hopfully inside The Back PageOne of my favourite activities at The Back Page has been their series of soccer history/book club talks in their upstairs bar. I’ve learned so much from the guest speakers, not just about our own local team (c’mon Bohs!), but about the surprisingly complicated history of professional sport in Ireland in general. And, as mentioned, it’s been a fantastic spot to catch women’s soccer games, so I know we’ll be spending some quality time there during the Women’s World Cup this summer.

But it’s not just for footy fans – while all manner of sport is catered for, it’s equally possible to just swing by for a quick pint, borrow a board game, get into a ping-pong tournament or look at a book from The Back Page Book Club – and if you bring in a sporty title for the pub, you get a free pint.

The mural of Mrs Doyle on the outer wall gives you a great sense of what’s on inside: a sporty, but not sport-exclusive welcome, a good sense of humour, and some real local spirit. I always enjoy stopping in for a pint.

Where: The Back Page, 199 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 A0X2
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 9, 46A, 140, 155, Luas Green Line, 25ish minute walk
Food: Excellent pizzas, flatbreads & now, chicken
Sport: Yes, all of it: Premiere League, League of Ireland, Six Nations, F1, etc…
TVs: Everywhere!
Music: Usually top ’90s tunes; also karaoke (in a separate room) – you have been warned
Family-friendliness: Can get crowded on big game days, but fine during the usual hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Doyle’s Corner, The Boh, The Hut & The Bald Eagle are all within a short walk; a few others closer to the Luas
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Mater Hospital, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: No obvious signs
Other notes: I need to do a better job of checking for the only North American sport I really enjoy – ice hockey