Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dublin beer adventure

Last weekend was my surprise weekend from the lovely Helen and it was only shortly before boarding the flight that I found out I was going to Dublin. Although not a primary target for my beer geeking adventures, I have always wanted to check it out as of having only very few previous encounters with Irish micro brews, I have also heard of blossoming brewing movements from Ireland, from literature and fellow bloggers such as The Beer Nut.

The first stop was the Guinness storehouse to checkout some old brewing memorabilia and a free pint of the stuff at the gravity bar. Following this a good number of bars and pubs were visited, some more exiting than others. It should be noted firstly that Dublins bars, at many points seemed to vary as much as a pack of jellybabies. Most showed almost identical broad ranges of keg beers, Paulaner Hefeweazen and Guinness seemed everywhere, most have a busy atmosphere and the themes vary alittle. Virtually no cask beers were in sight anywhere but the broad range of keg beers offers some compensation.

None the less it was time to hunt out some key target locations. First up a place I have been wishing to visit for sometime now called The Porterhouse. This famous brewpub has two locations in Dublin, and one in London. Like all good brewpubs the theme of the place seemed centered around the beer and a vast selection of bottle and kegged world beers were on offer, alongside some pretty good food. It was noted that all of the house beers available, with exception to TSB (a cask conditioned interpretation of an English bitter) were served in keg form and of excellent standard. Porterhouse Red was truly superb with earthy goldings hops at the core and the lagers of worthy standard, even the easy quaffing, more minimalistic ‘Chiller’ lager had its qualities.

Bull & castle beer range
The next highlight of the trip was in the form of the Bull & Castle, with its upstairs beer hall, restaurant and world beers including a broad range of Irish microbrews. Although not a brewpub, this placed housed a range of beers so spectacular that our visit to Dublin could have been justified by the session embraced in it. Our final hunted location however was not so appealing, the brew pub Mssrs Maguire seemed to more of a general trendy bar with a brew pub theme on the side than truly beer devoted porterhouse. The 5 house beers were tucked together at the corner of the bar of decent character but the rest of the beer range was uninspiring. The Irish red style ale Rusty was a decent take on the style, but only a shadow of Porterhouse Red. The plain porter, again had nothing on Porterhouses stouts but was half decent and the Bock was strong, sweet and… quite two dimensional.
All in all a rather enjoyable weekend, I couldn’t help noticing that my beer hunting in Dublin was dominated by the discovery of more often than not stout and porter style beers. Here were some key findings:
Battle of the black ones. Stouts and Porters encountered.

Guinness: Everyone knows it, and from the gravity bar is just that bit fresher, with hops and roast malts that tad more pronounced. As a good beer to fall back on in those tricky social situations where you find yourself at a substandard bar your you cant really fault it too much, compared to many other national brands it stands out head and shoulders.

Beamish: Exceeded expectation considering it’s a mass market brand. Lots of full rounded malty flavor brings a distinct bitter grain like note to the finish that’s reminiscent to the aftertaste of chewing on chocolate malt. Sadly the aroma was alittle masked by the think blanket of foam derived from the Nitrokeg serving method.

O Hara’s Stout: Mouthfilling and smooth with subtly balanced roast grain. Nothing too forward, but very well crafted.

Porterhouse Plain: Probably the beer of the holiday. Clean and velvety in texture with pronounced dry coffee and chocolate cascading throughout. Veers more towards London porter than anything else, but as porters go this ones up there with the greats.

Porterhouse Wrasslers 4X Stout: Described by Michael Jackson (our lord) beer hunter as the best stout in Ireland. Firm yet wholesome with masses of roast grain coming at ya left right and centre, this one takes no prisoners and satisfies throughout.

Porterhouse Oyster stout: The smoothest most meaty of the porterhouse stouts. Very mouthfeel driven with less pronounced roast malts or bitterness.
To finish things off....

I have often been intrigued by cheese boards, this one was served with honey and relish with no blue cheese or apple, a fine companion for my St. Bernardus 10, to polish off the holiday.


The Beer Nut said...

No Galway Hooker?

Agree with your assessments, and it looks like you pretty much got a handle on most of Irish craft beer, though if you went for draught O'Hara's over bottled you missed a treat.

The Messrs Maguire pub is basically a separate, competing, business to its brewery, hence the stupidly indifferent attitude to the house beers.

Oh, and there are three Porterhouses in Dublin, plus the original one down in Bray.

And yes: jellybabies is what you get when 90% of the market is controlled by two megabreweries. Good observation, that.

Rob said...

Galway Hooker was indeed an excellent clean zesty pale ale. Brilliant hop expression for the modest abv. Im afraid it was the draught O'Hara's but I shall hunt out te bottled one someday.

The Beer Nut said...

Actually, the Irish Stout they make for Marks & Spencer is remarkably similar. Stupidly expensive, mind.

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