A Quest for Craft Beer in Ireland

A beer fanatic goes on the hunt for craft beer on the Emerald Isle.

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Beer in Ireland is more than Guinness — I was certain. Mind you, from my humble bar stool perch, Guinness is plenty.  But I arrived in Dublin with the intent of putting myself in the path of all the surprises I was sure awaited me in the Emerald Isle, convinced that a craft beer culture undoubtedly pulsed under the weight of the almighty “G.” In my weeklong journey throughout Ireland, I was determined to find the flowers growing between the cracks in the sidewalk what are the craft beers of Ireland? The pursuit turned out to be less fruitful than I could have imagined, but what I did find certainly satisfied.

I had scribbled down the name “Messrs Maguire Dublin” in my beer journal months before, a tip from a Brit friend. Messrs Maguire is a brewpub in the heart of Dublin, on the banks of the River Liffey. I couldn’t resist the obvious and ordered a pint of the “Plain,” their Dry Irish Stout. A pitch-black nitro pour, Plain Dublin Stout distinguishes itself with a great balance of peat, roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate notes. This was what I had had in mind.

And then came the drought. Oh, I drank. (Just ask the poor residents of Doolin who may or may not have asked me once or twice to put my “pants back on for feck’s sake”). But the bars, I discovered, were dispiritingly corporate in their tipple. Heineken? Budweiser Ice Cold Draft? While my trip was filled with a multitude of fine pints Beamish, Kilkenny, O’Hara’s other than a “world famous” cask beer (that had kicked immediately prior to our arrival, mind you) brewed a hundred meters down the road from an inn on the Dingle Peninsula, I detected no echo of the craft beer movement currently afoot here in the States.

In the end, my excursion landed me on wobbly knees back in Dublin a night before my departure. The Porterhouse, a brewery that runs a small network of bars in the city, provided my last, best chance at deliverance from the glorious yet inevitable cascade of Guinness to which I had relented. Porterhouse brags about air-shipping their ingredients from all over the world to their brewery, and it shows in the results. My favorite turned out to be their “not suitable for vegetarians” Oyster Stout dry and Irish, but with a delicious brininess derived from the addition of oysters during the fermentation. A rich, smooth mouthfeel rounded out one of the finest pints I tippled in the land of my ancestors. And in the end, to paraphrase a bloke from across the Irish Sea, Ireland may not have given me exactly what I wanted, but I sure got what I needed.

 

Epilogue: Upon my return, I discovered that Porterhouse Oyster Stout, Wrasslers Stout and Red are all available at Whole Foods for $4.99/bottle. Sigh.