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.