In October we reached the five year mark of our time in Ireland. This is the first of a few posts on how our daily life is different in Dublin five years on.
A recent conversation at Gunternation Central:
Bill: Do you want a stout or red ale?
Sharon: I like stout better.
Bill: That’s why I married you. You like stout.
Sharon: But you didn’t know that when you married me.
Bill: Neither did you.
True, I had no idea. I didn’t consider myself a beer drinker for most of my life. I played at beer drinking (Rolling Rock, anyone?) for a while in my early 20s, but then abandoned it. Who needs beer when you can have a Gin & Tonic? Moving back to Texas, I found Shiner Bock to be pretty agreeable. I avoided yellow beers, the ones that unfortunately resemble you-know-what*, with exceptions for Weissbier.
My first taste of Guinness was at an Irish pub at Downtown Disney circa 2005. After moving to Dublin, we agreed that the Guinness really is better here. At first I was more likely to order a Bulmers cider, but then, pint by pint, that stout starting tasting very familiar to me, smooth and creamy, barleyrific. Now I’m happy to sit in an auld man pub on a Thursday night after work, keeping company with a few pints of the black. Women are supposed to drink their Guinness by the glass (half pint), possibly spiked by some black-currant flavored Ribena, or not all all, but I like the full Imperial, unadulterated, and based on statistics and observation, paid for by my friends (yeah, I’m down a few rounds** I’m afraid).
And while I do genuinely like Guinness, Guinness has also been a gateway beer. Once I knew I liked the black stuff, I was open to trying other stouts on offer from the Irish craft breweries that have burst onto the scene–both a product of the recession and a balm for it***. So, I tried Dungarvan Brewing Company‘s Black Rock Irish Stout and their seasonal Coffee and Oatmeal stout, which our local off license hid behind the counter for us. I’ve had Eight Degrees Brewing‘s Knockmealdown Porter (and brownies made with same) and Trouble Brewing‘s Dark Arts. O’Hara’s Leann Folláin is a revelation, a top shelf stout. Once I was exposed to these breweries, I tried their other beers, and found some faves with food: Trouble Or and Eight Degrees Howling Gale (terrific with cinnamon cake). Another favorite, and not just because of the opportunity for double entendre, is the refreshing Galway Hooker****.
More and more pubs are embracing craft beer. Some like L. Mulligan Grocer have chosen not to even invite Guinness to the party, to give the newer voices more space to sing. Pubs like Against the Grain and Brew Dock have huge selections of Irish craft beer, and I’ve quaffed a craftie at traditional establishments like the Cobblestone and The Long Hall.
In September we attended the Irish Craft Beerfest at the RDS. This lovely, chilled festival featured over 20 brewers and provided the opportunity to try some rare brews on cask. I was reacquainted with my love of Weissbier through some great Irish versions: Metalman Brewing‘s seasonal Alternator and Franciscan Well Brewery’s Friar Weisse. Eight degrees was serving a very tasty Ochtoberfest Marzen Style, which comes with a little extra alcohol kick. We had a few pints a few weeks later at The Bull and Castle, and then climbed the belfry at Christchurch*****.
West Kerry Brewery, the smallest brewery in Ireland, was at the fest. We found their Carraig Dubh stout to be immensely evocative, and swear that it smells of sheep, in a good way, and begs to be consumed before a peat fire. It tastes like Ireland.
Would I naturally have turned into a beer drinker in my fifth decade if I hadn’t moved to Dublin? It’s impossible to separate these threads of our nature and nurture. All I know is I am one now.
** Rounds. A huge part of Irish drinking, which is fantastically convivial and generous while at the same time being a bit mad and stressful (for blow ins), and encourages overindulgence. It’s very bad form not to stand your round, but also a bit of competition to take the round. As a result, I perpetually owe people drinks.
***** Belfry. This was part of Dublin Culture Night. Christchurch was offering trips to the belfry to meet the bell ringers. As expected, the belfry is reached by twisty steps and progressively smaller doors and even, our guide told us, a portal through which spending hours ringing bells makes perfect sense. Turns out the style of ringing at Christchurch is more interested in the mathematical progression through the permutations of bell combinations rather than melody. Not surprising if you’ve ever heard the Christchurch bells. Really fascinating visit. Do it if you ever have the chance.
13 January 2013 Update
I recently came across this photo from our first trip to Dublin in 2006. I’m not 100% sure, but it may be the moment that everything changed.