Colin Moore's visit to Dublin
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On a recent return visit I updated myself on this Irish icon. What I found caused me concern.
Sampling the liquid bread as many an Irishman will describe it I found that my Guinness was even more bland although its head was as creamy as ever. The cause for increasing blandness is, I suspect, the result of cost cutting accountants or to use another phrase, ‘number crunchers’. Roasted malts are expensive so lets find something cheaper. The fact is this one time Irish family owned company has in recent years passed through several hands and is now owned by Diageo a massive global drinks company of which all of Guinness Breweries world-wide form just 4% of their turnover. In short its no longer Irish.
There were other changes. Irish pubs were renowned for for their smoky atmospheres, nicotine stained ceilings and dark wooden interiors. A yesteryear pub crawl meant returning to the hotel smelling like a a well used ash tray. Its not like that any longer.
You can now sit in a bar and actually look around it and see everything quite clearly. Some of the paint work had even been cleaned but now you can find as many customers stood outside the pub as in it. Walking around Lower Baggott Street and the Temple Bar I was amazed at the numbers of drinkers and smokers stood outside of their favourite watering holes. Even non-smokers went out to talk to their smoking friends. They often spilled off the pavement into the street . The pavements were littered with cigarette butts. The noise and tension levels were higher. In fact it was often calmer and quieter in the pub than trying to push through the crowds outside.
It made me reflect. The quintessential Dublin pub provided the focal point of Dublin social life. It was THE place where conversations and ‘craic’ flowed freely. Many have been unchanged for decades. They gave birth to such literary celebrities as Swift and Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Becketts. All these celebrities suckled on the ‘black stuff’ of old and inhaled deeply on the heady nicotine aura. These were the elements that unleashed their literary greatness. Now they are gone it does not bode well for any embryonic writers. What will unleash their talents?
There was one possibility. An Irish phoenix is arising. I found one pub with a solitary hand pump serving a real ale called TSB (Turner’s Sticklebract Bitter) and what an excellent one it was. At only 3.7% alc vol. it was a traditional style pale ale using a single variety of New Zealand hop the Sticklebract, with five different malts.
It was in The Porterhouse which can be found in Parliament Street, Dublin. The Porterhouse brewing company is Irelands largest genuine Irish Brewery. They also have pubs in Wicklow and Covent Garden, London. They brew authentic beers (3 stouts, 3 ales and 3 lagers and 1 Weiss) without chemicals and deliver it unpasteurised. My only complaint was that many of them were served under pressure. Having said that they had one of the best selection of bottled beers from around the world that I have ever come across outside of a specialist beer off licence. They included Pilsner lagers of Bohemia, wheat beers of Bavaria, Trappist Monk’s brews of Belgium, lagers from New York and many unique flavours from the US to the Ukraine.
This find made the visit worth while but let me warn you drinking and eating in Dublin or elsewhere in Ireland is not cheap.
Colin Moore - 15/06/2006.