Category Archives: Brewery/Restaurant

Thoughts on the Dublin Beer Scene

Dublin has a variety of beer options, whether you are looking to sample local craft beer or simply drink the local styles. There is no shortage of Irish stouts and red ales on Nitro for you to enjoy at the various pubs. Unlike many other areas, you don’t currently have the options of visiting breweries except for Guinness. Thankfully Galway Bay Brewery has seven different pubs in Dublin you can visit to enjoy their variety of house beers and many guest beers.

There is a certain simple pleasure to sipping reds and stouts after getting used to hazy Ipas. Most pubs I visited had the standard Guinness and Smithwicks (red, pale, and blonde) on Nitro and many had other red ales or stouts on Nitro as well. While you can get Smithwicks in cans, nothing compares to the nitro pours at the pubs.

Though I visited around 15 different pubs over many days, I never once encountered a dirty glass or dirty lines. There is a dedication to quality presentation at the pubs in Ireland that American bars could learn from. Pints are strictly defined and most pubs served me an identical amount of beer when I ordered a pint. You can always order a glass if you want a half pint of something at a pub and they won’t mind. Most were also happy to give me a taste of a beer or two if I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

There is a roasty character to the proper Irish red ales I drank over the last few days that I haven’t often encountered in the US and I will miss this flavor. I also had a few lovely Irish Pale Ales (IPA for short) that were similar in character to English bitter styles. In Dublin you can also find both Irish and English craft beers in the stores. I only encountered Cloudwater beer on tap once and they had run out before I ordered it.

Besides the much hyped Cloudwater from Manchester UK, you can find other local Irish versions of kettle sours, hazy Ipas, and others at liquor stores around the Dublin area, typically called Off-License on a sign outside. The one can of Cloudwater hazy Ipa I bought was fantastic and I highly recommend grabbing some if you are looking for that style. My recommendation is to drink all the craft Irish stouts, reds, and pales you can find and add in the occasional pint of Smithwicks. I have only had terrible experience with the local lagers, sometimes called blonde ales, and would suggest you never order those.

Of the various craft beer bars I visited, the two connected with Galway Bay Brewery were my favorites. You can find a list of their Dublin pubs on their website and you should consider visiting one of their pubs at least once. My only complaint is that they have the same food menu at each of them, so you don’t get to try unique food at either spot. I greatly enjoyed their pub ale and they also have a delicious milk stout and various hoppy offerings to try.

Outside the craft pubs, your lineup would typically look like this.

During my four days of drinking in Dublin, my only other complaint is that I didn’t have any serious conversation at the various pubs I visited. It must be too obvious that I am a tourist with my camera over my shoulder. In all, I found my experience in the Dublin pubs to be much superior to my past visit to London. Though it could also have been my approach to the pubs that was different as well.

On my lats evening in Dublin, I decided to finally visit the local pub near where I was staying in my Airbnb near Drumcundra station. The pub there had a drastically different feel and was clearly the spot for the locals to spend their evenings drinking and watching football. I spent a few hours there enjoying the conversation they were having, watching the games, and drinking a few pints. It was a highlight of my trip.

Pubs to Try

Dublin has a variety of pubs you can visit but the ones below are some of my favorites.
1. Any of the pubs connected with Galway Bay Brewery. The staff was always welcoming and they have a good number of guest taps.
2. The Stag’s Head – We visited on a crowded evening and the place had a lovely energy about it.
3. Darkey Kelly’s – Nice traditional Pub that has live music in the evenings.
4. Get out of Downtown Dublin and visit smaller neighborhood pubs. This is the way to get the best local experience.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Santa Rosa Breweries – Fogbelt and Cooperage

It is common for people to take a trip to Russian River brewery in the Santa Rosa area. Most people will go just for that one brewery but there are many others around that are worth visiting in their own right or stopping by if you don’t feel like waiting for a table at Russian River. I decided to make a trip to the Santa Rosa area to visit these breweries and see which ones stand out to me.

Fogbelt Brewery

Shortly after landing, I stopped by Fogbelt brewery. It was quite noisy inside as is typical for Friday nights at breweries. Their pricing made sense to order pints because it was five or six dollars a pint as opposed to two or three dollars a taster. I started with their wet hop Redwood Hill IPA. The beer had a copper color with earthy and piney hops nicely balanced with a malt base and medium lingering bitterness. It reminded me of a slightly more resinous version of blind pig and Russian River. Notes of orange blossom come through as it warms up.

I ended with a dark sour called Methuselah that was nicely balanced with notes of caramel and raisins with a smooth oaky finish and hints of red wine, cherry, and dates. Before I left I noticed they had some Carolina reaper hot sauce, hot sauce made with one of the spicy is peppers on the planet. When I asked for a taste, they brought me a chip and a little bit of hot sauce and it was delightfully flavorful and spicy such that I left with two bottles. If you are a fan of extremely spicy hot sauces, make sure you stop by just for that. This hot sauce has become part of my regular rotation at home and I’m glad I got two.

If you are not a fan of noisy breweries, I would suggest avoiding fog belt on Friday nights. They also came highly recommended for their food, although I did not try any because our flight was delayed quite a bit and we arrived after having already eaten. Fogbelt is worth a stop if you enjoy more traditional approach to your hoppy beers, which I expect you do if you are in town for Russian River.

Cooperage Brewery

After fogbelt, we went straight to cooperage brewery. They had a more open feel and dispersed the sound a bit better. Their templates seem to be almost exclusively hoppy beer focused. This should have suggested that I may not enjoy the English mild but I went for it anyways to start.

The English mild on tap was dry with notes of acorns and mild smoke. The beer was fairly lacking in flavor for the style and not impressive compared to others I’ve had recently. I finished with the beer called Wookie of the year IPA. It was excellently balanced with tons of hope aroma and notes of resin, lemon, and light pine. The beer had a soft mouth feel with mild bitterness on the finish. This is a good spot to come visit if you are looking for more IPAs.

 

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Toronto Breweries – Kensington and Bellwoods

I made an epic 5 brewery crawl while in Toronto. Based on a friend’s recommendation, we started at Kensington for a flight (my only flight of the day). Each brewery after that, I went straight for full pours of each beer. It was quite hot and while Blood Brothers was one of my favorites of the bunch, I would not recommend visiting them on a hot day as they didn’t have any air conditioning. Part 2 of the day will be posted in a future post.

Kensington

Kensington is a small tasting room in the Kensington market area. They have solid beers and I enjoyed most of what I had on the flight. I started with Tuckerbox, a delicious tart saison with notes of passionfruit, candied lemon, and a light tart finish. It was a nice balanced beer and one of the first saisons of the trip that didn’t taste like white wine. Comparatively, the fruited kettle sour called Convergence was tart and tropical with mild puckering tartness, nice creamy head, and a lightly salty finish. Both were quite nice

The pale ale was soft and had tons of tropical fruit and citrus hop flavor with a light bitter finish and a mild amount of haze. My friends both ordered this beer and they both enjoyed it as well. The IPA was a bit ore malt forward and the hops tended more for the piney and resinous flavors. It was bitter and dry on the finish and just attenuated enough to be a proper west coast IPA.

Bellwoods


We sat outside on this hot day at Bellwoods in the patio that was mostly in the shade. I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a good idea to order a tasting flight when sitting outside in the heat so we each stuck to full pours here. The hazy IPAs and milkshakes at the table held up to the quality that I remember from my last visit a year ago. I ordered a beer called Runes, featuring simcoe and sterling hops. The beer had a nice mix of ripe melon and tangerine with low hop acidity and a mild lingering herbal bitterness.

Bellwoods continues to be a place to go for tons of hazy IPAs, sour hazy IPAs, and fruited milkshake IPAs. They also have a variety of barrel aged beers available to drink on site, some sours, and some big stouts.

To see the remainder of breweries from this day’s fun, check back next week for Halo, Blood Brothers, and Burdock.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Rorschach Brewery – Toronto, Ontario Canada

Rorschach was about a 15 minute walk from Godspeed and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen that they made many pastry stouts and IPAs and was quite pleased by the quality of their hazy IPAs and especially the one with tons of passionfruit. I only had a few sips of my husband’s imperial stout tasters but they were quite good as well.

I started with a beer fittingly called The Hedonist, a gratuitous flavor explosion of a milkshake IPA, and my favorite from the visit. It was creamy and exploded with tropical fruit and passionfruit flavor with the lactose just adding to the body rather than being noticeable in the flavor. This reminded me of a similar beer at Green Cheek in California that also blew me away. I followed up with a double IPA called Icarus Complex that claimed to be brewed with a similarly epic amount of kiwi. The beer didn’t have remotely similar fruit flavor and was more of a standard balanced classic resinous double IPA. It shouldn’t be surprising though that kiwi isn’t as strong in beer as passionfruit.

The Turtle Imperial stout made with pecans and cacao nibs was quite lovely with prominent cherry vanilla notes. The beer had a creamy thick body with tons of caramel, mild nuts, and roasted malts. I also had a hazy IPA called truth serum that was super tropical with a creamy body and restrained hop acidity. I may return to Rorschach later in the trip. We visited the brewery quite late (around 10PM) so it wasn’t very crowded at that time and we enjoyed some conversation with a new beer friend who was also drinking at the bar. @JasonOfOrillia on Twitter. We ended up meeting with Jason again the next day thankfully for additional adventures though sadly did not return to Rorschach.

Top 2:
Hedonist milkshake IPA
Turtle Imperial Stout

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Toronto Breweries – Left Field and Godspeed

Left Field Brewery


Left Field is one of the commonly recommended breweries in the Toronto area and I didn’t make it there last year. It is quite a bit east so if you are staying downtown it is quite the trek. After having gone out there I am more likely to grab some bottles from the brewery to take home instead of drinking there because they have such a small tap room that gets noisy quickly. It is also a bit of a walk from the nearest metro station.

I started with the raspberry hibiscus gose. The beer had a lot of raspberry on the nose but not so much in the taste. The flavor was more subdued berry and prominent hibiscus. It was a solid beer but I would have preferred more berry. The Greenwood IPA was lovely soft body with notes of citrus and vanilla and not too bitter. This was my favorite beer of the bunch. The Vermont Style Double IPA was not particularly hazy but had a nice soft body making it somewhat enjoyable. Rather than a juice bomb of a hazy beer it was earthy with subdued bitter finish. My friend had the milkshake IPA with coconut and pineapple. I tried a few tastes and it was exactly a pina colada.

Left Field had excellent beers as I had expected though in the future i would not order a full pint of their hazy IPA blind. I will be grabbing some bottles of Greenwood IPA when I can find them in future trips.

Godspeed

From Left Field we walked about 15 minutes to Godspeed. They have a modern interior and Japanese theme with an eclectic variety of beers. There wasn’t anything particularly hoppy and hardly anything following the typical trends. Instead, they had a lot of classic styles mostly saisons and German styles. They also didn’t seem to offer taster flights. I had a fairly standard dry-hopped saison that wasn’t particularly hoppy but nice and funky and mildly earthy.

My friends ordered the Green Tea IPA and dry-hopped Dortmunder. Again neither beer was particularly hoppy. The Green Tea IPA mostly just tasted like green tea so I am glad I didn’t order that one. The dortmunder was nice and to style, dry with roasty cracker and mild vanilla and caramel. I ended with the imperial lager with coffee, which was a bit thin on the body and too sweet for most of the people at the table. It was good and creamy with mild coffee and roast though again overall subtle.

Godspeed is hyped based on the brewer’s history at Dieu du Ciel but don’t expect anything like what you would get at Dieu du Ciel or other nearby breweries. If you don’t expect anything hoppy and enjoy classic styles you might enjoy stopping in for a visit especially if you are feeling like eating from their Japanese-inspired menu. While it was an interesting experience, I don’t think this is a brewery I would return to with so many other options in Toronto that are more my style.

Come for:
Expect classic beers that don’t use a ton of hops even when labeled dry-hopped. A great place to explore traditional styles that aren’t usually done right elsewhere.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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