Ireland: My Pilgrimage to the Irish Pub in Dublin
Since I am a journalist I must disclose that I have always been looking for an excuse to visit Dublin. I don’t have one ounce of Irish blood in my family or even the one I married into but I felt this need to make this pilgrimage to this city with 1000+ pubs, a brewery and an old distillery. Maybe it is the fantasy I have had for so long that I can walk into a real Irish Pub in Dublin and find a great new buddy to share a few pints with. I negotiated with the wife for us to spend a few days in Dublin after visiting other parts of Europe with her before we headed back home. This agreement made me an understanding spouse as she visited more shoe stores in Europe that I cared to count knowing that once we arrived in Dublin it is my turn. I already told her we would be visiting the Guinness Brewery, Old Jameson Distillery and a few other historical places. Trust me when I say that this was in my head as I closed my eyes and exhaled deeply as she entered all of those shoe stores. She collects shoes…I collect whiskey. It is called a marriage.
To understand Dublin you have to understand the history of the Irish people and the dramatic changes in just the last decade. The “Celtic Tiger” with its roaring economy is now keeping the graduates of Dublin twelve universities including the famed Trinity College within Dublin. Over half of the 3.6 million Irish people today live in Dublin and its suburbs. The city is filled with young people and immigrants coming to Dublin for the opportunities that once made their older family members come to our shores. Though at the same time the city is not filled with huge skyscrapers for the highest point in Dublin is atop the Guinness Brewhouse Gravity Bar which you visit at the end of the tour with its 360 degree views of the city.
My passion for Guinness goes back many years and I don’t know what makes me cringe more. Hearing nails on a chalkboard or watching the bartender bringing me a Pint of Guinness when they have no idea on how to pour it properly. It is an art to pour the perfect Guinness pint and all those who fail and think they have succeeded should be sent to Kilmainham Gaol Jail where captured leaders of the 1916 Irish Rebellion were held and executed.
Dublin is a great walking city with everything nearby. The Guinness Brewhouse is no exception as it is located close to the City Center with the public bus service that drops you at the entrance of the Guinness Complex. Once you enter the visitors/tour entrance you pay your admission and join the next tour. The tour is very informative and entertaining for everyone. You learn about the history of Arthur Guinness the founder of Guinness as well as his family exploits. The exhibits clearly explain how beer was made then and now along with the interesting personalities who have been its Brew Masters over the years. Today Fergal Murray is at the helm and doing a wonderful job of carrying on the Guinness tradition.
As you take the tour and you see the brick and the old exposed beams in these Victorian buildings it only adds to the ambiance and you can envision what the brewery was like 50, 100, 200 years ago. At the end of the tour you hand the token you received at the beginning of the tour to claim your own Pint of Guinness atop of the Gravity Bar. Though if possible make the time and have a meal at the Guinness Restaurant. We had the Guinness Beef Stew that was one of the two best meals we had in Dublin.
A trip to Dublin would not be complete without a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery. The complex is no longer a functioning distillery but should not be missed. It is within walking distance of the City Center as the Old Jameson Distillery has ceased distillery operations with Jameson now made at the Middleton Distillery several hours away. The Old Distillery has been beautifully renovated utilizing the exposed brick and high ceilings to turn this into one of my favorite distillery visitor centers. The tour includes an interesting movie that also gives you the history of Dublin and Jameson and how they have grown together. You should also check out the bar before or after your tour. The bar is well stocked with the full range of Jameson whiskies including the Jameson Reserve they only sell at the distillery. This is one of my family’s favorite Irish Whiskies to the point that whenever I know someone is coming from Dublin I plead for them to bring me a bottle or two. You also have the opportunity to personalize the label in the gift shop as I did on this trip as a gift to my parents. My second favorite meal in Dublin was at the Old Jameson Distillery restaurant that overlooks the tour entrance
There are still other fun things to do for a whiskey connoisseur in Dublin. If you have the opportunity after leisurely roaming the grounds of Trinity College you can check out the shopping arcade on Dame Street. There is a lovely cigar shop on the second floor with a large wooden Indian statue at its entrance if you fancy a Cuban Cigar.
Though Dublin is not all shopping and whiskey and beer. The history of Ireland is laid out all around you and with Dublin being a walking city it is easy to find. Make the trip to the Kilmainham Gaol Jail to better understand the fight of the Irish. Head over to the Dublin Castle and take the tour. You will see where English Royals had mirrors installed so that they can see behind them to prevent assassination attacks, where today’s European Union has held its meetings and then go underneath the castle to see the markings from the Roman era.
I have another confession to make. I am a night person and my wife is a morning person. Thru our years of traveling together we have a routine where she may retire early in the evening after a full day of touring and I find that second wind and go out exploring. There were several local pubs near my hotel and I went to a new one every night and every night I found a new great buddy to share a pint with. This is one of the few fantasies that I have experienced that I will ever put down on paper.