As someone who didn’t let a day go by in Ireland without wandering into at least one pub, distillery, or brewhouse, I’d say I got a pretty varied feel of the drinking culture there. Unsurprisingly, it reminded me a lot of England. Hip/historical venues in the city and rustic/informal ones in the countryside.
Our first day in Dublin included a tour of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Opened in 2015, it’s the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years.
Originally termed aqua vitae, Latin for water of life, the best historical guess is that Irish monks brought the technique of distillation to Ireland from their Mediterranean travels around 1000 A.D.
King James I started licensing distilleries in the early 1600s and by the 1700s, the demand for whiskey in Ireland was up. In 1835, there were 93 licensed distilleries in Ireland. The peak, however, didn’t last long. Due to the creation of the Coffey Still, the Irish War of Independence, the trade war with Britain, and prohibition in the United States, many of these distilleries were forced out of business.
By 1887, there were only 28 distilleries in operation in Ireland. By the 1960s, only a handful of these remained in operation, and in 1966, three of them (John Jameson, Powers, and Cork Distilleries Company) chose to join their operations under the name of Irish Distillers and relocated to Cork. By the mid-1970s they operated the only two distilleries in Ireland.
However, the industry is slowly and steadily reviving. A third distillery opened in 1987, a fourth in 2010. By summer of 2017, the number of distilleries was at 18, with 16 more in the planning stages.
Teeling Whiskey Distillery was the first to open its doors in Dublin in over 125 years: A historically impressive feat. As someone not well versed in Irish whiskey (or whiskey in general) – until this tour! – I was incredibly impressed. Not only with the history that was shared, but the atmosphere of the distillery.
Having previously been to vineyards and wineries and breweries, this was definitely the most informative tour I’d ever been on. And as someone not accustomed to drinking whiskey, even in sampling glasses, I have to say I pretty much swooned over their cocktail: Teeling Ice Tea.
It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in an ever drizzly city with wind that can chill you to your bones. Especially if your day before was 90+ degrees in high humidity.
And if you thought that was the last of our drinking that first day, you’re sorely mistaken. We headed back to Jurys Inn, our home for the night, to drop off the goodies we had previously purchased at the Temple Bar Book Market, the Temple Bar Food Market, the Dublin Food Co-Op, and the Green Door Market. (What can I say, Saturdays are great market days!)
Then we were off to dinner – the oddest Thai food I’ve ever eaten, it tasted like they mixed it with barbecue sauce. But I drank another Teeling Whiskey cocktail, before we found ourselves at Porterhouse Temple Bar, starting our evening tradition of red ales and dry ciders at the first pub brewery in Dublin – opened in 1996.
The next day found us with two more traveling companions – Chandler’s mother, Lesia, and our friend Erica – and we were on our way to Western Ireland. By the end of the week we were wind burnt and ready to be back on the civilized roads of Dublin.
The four of us continued our evening tradition with a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.
The tour was shockingly different than the intimate experience we had at Teeling. We had a guide for approximately five minutes, explaining the history behind the 9,000 year lease Arthur Guinness signed for the unused brewery and his switch from brewing ales to stouts, unheard of at the time.
After that, we found ourselves being ushered to the first of seven floors dedicated to sharing the history and flavor of the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland.
This was a production, the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
We started by learning about the four ingredients of beer: grain, hops, yeast, and water and how they are locally sourced. We read about Guinness’ measures for quality control, the science behind their beers, and the innovations that led them to add nitrogen to the mix to create their signature creamy head in 1959.
There was antique brewery equipment. The history behind how Guinness transports their beer around the world. The story about the decline of coopers when barrels were no longer used during the brewing process.
There was an advertising wing filled with John Gilroy’s “My Goodness, My Guinness” campaign, featuring a zookeeper and his animals. My favorite being the toucans, of course.
There was the tasting room, where we were taught to “properly” drink Guinness, as well as a room where you could learn to poor the “perfect” pint of Guinness.
As we made our way up the stairs, I paused, with the help of Chandler’s fearless mother, to snag a pint of Guinness’ Rye Pale Ale at the already closing Arthur’s Bar.
Finally, we made it to the top – floor seven. The Gravity Bar offers a 360 degree view of Dublin. There, Chandler got his pint of traditional Guinness, while the ladies drank their sodas – the tasting glasses having been enough for them. My favorite quote of the day came from Erica: “It’s a lot smoother than Coors Light.”
In what felt like the blink of an eye, last call rang out and the bar was closing. We had spent nearly three hours inside a brewery and Chandler’s the only one of us who regularly drinks beer.
The next day was our final day in Dublin and after a walking tour that morning/afternoon, we found ourselves at one of the quietest pubs we encountered all week (the exception being Vaughan’s Pub in Kilfenora). Turns out the Long Hall was only empty because we were exceptionally early. We had the Victorian decor nearly to ourselves for about half an hour, but by the time we were ready to leave for dinner, we could barely squeeze past the other patrons to make our way to the door.
After a late dinner, we found ourselves at our last Irish pub. Fittingly, the Brazen Head, which dates back to 1198 and is officially Ireland’s oldest pub. It was time for our final red ale and cider and our first encounter with live traditional Irish music – played by a Scotsman, of course.
We soaked in the atmosphere, and the alcohol too, and enjoyed our final Irish experience.