Beer lovers prepare yourselves for this piece of news: there are no (and I mean, no) good microbreweries in Dublin. Guinness runs the show. A careful mixture of water, barley, hops and yeast make up Ireland’s famous signature beer – first brewed in 1759 at St. James’s Gate in Dublin.
Though the final product is dark in color (Guinness is actually deep ruby red, not black), it’s far from heavy. Draft Guinness actually contains less alcohol and has fewer calories and carbohydrates than Budweiser. When bartenders pour a pint of Guinness, they force the beer through a tap that strips extra gases by using a pressurized mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. This leaves the beer sans carbonation, and nitrogen bubbles move inside the glass, creating the thick creamy head that crowns your pint to the last sip.
Guinness brews up to 100 batches per week and generates about 3 million pints per day. Luckily, back in 1759, Arthur Guinness leased the factory for 9,000 years at an annual rate of just $65, so it’s safe to bet Guinness will stick around for a while. From grain to cask, brewers have mastered the Guinness-making art. Your job? Drink it. Not all pints are created equal in Dublin, and the key to a perfect Guinness is the perfect pour. Here’s a rundown of the best 5 places to sip one.
Gravity Bar sits on the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse and is a must-see. Even though it’s a tourist trap, the Guinness factory’s machinery and brewing process make it worth a visit. After a tour, learn to pour your own pint under the watchful eye of a trained bartender. The best part? Gravity Bar’s massive windows provide a spectacular, 360-degree bird’s eye view of Dublin.
The Hole in the Wall is a combination of several old row houses with their interior walls knocked through, making it Ireland’s longest pub at almost 100 yards. The long and skinny Hole in the Wall is a cozy place to stop for a pint in the winter. It sits right on the edge of Dublin’s Phoenix Park, so during the summer months, people tend to spillover from the pub to the park. Plus, it’s slightly out of the city center, so if you’re looking for a locals-only crowd, come here.
The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub -- dating back to 1198 (or so they claim) -- and is about as traditional as they come. No one’s sure if the original structure from 1198 is still intact, but the dispute hasn’t put off Guinness drinkers from stopping in. Famous passersby include Van Morrison, Hothouse Flowers, Mary Black and Garth Brooks. The Brazen Head brings Dublin musical favorites onstage every night, and on Sundays from 3:30–6:30, you can sing along karaoke-style to your favorite Irish songs.
Anseo is different than your average Irish pub. In fact, it was founded on the site of an old Irish corner bar but the owners vamped up the atmosphere with nightly funk, jazz, and blues band line-ups. You won’t find traditional fiddles or harpists here. It’s located in a neighborhood surrounded by fruit and vegetable market stalls and charity shops. Join the artsy, younger local crowd here (you’ll be hard-pressed to see another tourist).
The Palace Bar on Fleet Street has been serving Guinness since 1843. Although it's on the corner of the touristy Temple Bar neighborhood, you won't find any drunk backpacking college kids in here. In fact, this bar is far from your sloppy alcohol scene. It has been a favorite in Dublin’s literary community since the 1940s when The Irish Times editor R.M. Smyllie ran it. The Palace was a frequent watering hole for writers James Joyce, Harry Kernoff and Flann O'Brien. The upstairs bar is like a sports museum, decorated with vintage jerseys, photos and newspaper clippings. The Tipperary hurling team has used The Palace as their unofficial headquarters, meeting at the bar after both wins and losses.