It’s time for the first Dublin vs Prague post – I found these two cities shared surprising similarities in my time there and thought it would be fun to compare them. First up, one of my all-time favourite subjects: BEER (and other alcoholic substances).
Sometime last month I was told that my Instagram account @jac_theocctrav has an increasing number of alcohol related pix on it. I counted to be sure: it’s hovering around 10% (which seems… healthy?)
It’s probably gone up since this last trip, because there’s no way you can visit Dublin properly without having a pint or two, and all those TBEX parties with free booze… followed by Prague where their beer is cheaper than water? Yeah, no way I can teetotal.
My mother keeps warning me that I’m getting fat from beer, but I’m pretty sure I walked it all off on all these European cobblestone streets.
But so begs the question – whose alcohol rocks my socks, Dublin’s or Prague’s?
We’ll start off with Dublin’s contenders first (so many that Prague’s will have to come in another post)…
The first drink that comes to anyone’s mind when you’re visiting Dublin is of course Guinness Stout. This iconic drink is practically the symbol of Ireland, perhaps even more so than its traditional harp logo (which the government had to negotiate with Guinness for the rights when they wanted to use it on the Euro – did you know they use the same harp symbol, just flipped the other way?)
You can get Guinness practically anywhere in Dublin, and it certainly does taste better here – less bitter somehow! And the ultimate place for fans is the Guinness Storehouse, which coincidentally is where the TBEX opening party took place to much fanfare. The tour of the pint-shaped brewery takes you upwards and is pretty standard stuff about the origins of Guinness and how it’s made, with interactive galleries to walk through and great if you want to learn more, but the good stuff happens on the fourth floor where you learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness from a cute and very affable Irish bartender.
There’s a bit of an art to pouring the perfect Guinness pint – you don’t do it all at once, and you need to let it sit for a bit. The bartender also tried to teach me to draw a shamrock in the froth – least to say I failed miserably at that. But I still got my certificate which is what counts right, yay!
The other highlight is Gravity Bar on the 7th floor – you have to take the stairs and walk up from level 5 – where you are rewarded for your climb with a 360 degree view of Dublin city, perfectly visible on a clear day. The night view of lights ain’t too bad either, though I don’t have a decent picture.
What I wish I got to try was the Connoisseur Bar Experience – I didn’t know there were 4 different variants of Guinness! Draught, Original, Foreign Extra Stout and Black Lager.
St James’s Gate Dublin 8, Ireland
Adult Ticket is 16.50 euro (10% discount at 14.85 euro if you buy online)
JAMESON IRISH WHISKY
Another famous liquor of Ireland’s is Irish whiskey, and Jameson is probably one of the biggest names around. I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but I was curious and signed up for the free tour through TBEX anyway, and walked across the river to visit the old Jameson distillery – these days, the main distillery is out in Cork. This one’s become a museum of sorts, and even houses a pretty hip hostel (Generator Hostel) right next door!
They have tours of the old distillery every hour – I was there for the 10am tour, and it starts off with a rather cheesy video filmed in ‘ye olde’ style complete with bad acting and special effects that gives the history of how the Jameson distillery first started. However, this is also when the tour guide picks 8 volunteers (4 men and 4 women) to do the whiskey tasting at the end of the tour, so make sure you stick those hands up quick – I sure did, surprisingly not much competition for the women.
After that it’s a guided walk-through through the old building, with dioramas and mock set ups of the old distillery works, where you can see how the whiskey used to be made, it’s pretty informative though a little long. The last part of the tour is in the restaurant, where each person gets to choose either a Whiskey neat or with ginger & lime. The 8 tasters are then sat down at a table with 3 whiskey samples on it – it’s not a blind taste test however, each cup is clearly labelled – we had the best selling Scotch from Scotland, Johnny Walker as the best selling USA representative, as well as Jameson’s.
My verdict? The Scotch was reaaaaallll smoky – it gets that way because they use peat in the distilling process and that goes into the flavour, but man that was like drinking a cigarette. The Johnny Walker was pretty icky – or as the guide said “tastes like college”. the Jameson undoubtedly was the smoothest, whether it’s because of its triple distillation or not, it still tasted the best, and 7/8 of the testers picked it as their favourite (one guy picked the Scotch), And yay I got a certificate here too!
The Old Jameson Distillery
Bow Street, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7, Ireland
Adult Ticket is 12.60 euro if you buy online
But it turns out though that my favourite drink in Ireland is not Guinness or Jameson, but Bulmers Apple Cider! It’s sweeter and lighter than beer, and apparently comes from Tipperary, the county in which the Bansha castle is located.
Popular brands aside, there are actually quite a wide range of beers and other alcoholic choices available if you go looking for it. At one of the TBEX parties, I just stationed myself at the local craft beer counter and tried practically everything they had on hand:
- Hairy Goat and Green Bullet by the Mountain Man Brewing Company have excellent names and distinctly strong tastes if you like that sorta thing, a bit too hoppy for me
- The Kinsale Craft Brewery‘s Blacks Pale Ale was also pretty decent
- My favourite would have to be the Irish Red Ale Rebel by the Franciscan Well Brewery – tasty without being too bitter
WHERE I DRANK
Ireland is renowned for its drinking culture not just because of the great choices available, but because the best thing about a night out on the town is a great pub and a cool crowd – I really enjoyed just hanging out in a pub with friends, and talking to random Irish folk who are seriously some of the nicest people around.
Here are some places I’d recommend:
The ODEON (57 Old Harcourt Street Railway Station, Harcourt Street) – The TBEX party organized by Expedia was held here, and it’s a pretty spectacular place – as its address implies, it used to be an old railway station that was converted into a bar, and it’s a pretty spacious place inside with great decor. Great staff and service too – I dropped my pass and they kept it safe for me when I came back to pick it up later!
The Bleeding Horse (24/25 Upper Camden St)
I was with BlogHouse mates Jo and Andrew looking for a quieter pub to chill at after the TBEX party at the Odeon, and we were directed in this direction by a bouncer from another club. There was no way I was letting us walk by a pub with a name like that! I didn’t know it then, but beyond popular association with Dubliner author James Joyce, it turns out that this place has been around since the 17th century and is apparently quite famous, with its odd name taken from how they gave travel-weary horses relief, by bleeding them behind the ear.
All I knew was that we ran into our deejay from the party there and ended up hanging out for the night, made friends with an American exchange student at Trinity College as well, and that the bartender was a nice dude – that was probably my most fun pub night in awhile 🙂
Cafe en Seine (40 Dawson St)
It’s unassuming from outside, but much larger inside than it looks! If you go all the way into the back, the odd European art decor like stuff opens out into something that looks like a 3-storey high greenhouse with pretty red chandeliers.
That’s about as straightforward a name you can get! It’s a pretty happening club that the other TBEX travel bloggers came across and spent most of the after after parties dancing the night away at – It’s pretty long and narrow, we had seats and comfortable couches to lounge and dance at on the 2nd level where some pretty crazy stuff involving table dancing and mustaches happened. The bar area downstairs gets pretty packed, and even when I called it a night early around 2am-ish, the party was still going strong.
And of course if you ever find yourself outside of Dublin in the little town of Bansha, make sure you go to Nellies – it’s a small cosy place where you’ll find the local townsfolk (and crazy tourists like us on occasion), but she keeps the place spotlessly clean and is such a lovely old lady 🙂
- A pint of beer in a typical Irish pub ranges anywhere from 4 – 6 euros on average
- The Temple Bar area is a popular backpacker spot, but if you sleep light, expect neon lights and loud noises to keep you up – the Dubliners party hard! Saturday morning when I headed to the Distillery was really quiet – the streets were pretty empty till around lunch time.
- A cab around the city area is not hard to catch and not that expensive if you split the cost with friends – while I probably could have walked back to my hostel, it was just easier to share a cab with other friends headed in the same direction, which usually came up to 4-5 euros per person on average for me.
Here’s everything on an Everplaces map for easy reference:
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What do you think about Irish drinking culture? Share your tips and favourite spots here!