They say Guinness doesn’t travel well. The implication is that by putting a keg on a boat or a plane, the delicious stout loses some of its flavor.
That might be true. At least partially. But, I have another theory as to why Guinness tastes so much better in Dublin. It’s because you’re drinking it in Dublin!
If you have a Guinness at home, it’s just another beer you’ve drunk at home. But, if you have a Guinness in Ireland, you’re on the Emerald Isle, drinking a pint with old or new friends, sharing laughs and tall tales. It’s that fantastic atmosphere that makes the Guinness taste better.
By the way, this theory of mine also holds for gelato and Italy.
Guinness Storehouse Tour
Arthur Guinness began brewing ale in 1759 at St. James Gate in Dublin. Through a shrewd business deal, he signed a 9,000 year lease for £45/year, guaranteeing “that brown stuff” will be brewed in Dublin for centuries to come.
The Guinness Storehouse Tour at the St. James Gate Brewery is the busiest tourist attraction in Dublin. People are shuttled through the brewery all day, every day to get a look at the process that creates the black gold and to enjoy a sample at the end. If you decide to take the tour, be sure to book online and save yourself 25% compared to the walk up ticket price.
But, for my money, the best way to spend your time enjoying a pint is in one of the classic Dublin pubs. Here, you can stand at the bar and will almost immediately get pulled into a conversation with a local. That is, unless you go to Temple Bar where there’s nothing but tourists.
Below are a few of my all-time favorite Dublin pubs. If you’re looking for good craic (conversation) just grab a pint at the bar and say hello to the person next to you. Next thing you know, you’ll be in knee-deep.
My absolute favorite pub in Dublin. Just make sure you go to the correct one. We were meeting someone at O’Donoghue’s, texting back and forth “Where are you, we’re here?” “I’m here, I don’t see you.” Turns out, he was at the copycat O’Donoghue’s. The real one is on Marrion Row.
O’Donoghue’s has good Guinness, but the real attraction is the nightly music. Musicians sit in a corner (we were kicked out of our seats to make room for some) and play Irish favorites.
You might not know any of the songs, but no matter, by the time the second verse rolls around, you’ll be singing along with the crowd. The Dubliners and several other famous Irish groups got their start at O’Donoghue’s.
The Guinness is incredibly fresh and tasty at Mulligan’s. That could be because they sell so much and turn over the kegs quickly. Or, it could be because they store the kegs just under the floorboards of the bar, making for a short trip to your glass.
Whatever the reason, the patrons at Mulligan’s are incredibly friendly. We wandered in on a Sunday afternoon to find the Gaelic Football Final on the TV. Turns out, Dublin was going for their fifth championship in a row.
Now, I’ve heard of Gaelic Football, but have never seen it played and certainly have no idea about the rules. But, after a few questions the locals had us clued in and we were loudly cheering for Dublin.
Okay, it’s true, Brazen Head is a big tourist attraction. When you’re the oldest pub in Ireland, dating to 1198 (!), that’s to be expected. But, Brazen Head is also an incredibly fun place to have a pint or two.
The space is configured into several bars and dining areas surrounding a courtyard. It’s loud and sometimes a bit rowdy, but you’re certain to have a good time here.
The food is pretty good as well. I was shocked to find how well the soda bread and butter goes with a glass of Guinness.
The Confession Box
On the other end of the spectrum is a real locals’ place, The Confession Box. This tiny bar is in a part of town that hasn’t seen as much development so there’s nary a tourist in sight.
The tiny bar was made famous as a hangout and sanctuary for Michael Collins and other Irish patriots and nationalists during the struggle for independence. As such, The Confession Box is a very nationalistic bar. Even if you think you’re being supportive, you’d be strongly advised to keep your political opinions to yourself.
That said, the regulars and bartenders are quite friendly towards strangers.