Edinburgh Festival 1989-2023: An Index
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BrewDogging #85: Dublin Outpost

Surprisingly popular despite only apparently being open for 2 hours 24 minutes a day.It's late August 2023, and it's my first time in Dublin in several years. It's a visit that's been on the cards for quite some time, because among other things it gives The Belated Birthday Girl and I the chance to visit our first overseas BrewDog bar in over a year. More than a BrewDog bar, in fact: it's an Outpost, the name they give to bars that are effectively brewpubs. (See also Tower Hill, Manchester, and possibly Itaewon although still nobody at BrewDog wants to admit that it's been dead since mid-pandemic.)

It's the 85th one of these reports I've had to write, and every time I arrive in a new place I'm always trying to find a different angle. So: we're in Dublin. Are there any other breweries in town that we could compare this one against? Anyone?

To be honest, James Watt would love BrewDog to have something like the Guinness Storehouse. Getting people to willingly hand over money for what's basically a multi-storey advert for beer, which has nevertheless become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city? Well, maybe if his company gets a couple of centuries of experience under their belts, it might eventually happen.

The Guinness Storehouse is like a brewery tour on steroids, only not held in a brewery. The storehouse in question - a former fermentation plant - is close to where the brewery is now, but not close enough that your Guinness Experience takes it in, unless you throw in a few hundred more euros on top of your entrance fee. What you get for the standard price - once you've literally entered through the gift shop - feels like the sort of stuff brewery tours put in your way before you can get to the free pint at the end, but much much bigger. We start off with the usual description of the brewing process, talking about the key ingredients: but the barley is represented by a huge container of it, and the water by a working indoor waterfall. You get the idea.

From there you're taken through the way these ingredients are combined at a very specific temperature to give us Guinness - and to be honest, at this point you could be talking about most other beers. Once it gets more Guinness-specific, it's a lot more interesting. There are videos telling the story of how Arthur Guinness managed to get his brewery on a jammy 9000 year lease. There's plenty of ancient hardware from the brewery, including the small train they used to carry stuff from one bit of the brewery to another. There's inevitably a whole section dedicated to Guinness advertising, with posters and a showreel of all your favourite ads - though I'm slightly disappointed that they don't mention the glorious advert they ran in the Mirror in April 1971, which made a huge impression on me as a kid. (Yes, of course I tried it.) There's a magnificently well-run tasting room which gives you an immersive odour experience, a brief lecture on how to taste beer and a sample to taste yourself, and does it for a hundred or so people every five minutes.

And to wrap it all up, there's the free pint that brewery tours traditionally end up with. It's served in the Gravity Bar, an extra level built on top of the Storehouse with a tremendous 360 degree view over the city, which is how you might finally get a glimpse of where Guinness is brewed in the first place.  Your ticket includes a voucher for a pint of the obvious, but it can also be used for the genuinely-as-good-as-the-real-thing Guinness Zero, and the more whimsical Guinness Clear (you know, for kids). After all that you get to exit through the gift shop as well, just to remind you that you've paid around thirty quid to be marketed at for a couple of hours. But there's no denying they do it incredibly well.

Small child included for purposes of scale.Obviously, it would be massively unfair to go from Guinness to BrewDog Dublin Outpost on the same day and compare the two. But who said life was fair? So after a quick detour via EPIC - more on that later - that's what we do. Our first discovery is that Hull is no longer the only waterfront bar we've visited: this one overlooks the intersection of the Liffey, the Dodder and the Grand Canal, occupying space in a major docklands development area.

And it's huge: it's got the same sort of long and thin footprint that the Tower Hill Outpost has, but then with a second storey layered on the top. You wonder - as is so often the case with BrewDog's more gargantuan bars - how full it's ever likely to get. Certainly on the Sunday evening when we call in, there are small pockets of people dotted around the whole place, but it's hardly what you could call rammed. Theoretically, it's close to a couple of major venues - 3Arena and Aviva Stadium - but not so close that you'd consider the bar for a pre- or post-event beer (and in the case of 3Arena, you'd need to swim part of the way). The nearest public transport stops are also a fair walk away, so it's not a bar you can easily just pop out to if you don't live locally.

Still, there are people there, and they seem to be having a good time, so we grab a table in the downstairs area and do the same. We have two immediate aims, aside from ordering pints: get our Beer Visas stamped by the bar, and order some food. The stamping is achieved immediately with no problems: when our burgers arrive, one of them turns out to be the wrong one, but the staff apologise straight away and get a replacement to us pretty quickly. I only mention this because both of these are things that the staff at the Upminster bar screwed up on our visit - the crew at Dublin seem to be pretty much on top of things, which is good to know.

Having got the admin out of the way, we can wander round the ground floor and explore a bit. As this is an Outpost, and not a Storehouse, we can get a decent peek at the brewing equipment, allowing The BBG and I to indulge ourselves with our traditional exchange of "Tanks!" "You're welcome!" Most of the design is identical to many of the other big bars BrewDog have opened lately, including a small area put aside for their regular Beer Schools. There isn't a class being run tonight, so inside there's just a telly which I suspect is the only place in the world still interested in running James and Martin's Brew Dogs TV show. There's one intriguing bit of emphera near the door: a photobooth which, judging by the stickers all over it, just might have been the one they used to have by the door in St Pauli.

We've finished our pint downstairs by now, so we head to the upstairs bar for a second one, and get a surprise: upstairs is actually busier. This may be down to a set of shuffleboard tables which are attracting a crowd, as they tend to do at the other bars. For those of us just sitting down and drinking, the main difference on the second floor is that the windows are a set of suitably nautical round portholes - though the booths next to them are irritatingly arranged so that you can't look at the view while sat in one without cricking your neck. Still, it's a little more atmospheric than downstairs, even when they stop serving from the upstairs bar once it gets to 10pm and the numbers have dropped off a little. Hopefully they don't drop off like that too regularly - this is a very enjoyable place to visit, though again as a shareholder I do worry how sustainable bars this size can be.

I bet that guy on the right still hasn't found what he's looking for! And so on.Obviously there's plenty of other stuff we did during a four-night stay in Dublin, so let's crack through that at an insultingly high speed. Our hotel for the weekend is Staunton's On The Green, overlooking St Stephen's Green (good for lunchtime strolls and the odd surprising audio installation). A little more traditional than the sort of gaff we normally book, but friendly with it, and the whiskey we get on arrival goes down well. Transportwise, the Green is nicely located for trams and buses, which we leap around between with the help of the Leap Visitor travelcard - once we realise that at weekends, the official location to purchase visitor passes from is the Spar on Upper O'Connell Street (that's 63-64, not 8). It's the most effective way to get around: at one point we take the Green Line out to the terminus at Broombridge just because we can, and stumble across the site of Dublin's most unexpected graffiti.

On a Bank Holiday weekend like this one, we need a few museum-type places to visit, and we get them. IMMA, the modern art gallery, gives us an excellently varied exhibition on the Black American experience by Howardena Pindell, and another one by Sarah Pierce that's just a big pile of stuff scattered all over the shop. EPIC - it stands for Every Person Is Connected - straddles the line between a thoughtful study of Irish emigration and a massive Hoover to suck in tourists with Irish grandparents, but balances them both quite beautifully. And hey, it's got a stamp rally, which is always a good thing. The Little Museum of Dublin is a quirky townhouse full of random bits and bobs, presented with a wicked sense of fun, particularly if you get the right guide to take you on the internal tour. We also visit the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History, affectionately known to the locals as The Dead Zoo, primarily because of an excellent documentary that my MostlyFilm colleague Paul Duane made about it. We're not disappointed by its huge display of taxidermy and skellingtons, despite the building still being under heavy renovation.

We do some eating and drinking at BrewDog and Guinness, but we do a lot more elsewhere in the city. Breakfasts at Ebb & Flow (spectacular), Eathos (pretty good) and Meltdown (good with toasties, not that great with traditional breakfast options). Lunches at Tram Cafe (cutesy), Tang (flatbready) and Bang (fancy). Dinners at Sprezzatura (pasta) and Coke Lane Pizza @Lucky's (pizza). Drinks at Rascals (yet another brewery) and Against The Grain (the only bar we get to with live music, courtesy of Guto Piazza on guitar).

As far as live arts go, there are two definite highlights. Whelan's is one of Dublin's most legendary music venues - both The BBG and I have been there independently in the past, but it's our first time visiting together. As part of her 2023 campaign to see a dozen or so gigs by artists we've never heard of before, we end up catching Sylvie on the smaller upstairs stage. They're a Californian trio who acquit themselves quite nicely, even if they do seem stereotypically baffled by the concept of craic. A couple of days later, at the almost-as-legendary Vicar Street, I drag The BBG along to catch the greatest living Irishman recording a live episode of The Blindboy Podcast. We get a reading from his upcoming short story collection Topographia Hibernica, followed by a lengthy interview with Dr Katriona O'Sullivan about poverty and education. The interview appeared online within two days of it taking place: the book is out now, and if you click on that link you can hear a free sample of Blindboy reading the story he did that night, The Donkey. Yeah, this writeup is really late, sorry.

And there's one final highlight to talk about here. The reason why we're doing all this in the first place - aside from the visit to BrewDog, obviously - is because it's my birthday, and I need something spectacular to do on the day itself. Quite late on, I discover that Windmill Lane do tours. The recording studio most closely associated with U2 - although these days, pretty much every major act passing through Dublin seems to record there - have a slick operation which starts with a short talk and video presentation on the history of the place (including its early days when it actually was on Windmill Lane, which it isn't now). Then you get shown around as many of the studio rooms that aren't currently occupied by people recording, which on our visit are the post-production wardrobe that is Studio Three and the huge main room of Studio One. You get to fiddle with faders, pose for photos by the mixing desk, see the secret staircase that the stars use, and much more. All in all it's the perfect birthday treat, marred only by The BBG suspecting that she lost her hat somewhere in the building. We're watching the footage coming out of U2's current Las Vegas run very carefully indeed: if her hat suddenly turns up on The Edge's head, there'll be trouble.

[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, Dog Eat Dog/Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks, Tower Hill, Edinburgh Lothian Road, Milton Keynes, Canary Wharf, Brixton, Paddington, Dalston, Aberdeen Union Square, Peterhead, Itaewon, Le Marais, Outpost Manchester, Perth, Edinburgh Airport, Carlisle, St Pauli, Old Street, Cambridge, Ealing, St Andrews, Chancery Lane, DogHouse Manchester, Bath, Reykjavik, Inverurie, DogTap 2.0, Waterloo, DogHouse Edinburgh, Upminster, Wandsworth, Hull]


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