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Trip Report Trad Music and Hops--Our Week in Dublin

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We were absolutely delighted that our college senior daughter wanted to join her aging parents on her last spring break instead of doing the cruise option or Mexican beach her friends were doing. We researched possible cycling trips, but most venues we wanted did not match our time constraints. Off the top of my head, I said, "Why don't we just plop for a week in Dublin? We love Ireland and we have never been there."

Unanimous "Yes." I started planning, and then worked on a trip "focus".

It just so happens that my husband and I, who shared very few interests when we met, both loved traditional Irish music and one of its American cousins, bluegrass. We have a lot of venues for both near where we live, providing us with at least some musical background for when we visit Ireland. My daughter shares our enthusiasm.

On our past Ireland trips, we had spent most of our time on the west coast, where we never had any problem finding GREAT trad, mostly at the spur of the moment*. The locals there would always tell us, "It's a good thing you're on this side of the country. There's little trad in the east." As I'm sure you readers would do, I always wondered if that were true.

My husband and I also share a common interest in beer, and it seems that both of our daughters have learned to like the strong flavors we prefer, too. Unfortunately, typical Irish beer--Smithwicks and Guinness--are not tastes we typically seek because of their lack of any hoppy flavor. We can drink them for sure (and you'd never know they aren't our first choice by the way we down them), and we'll absolutely take them over a Coors or a Bud any day of the week. We had heard rumors of a recent uptick in craft beer sales in Ireland, and we were itching to know just how successfully the market had grown.

We therefore headed to Dublin armed with...

...Fodor's Forums tidbits,
...a good trad session website (http://www.dublinsessions.ie), and
...some good craft beer tips and weblinks (example : http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Brew+Pubs&find_loc=Dublin)...

with two obvious goals:
--Find trad
--Find craft beer

And if we learned anything else along the way, great.

So in essence, there's little to be gained by reading this report unless you are interested in trad or the changes in the Irish beer market.

*I'm serious about how spontaneous our experiences had been on past trips. We were lucky to have landed in Doolin in 2005 for a fantastic hastily assembled fundraising concert for the "Rossport Five" (five men jailed in County Mayo for trying to stop Shell oil pipelines across their land). Glorious music. A cycling stop for refreshment in Lisdoonvarna resulted in our attending that evening's céilí. A discussion on a ferry to Inishmore led us to a perfect pub-hopping trad night in Clifden. So we have indeed been spoiled.

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    Where We Stayed March 10 through March 16
    I'd like to say that I found our rather perfect location* at the Westin on Westmoreland St. (directly south of the Liffey smack dab near the O'Connell Bridge) after much research.

    Not true at all. Even booking in December, good rooms were sold out in much of Dublin because of a) the French/Ireland rugby match on March 10 and b) St. Patrick's weekend March 15, 16, 17, and 18. I was able to get two rooms for the entire time at the Westbury for a premium price I did not want to pay, but most of the available options were further out.

    It just so happened that I was able to find rooms at the Westin at an almost reasonable price (a little over 200 Euros per night per room) for every night BUT the 10th, and with hopes that something would open up closer to the date, I booked us a triple in another hotel to crash in for this first night of our stay.

    Luckily something did open up for our first night, and the Westin staff contacted me right away. They also upgraded my daughter's room from a "classic" to a "deluxe". Even better, they rushed to ready one room so that by the time we arrived at 9 a.m. after the flight, we were able to take a good four-hour nap and be raring to go.

    After all, we had beer to drink and music to hear.

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    Night One (Saturday)--Musical Pub Crawl and Devitts

    Thanks to people on this forum, I decided that we did NOT want to do a Pub Crawl Tour but would benefit from the Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl, which I booked online at http://www.discoverdublin.ie/musical-pub-crawl/.

    At 12 Euros a person (10 Euros for students), it wasn't cheap, but it was the best possible start to meeting the goals of our trip. Plus it started two or three blocks away from our hotel.

    We had a quick bite at the Mint Bar downstairs at the Westin (nice salad and lovely staff) and headed out the door.

    The tour checks in on the 2nd floor at Oliver St. John Gogarty's, a really touristy bar in the really touristy Fleet St./Temple Bar area at around 7:15. At slightly after 7:30, you follow two musicians to the Ha' Penny Pub into a private room with bar for the first musical performance of the night.

    After that there is about a ten minute walk to the next pub which is off of O'Connell Street (I never did find out the name of the place). Again, one is ushered into a private room with bar up a back entrance. Apparently the musicians rotate throughout the touring schedule, but there are always two of them, and from what others have written on TripAdvisor, the musicians are generally personable and solid in their skills.

    Our two musicians on this tour, Larry and Anthony, explained the differences between a jig, a reel and a slide (6/8, 4/4 and 12/8 respectively), talked about traditional Irish instruments, told a lot of jokes, and played a lot of music. A representative YouTube link would be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fOOhwjonGw. Anthony in the video was one of our musicians. Our other musician, Larry, is featured on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXl2_orEqEo.

    You could buy their CDs at the end. We did not. We just tipped them and presented a map, asking where should we go next in the next few days. Both told us to "report" to Devitts ASAP. Hopping a cab outside the door, we did!

    Devitts (78 Lower Camden Street, sessions nightly starting at 9:30 pm) has REAL trad in the sense that the musicians huddle in a circle at one end of the bar. There are no microphones, and no real "set" for the evening. The 10-12 quite young musicians played everything from harp, to violin, to banjo, to flute to bodhrán, you name it.

    Here is a link I found on YouTube that will give you a feel for what it's like when you can hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssScMpSn0Ow. Unfortunately, as we found with most places like this, it's hard to hear them, even though we were no more than 10 feet from the music. We gave up trying to hear and just started enjoying ourselves. The people at the bar were really friendly, and when we told them what we were trying to do (hit as much trad as humanly possible given our few days there), we received tons of tips. Actually, most of their advice confirmed information I already had, which made me feel as though my planning was good.

    We crawled into our beds at around 1 a.m.

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    Day/Night Two (Sunday)--Hop On/Off Bus, Brazen Head, Mercantile plus craft brew at Bull & Castle

    We barely made it out of bed by noon Sunday. Luckily, there are two Starbucks near the Westin, and we managed to down enough coffee to clear our heads and check emails on our phones via wireless.

    We could not warm up, though. Although we have always taken a hat, gloves and long underwear with us to Ireland, even in the middle of summer, we really did think it would be at least 40 F for the most part. Huh! Wrong! A cold wind from the North blew for most of our days in Dublin, and we would experience snow, rain and hail intermittently. All the locals were equally stunned by the ferocity of the weather, too.

    I knew Dublin was quite walkable, so I had made no plans for any type of city bus tour. Heck, I hadn't even worried about bus routes or passes. I just figured we'd use one of the self-guided walking tours I found on the internet. The wind and temperature changed that plan fast. We suddenly opted for the, as we quickly found out, unheated Green Hop On/Hop Off bus that presented itself to us just to get out of the wind.

    As with the Red HOHO version, one gets to use the buses for two days. We quickly decided we'd do some far away points on the two days via the bus (Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Jail). If we learned anything else along the way, to us, it would be a mere bonus.

    And we did enjoy our first driver for sure. He gave us a really good narrative, and we DID get a good sense of the city as we approached Guinness Storehouse.

    We had not ever wanted to tour the Guinness Storehouse, viewing it as a total rip-off. The Hop On/Hop Off gave us a pitiful discount on the one adult ticket, and we had special pricing for our senior (my husband) and our student daughter, but the fact remains, we were still paying Guinness (now owned by Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London, United Kingdom) for THEIR advertising. The chits we received for a free drink didn't offset the cost enough for us.

    Nevertheless, we were so darn cold, and it was, as one of the locals said, "a desperate day" outside. We had lunch inside at Gilroy's Restaurant (quite good), and then went up to the top viewing area, the Gravity Bar, to drink our "free" Guinness/Smithwicks beers while overlooking all of Dublin.

    I admit I did enjoy seeing the exhibit on Guinness advertising, since it has been exceptionally brilliant since it started. First campaign slogan? "Guinness is Good for You."

    Tip: if you DO want to go there, you can buy your tickets online at a decent discount at https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/TicketSelection.aspx. If you can find a promotion code somewhere, too, then you might end up with a really good deal.

    I checked my notes once we got back onto the Hop On/Hop Off bus, and I saw that by getting off at the Jamison's Distillery area, we could cross over the Liffey on Church St. to get to the Brazen Head (20 Bridge Street Lower) in because they had a Sunday afternoon session.

    Advertised as "The Oldest Pub in Dublin," it sure looked like a "Ye Old Inn" type tourist trap, and I have to tell you, I would not want near this place in the summer.

    We were a half hour early, which was a good thing because it took us awhile to find the right room in which the session would be held. We quickly established a "beachhead" near the corner of the bar, and when the musicians left their bar stools to report to their session corner, we were able to slide over to get prime viewing.

    OK--here are my thoughts. The Brazen Head session was not the "real" trad in the sense that Devitts was, but it was not mere touristy stuff either. The musicians that day were mainly older gentlemen (a woman was with them Sunday), the band Rafferty, who are one of the groups who have been, according to my "new best friends", playing there forever. I found this link on YouTube, so you can get a feel for what they are like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi-B8wUveE4.

    On Sunday afternoon, I'd say that the crowd was mainly Irish who try to come there every Sunday afternoon, and many of the Americans were more or less regulars, too--they come there whenever they are in town on business.

    People did talk during the music but the band leader had a bell he'd ring whenever he felt the attention level had dropped and the talking level had risen too much. Much appreciated!

    As in any good Irish pub, regulars have a song or two that they will sing as a solo. The one that stays with me was sung by a really sweet older woman: "Scorn Not His Simplicity", a song written by the Irish musician and songwriter Phil Coulter about his first son with Down's Syndrome (here's the link to a version performed by Sinead O'Connor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpOprrQfryo). Tears were running down my face for sure.

    We enjoyed meeting all the people around us, too. All I know is that three hours and too many Smithwicks went by awfully fast.

    We decided to walk towards our hotel via Dame St in hopes of hitting the early Sunday evening Mercantile session. One of the musicians from the tour, Anthony, would be performing. On the way, we stopped at the brew pub Bull and Castle (5-7 Lord Edward St) for our first taste of O'Hara's Irish Pale Ale. Good!

    At the Mercantile (The Mercantile Hotel, 28 Dame Street), we found an arrangement we actually preferred for most of the trip. The four musicians performing were certainly "real" trad musicians, emphasizing complex jigs, reels and slides. They occupied window seats near the door, also a more or less standard arrangement in so many of the trad pubs. But this was a bar venue made for everything from Latin dancing to Big Band night. Therefore, the musicians were expertly amplified throughout the long space, and there was room enough in the pub that "talkers" could move towards the back, and anyone who wanted to listen would have plenty of space near the musicians to see and hear.

    More beers magically slid down our throats, and even though we had every intention of moving onto our next recommended place, Bowe's (on the corner of Fleet Street and D'Olier Street), we had to pass our hotel to get to it, and we heard our beds there calling us home.

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    I'm enjoying your report, AZ, and especially appreciate the formatting -- your use of frequent paragraph breaks, bolding, links and concise info makes for an easy and pleasurable read. Sounds like you had a great getaway.

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    Put in as much detail as you like -- it's all very interesting! I don't know if you saw it (or would even be interested) but I watched this segment about Glen Hansard on CBS Sunday Morning today. He's a cool Dubliner who has gone from busking to the big time.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epCqdwfS_lg

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    Day/Night Three (Monday)--Kilmainham Jail, Peadar Kearneys, O'Donahuges, O'Neils

    We decided to walk down to the Grafton Street pedestrian area to get breakfast at Brewley's and to give me the opportunity to stock up on diclofenac, which I can easily get over the counter in Ireland and France but have to have a prescription for in the US. If you do a search for "diclofenac" or "voltaren gel" on this forum, you'll see plenty of references to the wonders this stuff does for arthritic joints.

    We swung around northward from Grafton St to catch the Hop On/Hop Off bus at Dame Street to take out out to Kilmainham Jail. Once again, we got a good driver with a very informative narrative.

    If there is no other site you see in Dublin than Kilmainham Jail, your visit to Dublin would not have been wasted.

    If you are Irish, chills will go up and down your back as you see the place that birthed Irish independence from the martyrs of the Easter Rising. If you are NOT Irish, as I am not (my family consists of the Scotch Irish who arrived at the burgeoning of the US independence and then a lot of coal mining immigrants from Wales, Lancashire, and Cornwall), then you will receive the key part of understanding Irish struggle.
    * See notes below for a pre-reading tip

    It also helped me understand why a much earlier martyr to the cause, Robert Emmet, is mentioned over and over again wherever we went.

    Our guide, whose name I did not get, was stern yet passionate about the jail's history. It was a bitter cold day, perfect for understanding a place that did not provide its inmates with light and heat.

    We spent almost an hour afterwards looking through the museum, and then had tea in the upstairs tea room, which is sort of a cubby staffed by wonderful people.

    We hopped back onto the bus, where unfortunately the driver just played a narrative tape instead of providing his own information. The bus came to a final stop on O'Connell Street, where we had to switch to a new bus and wait eons in the unheated space until the driver moved forward.

    We stopped at The Mint, our Westin basement bar, for a quick lunch. As mentioned before, we liked the Westin staff overall and the Mint staff in particular. Hitting the hotel's business area computer, I once again consulted my trad sessions link http://www.dublinsessions.ie to see if there were any Monday updates. Ah, Peadar Kearney's, 64 Dame St., had an early session. Good!

    By arriving early before the session, once again we were able to establish our beachhead, which was good considering that again, it was hard to hear unless one was inches from the band.

    The crowd consisted of locals, probably because it was an odd hour. In fact, we were soon told by all around us that they had come in from the suburbs to hear this band. We never did find out the band's name (not Brian Brody, although he often performs there). I found a picture online at http://www.peadarkearneys.com/uploads/7/7/8/7/7787054/199393_orig.jpg?139
    so if you know who they are, share!

    We were not that enamored with the musicians as a whole, but we thought their lead vocalist, a woman with blond hair, had a wonderful unique voice tone. They would have been amplified, but the system was down. That meant that conversation drowned them out 50% of the time. Luckily, whenever people stood up to sing solos, conversation did die down.

    We stayed until the end, mainly because we had found another set of "new best friends" in the pub.

    Locals and my online sources had told us to try out O'Donoghues (15 Merrion Row), which was having a session that night, so we grabbed a cab and headed over.

    Utter disappointment. Yeah, it was a Monday night, but still... One lone singer, who was not bad, playing in the front, in a very tired fashion. A small group at the back, also playing in a very tired fashion. We tried to get into it, but gave up.

    Grabbing another cab (and by the way, cabs were generally inexpensive and easily obtained everywhere), we headed back to the hotel. As we were at a stoplight, the driver rolled down his window and remarked, "Wow, that's some session going on at O'Neils." We all looked at each other and said simultaneously, "Drop us off here."

    So O'Neills (2 Suffolk Street),which apparently also has good food downstairs, may have the appearance of being a tourist trap but it has a really good entertainment arrangement. The band area was elevated, had a really good sound system, and then benefited from an elevated seating area that adjoined the main entertainment space. Lots of angles from which to see; lots of areas just to go and talk.

    They had a good beer list, and the bartenders were really patient about all of our questions (eg, "What would you say is your hoppiest IPA with the lowest ABV?"). After settling down with a BrewDog Punk IPA (which I later found was from Scotland), we totally got into the band. Name: The Buggy Boys.

    We love them. Two young men with banjo and guitar, skinny as can be, can make even tired "Molly Malone" sound fresh and interesting. These two are fabulous musicians. Here's a YouTube link I found that shows their little alcove at O'Neills: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7f8w_Fkcq0

    The lead singer has a really unusual voice that grows on you, and their style is to start out old tired trad slowly and then in a few bars, MOVE it along. From other videos I see online, they sometimes have a drummer, but they sound MUCH better without him.

    I want to adopt them. And I told them so after the session. :)

    Apparently they have a standard Monday night gig at O'Neills. They told us they would be at The Temple Bar on Wednesday at 10:30 and Thursday at 11:30.

    *I hate romance novels, but after visiting the jail, I wanted something accessible to read about the Easter Rising. I immediately downloaded "1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion" by Morgan Llywelyn and enjoyed it so much that I downloaded and read two others of hers by the end of the trip: "1921" and "1949".

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    Day/Night Four (Tuesday)—Porterhouse Bar, Oliver St. John Gogarty's, The Temple Bar, Brazen Head

    This is as good of a time as any to explain that Guinness in calories and in alcohol shares common ground with American light beers. A 12-oz. serving of Guinness contains 125 calories and a mere 4.27 percent alcohol.

    But although Smithwicks and Guinness are lower in alcohol than what we usually drink, each day’s volume was certainly catching up with us. We had been averaging 6 hours a day in various bars, and we certainly were not nursing one drink at each.

    We knew we had to get up early Wednesday for a guided trip south to Kilkenney, so for practice, we made ourselves get up in time for breakfast Tuesday at our hotel. Westin’s restaurant, “The Exchange” offers a buffet from 7am - 10am, and we successfully reported there at 9:15 a.m.

    The breakfast was good, but we were happy, given the focus of our trip and the hours offered, that we had not taken the Breakfast Package as part of our hotel stay. We would have worn ourselves ragged, given our evening hours, trying to take advantage of the deal.

    The weather continued to be just awful. Layering up again, we headed down to Trinity to the library to look at the Book of Kells. We really enjoyed it.

    We checked out a few more things in the area, then headed back to the hotel. My husband and daughter had a business meeting that afternoon, and I took advantage of their absence to catch up on reading. Plopping in reception by the fireplace, I did simultaneous people watching and reading. Heaven!

    My daughter and husband didn’t make it back until 6 pm. The meeting had gone on four hours, and they had only one drink with their associates at Dublin’s smallest pub, Dawson’s Lounge on Dawson St (Stephen’s Green end). Having consulted my list of Irish craft brews and pubs, we headed out to the Porterhouse Bar, the central one located on Nassau Street at the bottom of Grafton Street, where we ordered their very own Hop Head and were extremely pleased. Staying for some dinner, we ordered Irish Stew, side salads and vegetables. They were actually quite good.

    We knew “our” Buggy Boys would be playing at The Temple Bar the next night, so we decided to find out where the bar was and see what seats we’d try to get the next night. Walking down Fleet St, we heard music coming out of Oliver St. John Gogarty's and went to check it out. Pretty darn touristy playing really tired tunes. The musicians were actually good, but not worth our time.

    Moving down Fleet St to where it becomes Temple Bar, The Temple Bar pub is at 47/48 Temple Bar. The place was packed with mainly tourists, the sound system was terrible, and we despaired of getting a seat or hearing anything without vibration the next night. We stayed for a bit and then moved on.

    We walked further on until we hit The Brazen Head again. There was no music, but I spotted some of the guys from the Sunday session in the crowd. We found a corner table and moved in. The guys in the band remembered us and shouted out a hello. The session started and we would have been in heaven except that we were by people who were doing more shouting than talking. Still, we were happy we came.

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    Day/Night Five (Wednesday)—Collin’s Day Trip to Glendalough, Kilkenney, The Cobblestone

    I had been worried that we would not have been able to find enough trad in Dublin, so I booked a day trip south to Kilkenney for one day. I was undecided upon reading review of these trips which one to book, so I just sent out feelers to three, and Collins Day Tours was the first one to answer back.

    Would I do this again? No.

    It wasn’t the fault of the tour. First, we had been pretty successful at doing what we came for in Dublin so we did not want to leave it, we hate bus tours, and the weather was awful. So all in all, we would not be the best judge. Our guide was fine, the people on our trip were fine, so nothing wrong.

    In case you want to know how this trip with Collins works, you go to one of three or four meeting points roughly before 9:00 a.m. (we were equidistant between the O’Connell and Nassau stops, and while we got on at Nassau, we were able to get off at O’Connell). Then you head south for first stop, Glendalough.

    There are plenty of write-ups on this tour elsewhere, so Google for them, and do check out their official itinerary here:
    http://www.collinsdaytours.com/itinerary.asp

    and you can book here:
    http://www.collinsdaytours.com/book_now.asp

    Since this is a partial beer report, note that we were able to eat at the Design Center at Kilkenney for lunch. With our meal, we picked up some bottles of O’Hara’s IPA to quench our thirst, and we were quite happy.

    We got home shortly before 6, and after checking out if there was any action at Bowe’s (there wasn’t), we skipped over to the Westin and visited our great staff at The Mint again. We had nice salads and went over our schedule. Time to hit The Cobblestone. Plus we had a date with The Buggy Boysat The Temple Bar.

    It was good that we arrived at The Cobblestone (77 King Street) early. Once again, we were able to establish a beachhead, but even our beachhead was rather inadequate. The regulars who want to hear music try to save the only three or four prime seats where one can listen and watch the musicians, who sit in an alcove with ease.

    And for some reason, the bar owners have built these obstructions on top of the bar which block both sound and view of the music. What puzzles me is that I have seen pictures where these do not exist.

    I think the noise levels impacts the musicians, too. This is the only place where I’d often hear some of them out of sync. That is to be expected in some open sessions, but still, it was more marked here. Here’s an idea of the sound (from a YouTube link), though, when one could hear and when they were a bit more together (although you CAN hear some “offs”:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99QUznNeWhw

    As others have noted, bar man (owner?) Tom Mulligan is a dead ringer for Bill Clinton. His gestures are even the same. If he got a nose job, he could be a Secret Service decoy. He’s a lovely man who took time to meet every newcomer at the bar, too. Here is a link to a picture, although he actually looks more like him now (updated hair do): http://shannonchance.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/cobbletsone-1.jpg

    If I were comparing bars, I’d say that the Cobblestone shared characteristics of both The Brazen Head and Devitts. Devitts/Cobblestone had the true trad session's incoming/leaving of session musicians, which means some very talented people showed up—and often left. Brazen Head/Cobblestone had regulars who performed solos. There was a “regular” feel to the bar, too. But like Devitts, the charm of the place was quickly lost once one could not hear a note of what was being played.

    By the way, we must have had the only cab driver in Dublin who did not know where the Cobblestone was. You might want to refer to it by one of its other names: Mulligans.

    We had enjoyed out time at The Cobblestone, but a few hours in, my daughter pointed to my watch and said, “Buggy Boys, beachhead.” We were able to walk out the door and hail a cab. The Temple Bar it was.

    Hard to believe, but within a few moments of wrangling, we found ourselves a table for prime viewing of our boys. Here’s what we got to see (from someone else’s YouTube link): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ-j59vjzcQ

    We were so darn happy, and we stayed until the grates went up on the windows.

    My husband, who is 68 and who typically gets up at 5 a.m. on a regular basis and goes for a run by 6 a.m., said, “I cannot believe I am closing bars now.”

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    Day Six (Thursday)—Self-Guided Walking Tour, Paris Bakery, The Merchant Arch, Thai Orchid, The Cobblestone and The Temple Bar

    The weather was still cold, but the wind had died down, and it only rained 10 minutes per hour this day. I had downloaded a self-guided walking tour from the internet, and we supplemented it with our Rick Steves Ireland guide. Heading across O’Connell bridge, we basically toured everything north of the Liffey.

    Coming down Moore St. toward the Liffey, we saw the Paris Bakery (18 Moore St). It looked good and we ate a late lunch there. Soup was excellent; breads were amazing. We immediately decided we were coming back for breakfast.

    Going across the Ha’Penney Bridge, it started to pour, so we jumped into The Merchant Arch Pub. Turns out they had a musician doing an afternoon session AND O’Hara IPA, so all was not lost!

    We continued our self-guided tour, finally getting to see old Oscar Wilde up close and personal. We loved St. Stephen’s Green. Crocuses and daffodils were out, despite the snow and hail of the week. We dropped into the Shelbourne to see what all the fuss was about. You know, we were darn happy we had stayed at the Westin, no matter how luxurious the Shelbourne was.

    We made our way back to our hotel. We are Big East basketball fans, and we knew the hotel’s ESPN was covering one of the games. We got take-out from Thai Orchid (7 Westmoreland St) across the street (not bad!), and watched the game until its exciting end.

    And that meant we got a late start to The Cobblestone. As I mentioned before, even without a huge crowd, there’s a limited ability to see/hear in the pub, and by the time we arrived, the session had been in gear for 15 minutes, plus the St. Patrick’s weekend crowd was arriving. Not good—a drunken mess. After a guy nearly knocked me over and then pawed at my daughter while apologizing to me, I said, “We’re gone.”

    Nice thing—one of the soloists remembered us and said, “Sorry to see those who appreciate this leaving.” Sweet, right?

    Anyway, I told my husband and daughter I was done for the night. Our Buggy Boys would be performing at The Temple Bar at 11:30, but I was pretty sure it would be a nightmare by then. The two of them walked me back to the hotel and then went out.

    They were back in 45 minutes. They said the street alone was a disaster with so many drunks to get through. Then although they found a good table with good access to the sound of music in The Temple Bar, the crowd got so bad that they could not take it.

    So for the first time, we did NOT meet our goal of two sessions a day.

    We tried.

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    Day Seven (Friday)—Paris Bakery for Breakfast, The Craft Beer Fair, Self-Guided Walk Cont’d, Porterhouse near the Temple Bar, The Storehouse

    We philosophized that we had already gotten our best out of Dublin trad and looked forward to doing well with craft beers. If that was all we accomplished on our last day, given the drunken hordes for St. Patrick’s Day, we would have done well indeed.

    We breakfasted at the Paris Bakery again and did bits of shopping (mainly my picking up vats of Volterol at various pharmacies). We were at the Irish Craft Beer Village (George’s Dock near the IFSC) at opening (quelle surprise).

    The village may have been open, but nothing seemed operational. Ah—the taps WERE operational. We were lucky to recognize one of our barkeeps from Bull and Castle earlier in the week, who remembered us from all the questions we had for him.

    He was delightful. Telling his co-workers to either side of him that “these people understand hops”, we got to taste a darn amazing array of ales and IPAs:

    My husband enjoyed the Bo Bristle (brewed by Bo Bristle, Banagher, County Offaly), my daughter really liked Galway Hooker, and I loved Metalman (Metalman Brewing Co, Waterford).

    Since no one was there yet, we engaged the young man in conversation. He told us that O’Hara’s had set the pace for craft brews, but they had to export almost everything until recently because no one in Ireland would buy it. Similarly, Porterhouse opened their doors as a brew pub in Ireland with a dismal forecast by their accountants.

    They are all THRIVING now. Craft beer had a 45% market uptick in Ireland this year. And I am proud to say that everyone we talked to gave the USA a lot of credit for the movement. But…

    …this is something I want to note: all the IPAs and Ales we tasted in Ireland had flavor WITHOUT EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL.
    I cannot stress this enough. My husband and I have places in our home town with a solid array of beers on tap, but the trend had gone toward double IPAs and Imperial IPAs with stupid alcohol levels. One should not have one let alone two (reasonable with a two-hour meal) and drive.

    I am happy to report that someone, somewhere got the memo. There is some disagreement where the term “session beer” got its name. Some trace it to pub hours; some trace it to music sessions in the pub, but here is what it means to me:

    If I have a beer with 5% alcohol or less, I can have TWO beers with my meal (probably a two-hour sitting) that actually have flavor and be able to walk out the darn door. Which one would be able to do in Ireland with a Guinness.

    Here is a great article on the matter:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-living/ci_22355716/session-beers-gaining-popularity-craft-brewers

    We have no review of music or food at the Beer Village, but we still left happy. Our barkeep had received an offer of a tour of Portland, Oregan breweries. We told him we'd do the Portland, Maine end for him.

    We explored a bit more of the Docklands, crossed the bridge, and made our way back toward Dame St. We wanted to see if Mercantile had anything on (no), so then we took the long way up the street before we turned back to Temple Bar.
    We found one of the other Porterhouse locations and refreshed ourselves with HopHead. It was as good as we remembered it.

    The streets were already looking like Mardi Gras, just with people dressed in green. Hoping to catch ANYTHING to get us away from these people, we headed upstairs to The Old Storehouse because we heard music up there.

    Of course, The Old Storehouse ALWAYS pumps music onto the street. I had fallen for it a zillion time. But this time, there WAS something up there.

    Cormac Dempsey, who often performs there, was teamed for this weekend with a violinist I don’t know. They did an excellent job.

    I believe, but I am not sure, that the next group was “The Rafferty Boys” , mainly because I see that time slot being filled by them the week before and after on the pub’s website. No matter what, they were totally charming.

    And here is why it was the perfect ending to our trip. When my husband and I were dating, two tunes in our local Irish pubs were our favorites:
    “Four Green Fields” (story of how the Ireland Republic longed for its Northern “Field”)
    “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” (story of ANZAC troop slaughter at Gallipoli)

    So I got my tears in for the trip. The one member of the band observing that I knew all the words to both, “Are you still insisting you’re not Irish?”

    At the end of their set, we were done in. Back to pack. We dipped into The Mint to say farewell to our guys at the bar before bed. We left the hotel at 6:30 with tears.
    --End of report--

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