I’m going to share a little secret about Guinness in Ireland.
Before a recent 10-day trip to the Emerald Isle, I hounded former and current residents, Irish whiskey distillers, Irish pub owners and pretty much any other person who had ever set foot in Dublin about the best place to drink a Guinness, since I had heard that it was so much better in its home city (true or not).
From those sources, I curated a giant list of pubs, added a few more from online research (sourced primarily from Irish publications) and then set out to find the perfect pint.
And here’s the secret: I never had a bad pint of Guinness in Ireland.
Do Dublin (and Ireland) Like a GuinnessFollow in the footsteps of the legendary brewers who shaped Ireland and lived very, very well.
Touristy watering hole in Temple Bar? Family-run pub? A hip cocktail haven? Random bar near our hotel? Every pint was a perfect pour done in the classic six-step fashion, and even more exquisite when paired with a sip of Irish whiskey (usually Teeling, Powers, etc.)
So, is the Guinness really better over in Ireland? I asked Guinness Brewery Ambassador Zack Berger when I got back. He laughed. “I think it’s a myth — it’s like the margaritas taste better in Mexico. It could also be about how badly you want a beer.”
But kidding aside, Berger does admit that the preparation is vitally important. “It’s about patience and attention to detail,” he says, explaining the two-part, six-step pouring process that’s supposed to get a Guinness pint in front of you in “119.5 seconds.”
“Ideally, you’d be using a gravity glass created for drinking a Guinness,” he says. “You’re holding it at 45 degrees, letting the spout do all the work. Then you’re pouring 3/4 of the way up and letting all that agitated nitrogen settle around the widest part of the glass. Then you’re topping it up with a beautiful dome. It’s the balance between head and body.”
And a balance that pretty much every bar in Dublin can achieve. So apologies to The Gravediggers, Fallon’s, Grogans and all the other places that were recommended to me before the trip that we couldn’t get to in time. That said, I was able to stop in about 20 pubs, and the following six places offered a unique experience and an equally great stout. (Admittedly, Dublin has several hundred pubs, so take this as a small sampling.)
For your first sip: Guinness Storehouse
Sure, it’s a bit like Disney World for beer. But after maneuvering through seven floors on the history and making of “the world’s most iconic beer” with like-minded thirsty tourists, you’ll end up at the Gravity Bar, where you’ll take in 360-degree views of Dublin and enjoy a few Guinness variations that aren’t always available in the everyday pubs (warning: Guinness Clear is water!). It’s the best way to orient yourself to the city’s landscape, drink in hand. Bonus: If you really want to dive into some rare or unusual Guinness offerings, hit the company’s nearby Open Gate Brewery, which offers more experimental brews (like a Mint Chocolate Stout).
For a leisurely lunchtime pour: Nancy Hands Bar & Restaurant
Located just a block or two away from Phoenix Park — and just across the canal from the Storehouse — Nancy Hands is the quintessential “good Irish pub,” housed in a renovated three-story property that offers plenty of space to wander or sit (or hear traditional Irish music at least one day a week). Get a bangers & mash (or beef & Guinness stew) and a pint and just hang out. Dublin can be crowded; here, you’ll have plenty of space.
For a taste of history: Brazen Head
It’s Dublin’s oldest pub (circa 1198) and, therefore, prone to attracting tourists. Or so we thought: The afternoon we visited the space, which features both indoor and outdoor seating, it was fairly empty and everyone inside seemed to be local. The bar features music every night, a robust Irish whiskey selection and the most Instagram-able sign in the city. And, touristy or not, a perfectly good pint of Guinness.
For pairing with a fantastic cocktail: BAR 1661
Any bar that occasionally partners with New York’s iconic cocktail den/pub The Dead Rabbit is bound to hit on both complex drinks and Guinness pours. While the emphasis here is on local producers/ingredients and poitín — roughly, a precursor to whiskey that only became legal again in 1997 — you can get a Guinness here. We’d just suggest sipping it alongside a Right to Fight (Micil poitín, mezcal, charred corn, saffron).
For non-traditional music: The Foggy Dew
For traditional Irish folk music? Hit up, well, almost any pub (Darkey Kelly’s is as good as anything on a random night). To grab a good pint and get something a little different musically? Try this Temple Bar location, which features free ska and reggae on Sunday nights. (To note: Temple Bar is a district on the south bank of the Liffey that’s geared toward tourists and that every local will warn you about … but Dublin is a small and walkable city, so you’ll end up here at some point. Avoid the area’s namesake bar if you don’t like crowds; Foggy Dew offers plenty of space.)
For meeting all of Dublin: The Long Hall
With most of the city closing up on Christmas Eve, it seemed like Ireland’s entire population descended on this 257-year-old pub (which got most of its interior redone in the late 19th century), an ornate, beautiful and admittedly narrow space that is apparently a favorite of Bruce Springsteen. Given the crowds, try to grab a space at the bar — and then plan on staying for a pint or four.
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