Dublin is one of the most famous brewing and distilling cities in the world. There are certain areas of the city where the streets smell malty, a lingering scent of cereals hanging sweetly on the air. The history of the brewing families of Dublin runs deep, even intertwining with the history of the great cathedrals of the city.
Perhaps the most famous brew in all of Ireland is the ubiquitous Guinness. We visited the storehouse at St. James's Gate, taking part in an amusement park-like experience that showed the process of making a pint of "the black stuff."
One of the first things we learned was that Guinness is truly a deep ruby color. As you're taken through the tasting room, you savor a small glass, poured fresh with its nitrogen-rich foam rising to the top.
We made our way through the labyrinthine museum, learning about how brewers source their water and how the barley is germinated in the process of malting.
We walked up to the panoramic bar on the roof of the building, getting a fresh pour and a great view of the city. Watching the carbonation rise, cocoa brown in its glass, was quite the experience, even if I'm not normally a stout drinker.
When we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, the beer connection continued when we found that the Guinness family was responsible for extensive renovations to the church, and that many members of the family had been baptized there.
Worth a visit while checking out the Cathedral is Marsh's Library, right next door. Housing extremely rare antique books, including an impressive edition of Leviathan, Marsh's doesn't allow photography indoors. This was truly a hidden gem, tucked away behind the gardens surrounding the Cathedral grounds.
Now, I am by no means a whiskey lover. Yet.
I worked on it a good bit in Ireland, enjoying a wide array of whiskeys (my favorite being Writer's Tears).
Beyond helping me in my continued sampling, touring Teeling Whiskey also brought me up to speed on traditional Irish distilling methods; a serious departure from my up-close and fragrant experience with Jack Daniel's potent sour mash. Lynchburg sure does it differently than the Liberties neighborhood in Dublin.
The distilling floor was warm, and smelled cloyingly sweet, as I pressed my hand (only momentarily) against the hot metal drum of the mash kiln. The room was alive with smells and fermentation. The barley steep was next, a great wooden vat of bubbling, living liquid. It moved before our eyes as a few of us started to shed layers, never fully adapting to the heat.
We then set off to sample the goods at Teeling. We were shown the barrels, and told about the types of barrels with which Teeling had experimented; from sherry to bourbon to rum. We were also shown a bottle of clear liquid, out of place among the syrup-golden bottles of premium whiskey.
It was poitín, the Irish take on moonshine. Quite a dangerous little fellow.
We then took a seat in the tasting room. I started off my tasting with a "Teeling Tea," which incorporated Aperol, fruit tisane, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and whiskey into one of the tastiest mixed drinks I've ever had. A devious and refreshing concoction, paired with a small pour of Teeling Small Batch. The two ladies next to me puckered in disapproval with the neat pour of whiskey, sticking to the mixed drinks, but getting more and more giggly along the way.
Others tried the Single Grain, Single Malt, and even the highly prized Limited Edition Single Cask, which truly smelled of caramel and vanilla (some even claim pineapple), but certainly tasted of whiskey. It might take some more whiskey learning before expensive whiskey isn't considered wasted on me.
Dublin is known for its libations, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Smaller-scale operations like Teeling Whiskey are especially worth your while in a city teeming with options for a drink.