Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sláinte! Go black this St. Patricks Day! Top5 Tuesday - Best places to grab a dark pint from Chicago to Ireland!

Sláinte! A few years ago my sister and I went to Ireland, the mother-ship of our Irish heritage. I told her that among the castles, churches, culinary classes, and other shenanigans that we were about to get into that a visit to the Jameson distillery and the Guinness brewery was a must for me. She agreed and was a good sport, she even tried ciders for the first time. We had loads of fun hitting the pubs, which are in fact the only place to eat. They don't really have restaurants there, they have pubs... and the farm-to-table food is always fresh and pairs excellent with a stout.  

Photo caption: Selfie with my sister Mary. Taken at the top of the Guinness Brewery, Dublin in the GRAVITY® Bar. Which has a 360 view of the city and pours the best creamy pints of this delicious stout!

Many people also have a misconception about dark beer. They think dark equals strong. This is not the case. Guinness actually has fewer calories than a Budweiser or Corona Extra. It's only 125 calories a pint! When I was training for the marathon I considered it my go to diet beer. I really enjoy the dark roasted taste, I like bold flavors, but I'm also a coffee consumer and I've noticed that among my friends, those that don't love coffee usually stray from stouts. I love stouts and Guinness has a nice clean dry finish and with the right pour it can taste like our drinking a dry roasted frothy coffee... but it's beer!

I remember the first time I had this beer in London, while I was studying abroad in college. It was poured so differently than in the USA and you could get a half pint or full. I really love that about European drinking establishments, they let you choose your size, unlike so many American watering holes. It also was served a bit warmer, not so cold and it tasted better, more roasty, not so bitter, maybe fresher, maybe it was the temperature it was served at or a combinations of all of those things. Regardless, as long as I can remember I have been a fan of the black beer and to get a pour from the source that uses water from the Wicklow mountains was a dream! It really does taste better over there. Not that its not tasty here, it's just that water is a strong factor/ingredient in beer. Pending it's PH balance, minerals, and taste, water can taste differently and those differences can effect the overall outcome/taste of your beer.I think I'll need to do a post about water soon... but for now, here's my Top5 favorite places to grab a pint in an Irish pub in both Chicago and Ireland. I know there are hundreds, thousands even, but these places I've listed all have special meaning to me.

Top5 Chicago Irish Pubs

  1. Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro - Bangers and mash anyone? True to the Irish pub menu, they even serve blood sausage! Not personally one of my favorites, but it is a staple in the Irish breakfast. They have a large formal dinning area, cozy fireplace near the great wooden bar area, and an authentic gourmet food shop upfront. All the comforts of Ireland!
  2. Lady Gregory's Irish Bar & Restaurant - If whiskey and beer is what you crave, with a side of deviled eggs... then head over to this classic neighborhood pub where you can order whiskey flights like "Charlie Sheen Crazy" (you can only imagine how crazy that is...) or "Irish Singles Mixer" which is a collection of single malt whiskeys.Then wash down your flight with a frothy dark pint.
  3. O’Shaughnessy’s Public House - If you can't understand your bar keep cause his brogue is too thick, you're in the right place! Classic Irish pub fare and atmosphere. This is a great neighborhood gem, where not only the beer is imported, so are the employees!
  4. Cork & Kerry - A south-side institution. Having grown up on the south-side, I can say there are an unlimited number of pubs scattered down Western Ave. (The south-side Irish corridor) but this one has been there almost 30 years and is still going strong. One of the places I used to hit back in my college days. Definitely a must stop when down in Beverly.   
  5. Fado - OK, so they might be a chain, but they are all Irish owned and authentic. They will absolutely not allow you to order anything other than an Irish beverage... We'll at least they did that about 10 years ago. I was with my friend Erin, who kept trying to order a Miller Lite and the bartender kept saying "try again," until she figured out she needed to order something Irish and she ended up getting a Harp. I'm sure that was just a sassy bartender and really they'd let you order what you like, but that memory stayed with me. The Irish are proud, witty, and sometimes a bit pushy, but they just want to share the best they have to offer with ya! You can also catch just about any football (soccer) match or rugby game here. 
Honorable mention: Reilly's Daughter at Midway Airport. Just passing through Chicago? This is a must. Family owned and operated true to the south-side Irish for decades.

Top5 Ireland Pubs

  1. Temple Bar - Dublin, a bit touristy, but it's a must for live Irish music, the perfect pint of Guinness and some oysters. Everyone that's passed through Dublin, I'm sure has passed through the Temple Bar at least once. 
  2. Hargadon's Pub - Sligo Hands down, my favorite pub for food in Sligo! The beef stew was mouth-watering, made with grass-fed beef, fresh vegetables, mash and washed down with a pint of Guinness. I can't wait to go back.
  3. Sheehan's Pub - Killarney. Loud and lively. This place is jam packed with people and music. Live traditional Irish music served up nightly in the front bar with a pint of your favorite beverage. 
  4. O'Neil's Bar and Restaurant - Dublin Did someone say Irish craft beers? Yes, please. In the heart of Dublin across the street from Trinity is this packed pub with people, music, food, beer, life, art and history... This pub has been there for over 300 years. The walls, if only they could speak and some do, with murals, clippings and posts. This is where locals and visitors meet and tell tales as only Irish can spin em. My sister and I weren't there five minutes before friendly faces struck up conversations.
  5. Vaughans Anchor Inn - Liscannor Mouthwatering dishes, this is not your average pub! They've been getting culinary awards since 2006! If you're headed out to or fro the Cliffs of Moher, this is a no-brainier pub stop. Since this establishment is near the sea, I'd suggest the crab cakes or mussels, the menu is always changing seasonally but anyway you go, you can't go wrong. What more can I say... paired with a pint of Guinness you'll have some of the best cuisine in the country... I get thirsty and hungry just thinking about it.  

And if you don't mind me being a bit Irish and pushy... choose wisely this St. Patrick's Day and order a black beer instead of a green one! Something has always freaked me out about drinking chemicals and consuming non-natural things. That's part of the reason I decided to start brewing myself. Just because something is green, doesn't make it Irish! The stout is Irish, they've been brewing it for over 250 years! So go to the dark-side this year and grab a pint of black this St. Paddy's day and toast to the country that put stouts on the map!

I want to hear from you!

Did I leave one of your favorite Irish pubs off the radar? Please let me know what it is, I'd love to check it out!


  1. I haven't been to the Fado here in Chicago, but I loved the one in DC…ten years ago. They kind of revamped the place somewhere around 2007 or 2008, and it just felt like an Irish TGI Friday's afterwards. I work right by the one here though, so I really should pop in for a pint one of these days.

    1. It's best on a non weekend, go when they are slow so you can talk to a bartender and enjoy the space or go there for a match when you want to catch a game and enjoy the comradery. I would never go there on a weekend. Too many tourists and I can't stand crowds. I should have preferenced that. It is authentic and fun place, you just gotta go at the right time.


    2. Ya know what, I misunderstood your post: I thought you were saying that you had last been there ten years ago! I'll definitely check it out. Honestly, my last couple visits to the DC location were so disappointing that I had kind of written off the one here…but now that I think about it, it's probably been five years since I was in that one, and it may well have changed again since.

    3. Let's go after work sometime!

  2. It's not exactly Guinness, but I am serving a home brewed milk stout with my corned beef sandwiches today, does that count? I love black beers, which is fortunate because water straight from my tap is pretty much useless for other styles unless cut with r/o water. I've never tried adjusting my water to perfectly match Dublin's water, have you? I know some people obsess about matching a certain city's water, but I have a feeling enjoying a beer in a city famous for its beer has more to do with the intangibles of travel. Matching the water at home might get the science right, but those intangibles just aren't there.

    1. Yes, that counts and sounds super tasty, what time is dinner? :)

      I have not tried to match water from another region to perfect a style. At our brew club (CHAOSBrewClub.net) we do filter the water which is pretty good water to begin with, since our source is Lake Michigan, the filter helps bring down the chlorine levels, but as far as mineral make-up, comparable PH levels, I'd need to do more research to see how it would translate in respect to other regions. It sounds like an interesting article, though I'll need to take dive deeper the the science to report accuracies, that currently I do not know.

      Agreed. Everything tastes better on vacation.
      Thanks for your reply and your inquiry!

  3. I'm envious of your water. If you're still looking into getting into water chemistry I'd like to recommend Basic Brewing Podcast. They have two episodes (3-24-11) with Kai Troester where he explains pH and how it affects the mash. I'm not a science major, but it was clear and concise and after listening to it two or three times it really helped me wrap my head around water chemistry.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll totally download and check that podcast out.
      Cheers, Nancy