Irish Real Ales and Great Grub

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by fizzytom on November 22, 2012

While Ireland is famed for Guinness, it’s by no means the only beer made in the country and visitors to Dublin can sample a good selection of the excellent Irish craft beers at the Bull & Castle in the Christchurch area of the city. Billed as a Beer Hall and Steak House this popular joint is open daily and does get very busy in the evenings but real ale enthusiasts who want to do some ‘research’ will find the place more comfortable earlier in the day, just after lunch and into the early evening. That said, it’s the kind of place where, once installed and in the flow, you’ll find it hard to leave.

Compared with prices in the UK Dublin is expensive and as this is a city with some great pubs, it obviously helps to find a slightly cheaper pint as most visitors are going to want to experience some of the legendary Irish ‘craic’ at some point (or several ) during their stay. This place might be described as a ‘beer hall’ which comes with connotations of Germany, Austria or the Czech Republic, but there’s a sense of Irish-ness here that is lacking in some of the places in the more touristy part of the city so you shouldn’t feel in any way that you’re missing out.

We went with the intention of trying a couple of beers and after an hour or so, headed downstairs to the ground floor for dinner. The beer hall is on the upper floor while downstairs is a pleasant restaurant that’s a nice mix of traditional and contemporary styles. We had to wait a few minutes for a table in the restaurant but there was somewhere to sit while we waited for the staff to call us over.

The beer is what tempted us in and I was delighted to see such a good selection of beers from Irish microbreweries. These included the Franciscan Well in Cork City, Eight Degrees Brewing from Michelstown and Beoir Chorca Duibhne which is situated on the Dingle Peninsula and which has the distinction of being Ireland’s smallest brewery. A couple of beers are available year round but others are seasonal or are available on a limited basis only which is good if you’re a regular here as the arrangement gives you the chance to try some new beers.

Of the ones that are permanently on tap, we both loved the Galway Hooker: the brewery makes only one beer which might sound a bit narrow but I’ve been told that in the last couple of years this beer has become so popular that you’ll find it in any pub in Ireland that keeps a few cask ales. The name is a bit misleading because it’s actually made in Roscommon but that hardly matters because this hoppy pale ale type beer is fantastic whatever you call it.

When we went downstairs to eat we tried another couple of beers; the choice differs slightly but if there’s something that’s on tap upstairs that’s not available downstairs you can ask and they’ll fetch it for you. Here Himself had a half litre of the Belfast Lager (€4.80) which is made by the Whitewater Brewery, the largest microbrewery in Northern Ireland. It’s a good brew and easily a match for some of the excellent continental lagers. I had a half litre of the Blarney Blonde(€4.50) from the Franciscan Well Brewery which had a full flavour, but was rather darker in colour than I’d expect from a typical blonde beer. While these prices may seem top heavy, they’re actually really reasonable for Dublin where an average pint of lager in an average pub will come in at around €4.50. Go somewhere really touristy and you can expect to pay at least €5 for a pint of Guinness.

Although we both enjoy a good steak we wanted some Irish fare and the menu certainly promotes local ingredients with typically Irish dishes. The menu does change but in addition to the steaks you can expect to find things like fish and chips, burgers, stews, pies and risottos. I had the bangers and mash priced at €11.95, a generous serving of delicious Irish sausages with a mound of slightly over worked mash that had been drowned in olive oil at the end. The gravy was rich and tasty with a good peppery kick that complemented the sausages well. Himself had the Irish stew which he enjoyed very much. It came with a hefty chunk of crusty bread. The stew was filling and there was plenty of meat in it that was just falling off the bones. This was €12.75, so again not cheap but in Dublin terms not outrageous.

I had just enough room for dessert and though Himself had declared his belly full, he still managed to assist in the demolition of a delicious Baileys pannacotta which proved to be not as heavy as it sounded. Priced at €5.45 it was only slightly more expensive than a glass of Baileys so well worth the money.

Service on both floors was friendly and prompt. The staff on the beer hall level really knew their stuff and were able to make recommendations based on our beer preferences. Although some food is served on the upper floor, downstairs is cosier and is a better option if you want to eat in a less noisy environment.

Although this sounds like an expensive place it is pretty much middle of the road for Dublin. However, if you’re tempted, it’s worth taking a look at their website because they do various promotional menus and you can get a half litre of beer for just €4 at certain times in the week.

I do like a pint of Guinness but I also like trying new beers I’ve not seen before, particularly if they’re local to the place I’m visiting. I thought the food and service at the Bull & Castle were good, but the chance to try some excellent beers is the main reason to drop in.

Monday to Thursday 12pm-11.30pm
Friday and Saturday 12pm-1.30am
Sunday and Bank Holiday 12.30- 11.00pm

Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access.
Reservations are recommended for weekends. Free wi-fi is available throughout
Bull & Castle Beer Hall and Steakhouse
7 Lord Edward Street
Christchurch, Dublin
01 475 1122

© LP 2000-2009