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Craft beers, great food and fancy cocktails are recipe for pub survival

PUBS that don't adapt to offer great food and unusual beverages are doomed to fall victim to the recession, a leading food writer has warned.

John McKenna said that pubs are bound to fail unless they offer special attractions like great food, craft beers or freshly made cocktails.

But at the launch of his 2012 Bridgestone Guide to the 100 best eateries and places to say, the publican's son bemoaned the number of pubs that offered the "same bland drinks".

About 1,500 pubs are estimated to have closed in the past five years amid stiff competition from cheaper supermarket alcohol.

"Why would anyone pay €5 for a pint of Heineken when they can get 20 cans for €20 in the supermarket?" said Mr McKenna.

He challenged pubs to come up with other reasons for people to visit -- pointing out that there was no recession in good food, with many business owners telling him they had enjoyed their best year ever in 2011.

Matching great food with Irish craft ales and beers was the big trend for 2012, and would come to replace imported wines as an accompaniment to food, he predicted.

"Pubs that don't recognise this and adapt are doomed in my opinion," he said, urging bars to stand out by serving the best dry martini, the best specialist beer, or the best whiskeys.

L Mulligan Grocers in Dublin's Stoneybatter was singled out as an example of the new approach, and appears among the top 100 restaurants this year.

Operating as a pub since 1782, the premises has been given a new lease of life in the past 18 months by husband and wife team Colin Hession and Seaneen Sullivan along with business partner Michael Foggarty.

You won't find Guinness or Carlsberg on tap, instead you get your choice of 20 microbrewed specialist Irish draft beers, with over 100 more bottled options. These beers are varied,ranging from Eight Degrees Sunburnt Irish Red to Trouble Brewing's Dark Arts porter from Kildare and Cork's Franciscan Well Friar Weiss.

"There's seven or eight pubs on this street serving Guinness and Smithwicks, and there's nothing wrong with that, but we just want to offer something different," said Mr Hession, a former barman who became a "beer geek" through his travels abroad.

The pub's range of food includes regularly changed classics with a twist -- such as hazelnut-crusted, Inishowen whiskey citrus and garlic-buttered chicken Kiev or mini-haggis with Tatties and neeps.

Whiskey lovers can choose from more than 200 Irish and international blends.

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The formula has proved such a success the team is expanding to open another gastropub at WJ Kavanaghs in Dorset Street in March.

It's not just pubs, but groundbreaking restaurants like Aniar in Galway, that recognise the importance of quality Irish craft beers, said Mr McKenna.

He noted that on a recent visit he'd been surrounded by people drinking Dungarvan brews from Co Waterford.

Galway has become a new centre of excellence, with a cluster of quality restaurants such as Aniar and Kai Cafe and Restaurant.

Meanwhile, AA Ireland announced that 17 Irish restaurants and eateries had been newly awarded AA Rosettes, a 50pc improvement on the previous year when just 11 of these awards were handed out.

The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford, got the most prestigious three-rosette award for cuisine while the Cellar restaurant at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin was the only restaurant to receive two rosettes.

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