Food and Drink: Pick your craft beer
Beerhouse, 199 King St, North Dublin 1 01-804 7023
Until recently, a schlep up Capel Street involved a gauntlet run past sundry sex emporia and industrial attire stores (on a murky afternoon it could be difficult to tell which was which). However, this once dowdy thoroughfare parallel to O'Connell Street has undergone a quite radical transformation. The odd sex-a-torium endures, but nowadays is likely to be wedged between a buzzing noodle joint, skate shop and one of several intriguing bars (we shouldn't overstate the case – if grit is your thing Capel Street still has plenty).
Two years ago the craft brew revolution – in an Irish context that really isn't too strong a word – reached this part of town in the form of The Black Sheep, a far-flung outlet of the Against The Grain empire. Now it has some competition, as the premises at the intersection of Capel Street and North King Street has reopened as The Beerhouse (well done chaps/chapettes on not calling it something pretentious such as 'Bier Haus' etc).
You wish the new enterprise the best luck as judging on the number of bars that have come on gone in this location it will probably need all the breaks it can catch. By our recollection it previously traded as Ruta, among many incarnations, but never seemed to chime with the neighbourhood (arguably a surprise given that large student population attending DIT Bolton Street up the road).
The Beerhouse has given itself a fighting chance. There's an eye-popping lineup of craft brews, allied to a decent wine menu and some stonking coffee. Plus, the ambiance is just right, a mix of vintage dive bar and edgy hang-out. Bright, with large windows, there's an airy atmosphere, abetted by the vaguely Nordic trimmings (minimalist wainscoting, high ceilings with quirky lampshades).
As is mandatory among voguish bars, the music is straight up alternative, albeit not to the point where it will frighten anyone away (unless your idea of scarily experimental stretches to Primal Scream). And they've plugged into the trend of stocking board games, even if the selection isn't especially ambitions – party fare like Jenga is well and good but what about some REAL board games. Would it kill them to spring for Settlers of Catan or Race For The Galaxy! The question, of course, is whether the target demographic – people who own more than one Apple device and have strong opinions on the Choice Music Prize – can be persuaded to make the trek all the way to a location that, by the standards of trendy Dublin nightlife, is deep in the Twilight Zone. To give them credit, the new owners are certainly giving it their best, with complimentary food, guest speakers from the craft brew industry and a constantly rotating menu of beers. Furthermore, the space hosts regular singer-songwriter and band performances, though it has to be asked whether this is something the fancy pilsner set has any active interest in. It remains to be seen.
Maybe that should be 'alterna-bling'. The look is log-cabin chic, all exposed beams and high roofs. It's exceedingly atmospheric and very roomy with it. We particularly loved the odds'n'sods tables and chairs. It's like kicking back at a fashionable friend's loft – albeit a friend who charges for beer.
Quirky but clean – bathroom loo perfection! We would rhapsodise further if it didn't seem obsessive and weird.
Staff are chatty but don't overdo it – if you want to pull up a stool and bend their ears they are happy to go along. If not, well you will be left to your own devices. Which is what you wanted after all.
A big effort is made to ensure the selection of brews is seasonal and up to date – each week seems to bring new bottled offerings and there's a good choice on tap also. For instance, a Beer Festival runs all this weekend. To which we can only respond: huzzah!