That Friday Feeling – A Visit to the Harbourmaster

So Friday comes around last week, and since it was the end of our first week back after our holidays, myself and Mrs Irish Beer Snob decided some after work libation was in order.

It was a glorious Friday evening and we settled upon revisiting an old favourite, The Harbourmaster Bar, in the IFSC ( / Twitter @HarbourMBar) it had been many moons since I was a regular patron, back in the good old days when I worked on Lwr Abbey St. The last time I was in there I think was a Friday night after a Prodigy gig at the o2 in 2009. My wife was a more recent visitor with her work Christmas Party in 2012. Open Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays except for Private Functions.

As a hardened commuter, its convenient location to BusAras, is very appealing (not too far to stumble for that last bus home) however its also very convenient for those folks who use Connolly, and indeed as a Pitstop to the o2, given its proximity to the Luas Line.

There is no doubt, the building is a wonderfully restored historical building, one of many dotted around the IFSC in among all the modern office structures. Other examples would include the CHQ Building in close proximity. Anyway, i’m nowhere near qualified enough to talk about the architecture etc, but I will say its a nice building. 

The Harbour Master Bar, IFSC, Dublin 1. The blue sky is not photoshopped.

In these austere times, patrons are looking for value for money, no more so than in the hospitality game. But can you still get value without sacrificing quality or standards, that is the question. 

We arrived in an the bar was very busy, good to see, and it was a nice mix of workers from the local area, and there were a few tourists in aswell. Initially there wasn’t any space in the bar area, and we sat in the restaurant section. Only for Mrs IrishBeerSnob to see a lovely little table available on her way back from the ladies room. We let the waitress know we were moving and settled in.

Thursday and Fridays have a special offer, all mainstream pints, bottles, and spirits were €4.20. In D1? Surely not? In context, thats only 20c more expensive than my local at home for a pint of G, and 30c cheaper for a pint of Heineken et al. Fantastic! So we got a food menu, and Jasmine took our drinks order.

So we order a Guinness, and Coors. While we mulled over the menu. There really wasn’t any mulling except, what size portion of wings, or do we want fries? So in the end we plumped for the Wings & Fries Special for €11.00. I don’t know about you, if i’m having a few drinks I don’t want a massive feed to fill me, so this fit the bill perfectly.

As we nattered away people watching we discussed our impressions, and first impressions are good. High Ceilings allow plenty of air flow and not a claustrophobic feeling, and plenty of windows allow you to watch the world go by. A very pleasant and clearly has recently been given a facelift. At the time of writing there was only one set of toilets, but we were told new ones were nearing completion upstairs at the function rooms.

Our food arrived, a nice size portion. May be a bit much for one, but more than enough to share and not be full to burst. Or if you were greedy. 🙂

So we were coming to the end of our drinks, this time I opted for Smithwicks Pale Ale (Its been out a while, not had it yet, not overly terrible for a large brewer, but defo not the best i’ve ever had) and Mrs IrishBeerSnob, her Smithwicks with a Guinness. 

The wings were very tasty, the sauce had a really nice flavour, that is really familiar nowadays with the wider availability of Franks Sauce. The only slight niggle was maybe they just weren’t crispy enough, the could maybe have done with another minute or two. But they were wolfed down, and that is always a good sign. The chips were lovely and crispy in that thin French Fry style we know well from McDonalds, and overall we enjoyed our bite to eat. The dips were ketchup and garlic mayo. A choice between blue cheese dip and garlic would have been nice, needless to say there wasn’t any left!

Now to the recommended beer lists, pictured below. Choice is a great thing and it gives you an opportunity to try something you’ve not tried before. I was very happy to see some  beers there i’d not heard much about or had before on the list. I appreciate for publicans when they carry so many lines its impossible to stock everything, cos lets face it its a business and they stock what sells, but it was a little disappointing to not see any Irish Craft there. I think its very important to support the growing Irish Craft beer scene, as by and large these small companies are ran by enterprising individuals and the more local produce we buy, the more we help our economy directly.

Page 1 of the Beer Recommendations
Page 2 of the Beer Recommendations

Worthington’s White Knight IPA

All the same, I tried the Worthingtons IPA and Mrs IrishBeersnob had the Doombar by Sharps. I enjoyed mine, if a little underwhelmed. I expected more hoppy profile. Mrs IrishBeersnob loved hers and has tasked me to find a supply for her. She continually surprises me with her appetite for ales, especially English Ale. 

Sharp’s DoomBar

Have I found my new Friday watering hole? I think we may have. Whilst i love the absolutely barnstorming choice in the nearby Brewdock, which I have been a very regular customer of since they opened in 2012, the place has changed. The creeping prices of their product, the change in personnel, and perhaps most importantly its not as comfortable. With no air flow it can get very warm, i’d imagine today would be like an oven in there.

If CAMRA says so, scepticism removed

So all in all, Harbourmaster, we will see you again. I am happy to report that on this visit there was no signs of a trade off between a value  offering and a good customer experience. Keep it up. I suppose this is subjective, but we both felt it was good value, Great service accompanied with a good choice of beers (sadly no Irish Craft) and a vast menu, that does offer more than wings, but those who know me, know I love my wings. Couple of tweaks as mentioned earlier, and I won’t be looking at anything else on the menu.

We thoroughly enjoyed your hospitality, and we must give a special mention to our waitress, Jasmine from Derry. You were brilliant, and hope you continue to settle in. Oh and definitely bring the younger siblings to see Monsters University when it hits these shores in the very near future.

Thank you for reading, as always feel free to leave comments below, or contact me on twitter @irishbeersnob

So holidays are over. But the voyage continues

Those of you know who me personally will no doubt have been driven demented by my buildup to my holiday with Mrs IrishBeerSnob to the USA this past few weeks. So now we are home, and the jet lag wearing off I am making this post.

A view of the new building under construction at the site of the World Trade Centre, Downtown Manhattan.
Taken from Battery Park which is undergoing works after Hurricane Sandy.

This whole concept of a blog about beer without the BS was just I suppose my way of sharing my opinions on beers, especially the craft beer, and harder to find stuff, without all the jargon and stuff you some times find in other places. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy reading that stuff, but I suppose i’m looking for something a bit more concise and to the point.

Over the next few weeks, months, years, who knows, i hope to evolve this blog to encompass some of my other passions, mainly food, whether its looking at places to eat, or even recipes etc, pubs themselves, both the mainstream places, and the not so mainstream places.  So watch out I am making a list and i could be in your premises soon. 

One thing that amazes me is the growth in the Irish market for Craft Beer, has published some amazing statistics and is a fantastic point of reference. Plus its a really friendly community (though i’m only a lurker at the moment) but i’m definitely interested in the homebrew side. But it staggers me when I visit friends/family in the UK the vibrancy of their market – local pubs serving locally made (within 10 miles) ales, and beers. Its fantastic. 

But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with the USA, in Ireland we are the closest geographically to the USA and their beers have been steadily making their way here; Sierra Nevada, Rogue, Widmer Brothers etc. I was blown away again, both in New York where one bar had 12 lines of Sierra products, half of which i’d never even heard of, to a pub in the middle of the main tourist drive of Orlando with beers made in Tampa. Fantastic. It truly is amazing and as a result no surprise that some of the bigger brewers are looking to acquire the micro and craft brewers to add to their stables. 

The sunset at Clearwater Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Anyway, thats a lot of waffle, trying some beauties like Kona Longboard on Draft, as well as Widmer Bros Alchemy was a pleasure, and very reasonably priced at $5.99 a pint ($4.99 during happy hour) at the Bloodhound Brew IDrive, at the WhirleyDome bowl. To those who are asking What the F*** is Whirleyball, its a crazy cross between Lacross, Dodgems, and Basketball. Its good for team building to slam your car into your boss apparently. Anyway, they’d the usual suspects Bud etc on draft but they had the above standouts plus Mrs Beer Snobs new favour Orange Blossom Pilsner. Definitely not what you’d expect to find in such a touristy area. But it seemed every place had at least one or two on draft and plenty of bottles to choose from. 

So what now from here. Well this friday we’re going to check out the Harbourmaster in the IFSC and assess their claim to the best wings in Dublin, now those who know me, know I know my wings. So I promise to check in regularly from now on.