Goodbye to the Hill…

The other night I met my friend for a drink at The Hill pub in Ranelagh. The Hill is famous. It has been a part of Ranelagh since 1845. It even appeared in a book by Irish author Lee Dunne, called, Goodbye to the Hill. Every Dubliner, not just those living in Ranelagh, know it. Which makes it very convenient when I am telling taxi drivers or delivery people how to find my house – I literally live right around the corner from it.

The Hill has always personified the traditional old Irish Pub to me. While they only served little airplane bottles of wine, they poured one helluva pint of Guinness. The only food they served were tiny bags of peanuts or crisps. The bar was usually lined with regulars – male and well past seventy years old.

Since moving into this house, I’ve always brought my out-of-town guests to The Hill for a proper pint – and they’ve always loved it. I’ve developed a fondness for The Hill during my time in Ranelagh. It’s always been scrappy and unprententious – and rather empty. Part of its charm was knowing that I could walk in, even on a Saturday night, and there’d be a table (okay, several) available. Not being one for crowds, or even people, I loved this. But it’s hard to imagine how the owners made any money.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I was there earlier this week I learned that The Hill is under new ownership and is now going to be a gastropub specializing in craft beers. I am not sure how I feel about this. I like that I can now order an actual glass of wine. I like a nice craft beer as much as the next person. And it’s still The Hill, so I think it’s safe to assume that their Guinness pour will remain unchanged. The kitchen isn’t operational yet but within a few weeks, they will serve what I’m sure will be lovely gastropub food, that I’ll probably enjoy more than the tiny packs of peanuts that made up the old Hill’s menu.

But as my friend and I were chatting, I noticed first one, then another, then a few more bearded, hair-gelled, skinny-jeaned hipsters walk in and make themselves at home – something I doubt they would have done during the previous Hill’s incarnation. It was all I could do to resist the urge to tackle them and take a razor to their stupid, pretentious faces.

I’m sure that I will drink and eat at this new Hill. I imagine I’ll still bring my out-of-town guests there. But I can’t help feeling that this change may not be for the better. Ranelagh has, I think, suffered quite a loss.





The Perfect Pint?

I love wine.  All wine.  Even the cheap stuff.  While I savor the special occasions when I might get to sip a Foxen Pinot or a lovely Brunello, if nothing else is available, I have been known to make due with Two Buck Chuck or even a glass of Franzia (yes, that’s the stuff that comes in a box).

But Dublin is not known for wine.  It is known for beer, specifically one beer – Guinness. All the pubs serve it, many locals drink it and, not surprisingly, The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist attraction in town.

During my first week living in Dublin, I allowed myself to take some time out from the trips to Ikea, calls to utility companies and vain attempts to open a bank account and be a tourist. My first stop was, of course, The Guinness Storehouse.  Now, while I may be quite easy to please regarding wine, when it comes to beer, I am an unabashed snob.  I am very, very picky and only like the really good stuff.  I figured that by visiting its home base, I would figure out whether or not Guinness was the really good stuff.

As tourist attractions go, the Storehouse was pretty cool – informative, interactive and quite fun.  And the pièce de résistance of the tour was, of course, the pint of Guinness that everyone gets to enjoy – either in the Sky Bar or the Pouring School.

On that visit, I opted for the Sky Bar.  It was a dismal, grey, November day so the view that on some days might be spectacular was on this day rather depressing.  I got my pint and took my first sip ever of Guinness.  Meh.  Honestly, I was unimpressed.  It didn’t taste bad, but I didn’t love it.  Oh well, at least I gave it a try.

I visited the Storehouse again this past March with my BFF, who was in town from Los Angeles.  Despite not loving it last time, I still got my pint – it was included in the ticket price after all – and gave Guinness another whirl.  And this time was different.  This time I gave it more of a chance. And this time, I liked it. It tasted lighter than one would think based on its color, the foam was creamy and smooth, I even detected hints of coffee and chocolate after a couple sips.  And from that moment on, I was a fan.

I have since partaken of a few pints of Guinness in various pubs in Dublin, and even in a castle in Sligo.  I can confirm, without a doubt, that Guinness is indeed the really good stuff.  And while I know it wouldn’t technically have mattered if I never grew to like it, somehow I feel that being able to enjoy this brew, like so many of my fellow Dubliners, makes me more a part of things in my new city.

And that is also some really good stuff.