Traveling Tuesday: The Old Dublin Pub – Wallingford, CT

If you even find yourself spending an evening or two in Wallingford, Connecticut, the first thing you’ll want to know is where you might find a decent pint. Well, actually, I guess you’re probably first going to want to know exactly where Wallingford, CT is and why in the name of Charlie Papazian’s Benevolent Beard anyone would go there.

As to its location, if you were to look it up in some sort of magically map image made up of pixels made up of electrons (like this) you’d see that Wallingford is one of those little cities between two other places that you always wonder about while expressway road tripping from Point A to Point B. More specifically, Wallingford is somewhere in Connecticut, south of Hartford and just north of New Haven.  As to why you might go there, I can’t really venture a guess. It’s not exactly a Travel Destination. I had to go there a couple of times this spring on business. But for someone who’s not me, like, say, all the rest of you, the only other reason I can think to go would be the Old Dublin Pub.

I generally try not to be too fanboy-ish about a  place I’ve only been once or twice.  I mean, let’s be honest, even an airport bar can have a good day every now and then.  But I’ve been to the Old Dublin on two separate occasions, spaced roughly a month apart, and I don’t know how else to put it: if I lived near anywhere the Old Dublin, it would be my regular, home pub.

Look! The bar! And the first of many taps!
More Taps!
Yes, three shots just to get all the taps. Blame my phone.

I say that for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the Old Dublin’s atmosphere is exactly what  I’m looking for in a place to hang my hat for a bit and quaff a pint or two.  It’s darkish and full of warm wood but doesn’t feel like you’re trapped underground in preparation for a role as a dwarf in next Hobbit movie. Second, the place is equally inviting to first-time customers as everyday regulars.  And, oh, does the place have regulars.  As I said, I’ve only been there twice and I recognized several people the second time around.

Now, I know what’s going through your head.  “Puddin,” you think, “every place has some sad, lonely barflies that have exactly two friends in the world: the beer in front of them and the bartender that served it.” And, sure, the Old Dublin probably has some of those.  But the regulars I saw came in mostly for a couple of pints, some friendly conversation, and maybe a round of darts.  They were met like Norm from Cheers and sipped their pints while comfortably chatting about the everyday with other patrons.

Even more impressive, that goes for everyone there. I found myself drawn into several conversations in the brief time I spent there, and usually when I visit someplace alone I’m about as likely to join in a discussion with strangers as I am sing a karaoke rendition of, well, anything.

I found the tap selection impressive both times I visited, especially for a smallish local pub.  As you can from the pictures, they have quite a few handles and nary a single one from the Big 3. What you probably can’t see from the pictures (well, unless you get all squinty) is the fairly even distribution of regional beers with national ones.  Guinness, Bass, Newcastle, and Sierra Nevada stood next to taps from Bluepoint Brewing and Back East Brewing.

A sampler of four 6-oz pours for $7.


That’s a mess of bangers and fries. I surely didn’t go hungry.
You can always tell good beer bar…
…by the glassware. The Old Dublin has glasses…
…perfecly suited to the brew of your choice, from a Belgian to a blonde ale.

Are there better places to enjoy a beer in the world?  Maybe. Are there better places in Wallingford, CT? I highly doubt it.  Either way, for my money, if you’re looking for a comfortable pub to enjoy an evening of a excellent beer, tasty pub food, and even better people, I don’t know that’ll find anyplace more welcoming than the Old Dublin Pub.

Of course, whether or not you want to go to Wallingford, CT is something I’ll have to leave entirely up to you.


Traveling Tuesday: Asheville, NC Part 1

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of nights on a business trip in Asheville, NC. It just so happened to be located exactly in the middle of the two locations that I needed to visit so it seemed in the best interest of the company that I minimize my gas consumption and maximize my time by staying in Asheville. It’s a new concept that I’m looking to trademark called “Brewsness Tripping”. The definition of which is, “Utilizing work necessitated travel to hunt down every local brewery and beer not available in your permanent place of residence.” I’m pretty sure it will catch on.

I’m going to attempt to break the trip down into three parts and cover the 6 local establishments that I visited.

Part 1

Greenman Brewery

Tucked away on an unassuming street in a business district you can find Green Man Brewing. Despite it’s location it’s only about 1/2 mile from  downtown Asheville. This is a cool little brewery with a pretty decent tap list. They have about 5 house taps and 10 guest taps available.

This place has a slight British pub feel and seems to cater to local soccer and sports fans who love a good pint of beer. There is a nice patio area and it’s open to pets as well. The bar is directly attached to the brewery and the beers are quite good. The ESB in particular is very tasty with a malty body rounded out by a nice hoppy bitterness. If you are looking for nice laid back place to have a great pint of ESB then Greenman is a can’t miss in Asheville.


Thirsty Monk (Downtown Location)

Thirsty Monk is best described as the kind of place that if I lived in proximity to it would account for a large portion of my monthly beer expenditure. This bar / brewery / restaurant has two floors. Upstairs is the American Craft Beer Bar and downstairs hidden away like a well kept secret is the Belgian Beer Bar. Between the two floors there are more than 62 continually rotating draft lines and according to their website they tapped 1075 beers in 2011!





When I visited in June it just so happened to be sour beer week and my sampler was quickly filled with relatively exotic Belgian sour beers that I had never tried. The beer list is dizzying and it’s a bad place to be indecisive, but if you are having a hard time choosing the bartending staff was very helpful. It’s no wonder that this place was rated as Ratebeer’s #45 best beer bar in the world and listed as one of Draft Magazine’s Top 100 Beer Bars in America.

Needless to say the beer experience is one that should not be missed but what about the food? I had the Highland Mocha Stout Beef Sliders topped with poblano relish and white cheddar cheese. Everything is a take on the classic “Bar Food” but it’s bar food on flavor steroids with nice presentation as well. Yum!






Thirty Monk is now a can’t miss for me when I visit Asheville again and my current favorite beer and food location in the Asheville.

Stay tuned as I attempt to put together parts 2 and 3 of my Asheville visit.




Follow me on Twitter @jrodwhalen

Traveling Tuesday: Liberty Taproom and Grill – Myrtle Beach, SC

When the family and I were staying in Myrtle Beach proper last month, I was a little concerned about my brew-seeking options.   Let’s face it: it’s a pretty touristy area.  And when I think “tourist trap”, the last thing I typically expect to find is a solid beer venue.

So I was generally happy when I read about the Liberty Taproom and Grill.  While it’s not a brewpub, it part of the same group that owns New South Brewing, which supplies the 7 “Liberty” styles sold on tap here.  And those make up only a fraction of the 36 available taps, so there are plenty of solid craft brews available (including, at the time of my visit, Stone Arrogant Bastard, a personal favorite).

Theme alert: Look kids, Lady Liberty…in glass!
Theme alert, redux!
From left to right, Liberty Nut Brown, Red Rocket, Belgian White, and IPA. Now, I swear there were five of these. Hmmm…somebody must have stolen one
Here’s one bank of taps…
…ooo! Look, here’s another.
Ok, so the place looks a little “PF Chang meets TGI Friday’s”. But the beer options totally make up for it

Admittedly, the Liberty Taproom and Grill is a lot different from my first stop on vacation, Asheville Brewing Company.  The latter is as small and independent as a place can be while Liberty is clearly one piece of a regional chain.  But you know, what?  The beer was fresh and local, the food was good and there were no shortage of craft brew options.  Oh, and the growler of IPA I took back to the hotel didn’t last long either.  My only real complaint is that they didn’t have T-shirts which thwarted my plans to get a shirt from every place we stopped.

The point here is that, while Myrtle Beach isn’t a place known for its craft brewing options, a believer in better beer could do a lot worse than bellying up to the bar at Liberty Taproom and Grill.


PS: The pizza is pretty darned good too.

This Week in Beer: August 16 – 22, 2010

Monday, August 16th from 5:30 to 10:00 pm – Half Price Draft Night at The Bistro
Formerly JeanRo Bistro

Wednesday, August 18th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm – Beer Tasting at Marty’s Hops and Vines

Wednesday, August 18th at 6:00 pm – Pint Night at Catskeller (UC Campus)

Wednesday, August 18th at 6:00 pm – Burgers and Beers at the Party Source
Tonight’s theme is “Big Dog Beer” featuring Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA on draft and beers from Flying Dog, Thirsty Dog and more.

Thursday, August 19th at 6:00-10:00 pm – Cock & Bull: Pint Night (Covington) Thursdays
This week, it’s Bitburger.

Thursday, August 19th at 6:00 pm – Firkin Tapping at Rock Bottom Brewery

Friday, August 20th from 4:00-7:00 pm – Flowing Fridays Beer Tasting at Cork ‘N Bottle (Covington and Buttermilk Pike-Crescent Springs)

Friday, August 20th from 4:00-6:00 pm – Beer Tasting at DEP’s Fine Wine and Spirits in Fort Thomas (formerly Liquor Direct)

Friday, August 20th from 6:00-7:00 pm – Friday Night Flights Beer Tasting at Party Town in Florence

Saturday, August 21st from 5:00-8:00pm – Beer Tasting at Ludlow Wines

Traveling Tuesday: Shotwell’s Bar – San Francisco, CA

With this week’s Traveling Tuesday post, we are proud to welcome Jen Rizzo as a new contributor to Hoperatives. You may already be familiar with Jen since she is the designer of our wonderful Hoperatives logo and it actually Hoperative #1 (Tom is null and Carla is zero). Jen just launched her own beer blog called “Pedals and Pints” and will also be sending us her “Missives from the Mission” from time to time and letting us know about the great beer city that is San Francisco. Oh, and Carla actually got to go with Jen to Shotwell’s about a year and can vouch for its awesomeness.

In every town I have ever loved, I have chosen a bar. This bar will always be my go-to, and it usually corresponds to wherever I am in my life at that time. In Cincinnati, my bar was Arlin’s. The beer selection was good enough, but most importantly, it was four blocks from my college, had a giant patio, and provided me copious amounts of beer for next to no money. These are your priorities between the ages of 21 and 23. In New York, my bar was St. Mark’s Ale House. In Kansas City, I have an awful little dive bar with bottles of my favorite local beer and excellent dart boards. Here in San Francisco, though I flirted with another bar with cheaper pool tables for a couple ofmonths, my bar will always be Shotwell’s.

Shotwell’s is owned by my two very good friends David Hall and Tom Madonna. They’ve owned it for about four years now. San Franciscans probably remember that bar as a lot of things. Before this, under the same ownership, it was Inner Mission Beer Parlor. Then it was Two Thieves, then Shotwell 59, and a whole list of other things before that. It’s existed as Shotwell’s for a little over a year now, and I’m pretty sure that’s what it will be for quite some time.

They have 12 taps and a lovely, lovely bottle selection. Probably between 20-30 at any given time, despite their very small cooler behind the bar. (David and Tom’s organization of that space never fails to baffle me.) The taps remain pretty constant, though there’s been some variation over the years. The type of beer assigned to any particular tap is usually quite similar – David recently rotated in Speakeasy’s Payback Porter in place of the Anchor Porter, for example.
Anchor Steam and Anchor Liberty are always featured, and now that Anchor Humming is back, it’s taken the place of Duvel Green. Speakeasy’s Big Daddy, Stella Artois and Speakeasy Payback Porter are featured on the next bank of taps, followed by Paulaner Hefe-Weisse, Monk’s Cafe sour, Maredsous 10, Young’s Double Chocolate, Kronenbourg
1664 and Kostritzer Black. And if those aren’t enough for you, the bottle selection is guaranteed to make you pleased.

The best part about Shotwell’s is that it’s a neighborhood bar. And while it’s my favorite place in the city, it’s rarely a hugely crowded destination. You can usually find a spare stool at the bar to snag to watch a Giants game, or chat with Tom and David, or do your daily crossword puzzle without getting strange looks. (I speak from experience.) If you’re looking for entertainment, there are two impeccably kept pool tables toward the back, as well as two excellent pinball machines. The two televisions are visible, but not intrusive – only during super major sporting events does this turn into a hardcore sports bar.

It is my “Cheers” bar to a level I didn’t think really existed. I’ve always been a regular at places, but that has usually meant knowing the bartenders, getting a friendly smile, and having my friends know where it is without me having to send them a map link. Walking into Shotwell’s, I am always going to know someone. The regulars usually congregate toward the end of the bar, by the pool tables. And for the most part, there’s nothing cliquey about us. David likes to draw me into conversations with new friends of the bar when I’m sitting by myself. I’ve met some absolutely amazing people through this little place, and that’s what they wanted to happen. I heard for the very first time this weekend that most of their friends weren’t supportive when they bought the bar, and it shocked me. Imagine if your friends
scooped up a sort of seedy little place in the middle of San Francisco and announced that they were going to turn it into a Belgian beer bar – I might be a little skeptical too.

Tom and David have built the type of bar that I’d really love to own one day. I beertended there last Thursday for a couple of hours and it really felt like I was just pouring beer for my friends for three hours. Who knew you could make any money this way? (I’ve been doing this job for free for years!)

So, Cincinnatians, if you ever make it out this way, give me a shout. I’ll take you away from the super downtown scene and bring you out to my neighborhood. I’ll buy you a pint, “let” you beat me at a game of pool, and you’ll get to make a few new friends. My bar will be excited to meet you.

On the Road: Brouwer’s – Seattle, WA

[Hoperative #13, John Lavelle, is in Seattle for the next few days and heard a wild rumor that they have their own believers in better beer up there.  Here’s just one of the many places people in Seattle go to get great beer]

After taking in the Nordic food, drink, and charm of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, my friends/hosts, Bill and Kristine, recommended that we close the night with a few brews at Brouwer’s in Freemont.  Brouwer’s bills itself as “A Brewer’s Paradise” and “a little bit of Belgium in Seattle.”  It certainly does not disappoint on either claim.

The room is beautiful, with wood tables/booths and exposed stone/steel.  There is a long, L-shaped bar: the long side for the beer, and shorter for the spirits.  More on both in a minute.  There is also an upper level that overlooks the main floor.  Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the stone fountain that greets you at the door: a cherub relieving himself into a basin.

There are 40 beer taps that seem to rotate regularly, even daily – the printout of the beer list had the day’s date on it.  Not surprisingly, they specialize in Belgians, but I was very impressed with their American craft beer selection – featuring many local products.  My only criticism is that the list was very saturated with stouts (mostly imperials) and a lot of big IPAs on the night we visited.  This is almost certainly the product of changing selections daily – and given their out-of-this-world list, I realize I’m being picky.  They also appear to have a very fine scotch selection, but I did not investigate too closely.

Below is a list of what we drank for the night.  The website has a sample list of draught beers which will give you an idea of what they serve.  I didn’t have any local beers, but there will be plenty of time for that in the coming days.  I just couldn’t resist the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.  In addition to all the great brewpubs in Seattle, Brouwer’s is well worth your visit.

Round 1
John: Dupont avec les bons veoux ’08
Bill: Pike Entire Oak Aged Imperial Stout
Kristine: Lost Coast Raspberry Brown Ale

Round 2
John: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (20% ABV)
Bill: Pike Double IPA
Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat

Seattle, WA


I need to invest in a panoramic lens.

Bill and Kristine, believers in better beer in Seattle