In Kingstown for a taste of Old Empire

I was out at a conference in Dún Laoghaire recently to hear about initiatives to revitalise town centres. There are clearly a lot of ideas floating about in how they can be improved. Over the past few years it was easy to see the effects the recession, the opening of the Dundrum Town Centre, aggressive clampers and other issues has had on Dún Laoghaire itself.

The conference due attention to the role independent retailers, restauranteurs and publicans can play in urban regeneration. However, it was also stressed that it was important to get the balance right in terms of attracting the chains etc. The town has seen Starbucks take root alongside prominent retailers as well. One of the latest and certainly high profile openings was JD Wetherspoons second Irish venture, The Forty Foot. Sharing the site and name of the previous incarnation, the pub is a departure from the sort of “village feel” Wetherspoons and fits in with the more modernist and light-filled of the large “corporate” Wetherspoons.

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Spread over two floors, the 40 Foot has fantastic views over the harbour and across Dublin Bay. By all accounts it has a younger clientele to Blackrock’s The Tun Tavern, particularly at weekends. I only had time for a quick pint and of course opted for cask ale. Although it’s great to see Brú Brewery joining Eight Degrees in their Irish craft beer bottle range.

With the town formally being called Kingstown, I had the excuse to opt for Marston’s Old Empire, a 5.7% abv IPA. Martson’s is one of those breweries that lost a significant amount of charm over recent years. Yes, it’s still independent but it has grown through acquisitions. The Midland’s based company comprises the likes of Bank’s, Eversheds, Wychwood and has just acquired the brewing arm of Thwaites, including the Crafty Dan range. The brewery has embarked on a successful partnership with English cricket (more on that at another time). While Marston’s is firmly in the company of big independent brewers, it could suffer reputational damage along the lines of Green King.

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So out on the deck of the top floor of The Forty Foot, I tried Old Empire. The beer was a clear and bright copper colour. It was bronze almost and would leave those hooked on spray tans, satisfied. There was fresh orange and grapefruit on the nose but there was also a hint of toffee. On drinking, it was clear that this beer there was about chewy bitterness, little else. There was only the slightest sweetness on the back of the palate. It was slightly astringent in the finish. The toasted malt bill had too much burnt notes for my liking.

It’s interesting to note that the two outside areas of the bar are non smoking. Those wanting to smoke will find themselves confined to an area a safe distance from the main entrance. I will be back to the 40 Foot the next time I’m in Dún Laoghaire but I will opt for something else on cask.

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