In the waning weeks of 2020, before everything turns to shite again, I find myself upon a bench amid inexplicable red plastic protrusions shooting from the ground in a manner as confusing as the tax affairs of some nearby headquartered multinationals. I am hungover and am sat like some sort of 21st century Kavanagh – begrudging people on e-scooters and segways, as they whir by in twos and threes.
I make a phone call to distract myself from the cold and am eventually joined by my better half, who, in true depressing, 2020 style has just come from a funeral. We’re here, amongst the jauntily-angled architecture, for to tick off one of Dublin’s most recently built public houses.
Hastily, in the end-of-year cold, we make toward the furthermost end of the southern quays, remarking, as we go, on the newness of the buildings and the emptiness of the streets. In short time, we come to an uber-industrial, faded-red steel-beam framed building; in Caledonian blue the sign above the entranceway reads: Brewdog.
To those unfamiliar, Brewdog is a Scottish brewery and pub chain which has been one of the defining entities in Craft Beer’s international boom toward the mainstream in this part of the world over the last decade and a half, or so. Having exponentially grown from humble beginnings, the company quickly became one of the UK’s largest independent breweries. In its lifetime, they’ve become known for their provocative marketing techniques and have ended up doing things as uncool as suing somebody for using the word ‘punk’. Recently they were implicated in a whistle-blower’s report which accused them of fostering a toxic and fearful culture within the company.
When we arrive inside the building, we land at an empty reception desk and, once there, wait about five minutes for someone to approach. We rumble through the formalities of the dreaded ‘new normal’ – the Covid protocols of the day – and are sat at a table on the ground floor, not far from some sort of indoor fire pit. Our server then hands us some menus for our perusal and reminds us of time limits that apply (under said- Covid guidelines) before promptly disappearing for fifteen precious minutes of our meagre allowance of drinking time.
In these fifteen minutes, we peer about the vast space like a couple of curious meerkats, only to be somewhat frustrated by the otherwise unoccupied staff who seem in no rush to take our order. As we observe one of them doing a literal dance for another, we decide that our efforts are in vain and decide to try and suss out the locals – a more difficult task than first imagined. We discern no obvious customer base at this time – the décor seems to request a young and trendy clientele, but instead, on this occasion, has pulled in a lot of middle-aged professional men and their laptops, a former Fine Gael TD amongst them, single-handedly robbing the place of any pretensions toward cool or hip it may have held, heretofore.
Eventually, we do get to order, and we order plenty. The beer, of course, is phenomenal. Having been to a Brewdog bar or two across the way – I’m happy to admit that the beer is always outstanding – in its quality, its variety, and its presentation. Dublin, thankfully, is no exception- there is even a pilot brew kit contained within the premises and, indeed some beer brewed in that very same set of equipment is to be found for sale in the pub. And while the quality of the fare is not up for comment, the price certainly is. This is a very, very expensive place to drink. A pint of their flagship beer – Punk IPA, comes in at a walletclenching €7.20 (Circa Late 2020). We theorise whether the pricing is just set to be in line with the salary of the nearby residents’ or an end to a means concerning the maintenance of such large premises. We settle on both, probably.
Concerning the building, the first thing to note is the size of it – it’s huge. Set out on two vast floors, it encompasses all sorts of different types of seating. Downstairs is afforded an abundance of light from its large open windows, while upstairs has porthole windows aplenty to look out as you play whatever game it is that is played on a glossy-polished table so long that it would put Vladimir Putin to shame. If you find that you’re not in a sporting sort of humour, and the weather is ok, you can head out to the considerable balcony/roof garden space, which enjoys views of the very last, or the very first of the waters of The Grand Canal.
The design spec of the building is what you might call late-stage hipster industrial-chic. Unaffected concrete abounds with the requisite complement of exposed beam, cable tray and air duct. Curated street-art style murals are plentiful and instagramable neon signs are, of course, to be found. And I suppose plenty would call it an impressive looking sort of space, but when I walk around it, I can’t help but thinking to myself that such a large and faux-industrial space trying to convey its indie and punk vibe is oxymoronic in every sense. It’s the antithesis of indie and punk – it’s what Carroll’s Gift shop is to the 1798 Rebellion. It’s not punk, it’s aggressive capitalism wearing one of those cheap Ramones t-shirts that was almost certainly sewed together by an impoverished wage slave in deplorable working conditions, far, far away.
As someone who has drank in and enjoyed drinking in Brewdog bars abroad in the past, I really wanted to like this place. But I guess the reality of it on your doorstep just proved too much to handle. If it were more central to the city, I’d probably concede that I’d have ended up returning at some stage. But it’s so out of the way down there in silicon, low tax land that It’s unlikely I’ll be heading back to spend so much money anytime soon.
So, if you want good and expensive beer served in expansive ironically threadbare surroundings amidst tech bros, property developers and Fine Gaelers, by all means – head on down to Grand Canal Dock and fill your diamond-encrusted boots. But in the case that you’re looking for the real deal, The Thomas House is located at 86 Thomas Street.