Irish pubs are a worldwide phenomena. Even when they don’t come out and call themselves an Irish pub in their name, there is usually some giveaway, like the mythical “tell” that gamblers watch for that gives away when someone is bluffing.
Here are some of the obvious signs when they want to hit you over the head with it:
“Irish Pub” is in the name.
The name is distinctly Irish (as in using “Dublin”)
A big Guinness sign outside.
Pictures and paraphernalia distinctly Irish, like flags or pictures of “Nessie”.
Irish music playing over the sound system.
Irish pubs the world over have a lot of wood, usually dark. They always have at least a few Irish beers featuring a stout, like Guinness or Murphy’s. Usually Guinness.
They will often have a name with some Irish reference like the Temple Bar chain in Israel (named for an area of Dublin that most people don’t know about) or Molly Blooms and Leo Blooms pubs in Tel Aviv named for characters in that James Joyce novel that many people (except me of course) claim to have read but probably didn’t finish.
A good Irish pub will sometimes have real musicians come and perform Irish music. I remember seeing the classic Israeli Irish band Black Velvet many years ago in Molly Bloom’s in Tel Aviv.
But how many Irish pubs outside Ireland have an Irishman behind the bar. Well at least someone with a distinct Irish accent?
Wiströms Pub does. Well it did last the last week of August and who knows, maybe it was all part of a show but I loved it.
Wiströms Pub is located in the Old Town in Stockholm Sweden. Yes, I was back in Sweden, this time in the capital.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Stockholm had more Irish pubs than Irish residents. Perhaps even more than Irish tourists at peak season.
Wiströms Pub is cramped and dark with a number of Irish beers in addition to a few token Swedish craft beers and some big name European beers like Weihenstephan. They also have at least 2 types of Cider. Behind the bar you can clearly see that someone in the management has a thing for whiskey. Mostly Irish but not all. I even saw a couple labels in Japanese, since they too brew single malt whiskies these days.
It was also the local haunt for a variety of native English speakers from the US, Canada England and Ireland. Maybe why I felt so comfortable there.
The Irishman behind the bar suggested I try a local IPA (India Pale Ale). I had, of course, asked for a Swedish craft beer. He figured out what I really meant and gave me a double IPA from a local brewery. It was fantastic. Rich and hoppy with that depth of flavor that few beers achieve. The bartender wrote the name of the brewery on a piece of paper but got it a bit wrong so it took a bit of searching to find the brewery. I finally figured it out from the European Beer Guide site. The brewery is apparently quite new. The beer is a Double IPA and is from the Slottskallans Brewery in Uppsala Sweden http://www.slottskallans-
A “double” beer is from the traditional Belgian Trappist beer known as a “Dubbel”. It is brewed using double the ingredients to boost the alcohol. Today a “double” or “triple” beer is one with increased ingredients to yield a higher alcohol content. Since an IPA already has a boosted alcohol level, usually 6 or 7 percent, a double would get close to 8 or 9 or even higher. I don’t know what the true alcohol level of the Slottskallans Double IPA is but ratebeer.com puts it at 8%. Not everyone there seemed to like it but they didn’t drink it from a keg 50 km from Uppsala.
When I went back to Wiströms two days later they didn’t have the Double IPA and the Irishman wasn’t on duty behind the bar so I was given a St. Erik’s IPA. It was quite good but not the same. Still, it confirmed that the Swedish microbreweries are producing first rate beers.
After the St. Erik’s IPA I went to find a pub called St. Clara also in the Old Town. I did find it but during my wanderings I stumbled across a restaurant pub call the Bishop Arms. They advertised 30 types of beer on tap. How could I resist. I couldn’t and I didn’t. I sat at the bar and again asked for a microbrewery Swedish beer. I was given this time a Premium Bitter from Narke, a brewery I discovered in Gothenburg on my trip there last March. It was heavenly. Rich and smooth. It filled my head with all those malty and hoppy flavors that I love so much. I also ordered a plate with 3 kinds of cold salmon. I like salmon; I mean really good cold water Scandinavian salmon, almost as much as I like beer.
Other beers of Swedish origin I tasted are a Falcon lager and Oppigårds Golden Ale.
Falcon is a large Swedish brewery today owned by the Carlsberg group but still producing beers under the traditional Falcon brand. The Falcon beer I drank was a nice clean beer with a nice aroma and hoppy bite to it.
The Oppigårds Golden Ale was at a pub/restaurant called Oliver Twist which does a brisk weekday lunchtime business from people working in the area. They offered a lunchtime special of a salmon fillet with potatoes, vegetables and a small salad bar for around 50 NIS which is a very good deal in Stockholm. The bartender recommended the Golden Ale to go nicely with the fish. It was a nice light beer that I found smooth and well balanced. I very well matched accompaniment to the fish.
I finished off my trip at the airport at a chain of sports bars called O’Leary’s, which had a distinctly Irish name but concentrated on sports to the extent that the staff all wore some kind of sports uniform. They did not have any real selection of Swedish craft beers but they do carry some Brooklyn Brewery beers and I tried their IPA. It was definitely hoppy but kind of left me yearning for the Swedish versions that I tasted but then that beer didn’t have to cross any oceans.
The lesson to be learned is that is it usually wise to stick to the local beers.
I can be reached as always at maof.beer.@gmail.com.