Local Pairings: Dubh Linn Brew Pub

FOOD + BEER + COMEDY = BLISS

Review by Andrea Busche
Photography by Michael Busche and Michelle Truax

According to an old Irish proverb, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish, and those who wish they were.”

Not of Irish descent? No problem. Spend an evening savoring the Irish cuisine, sipping a pint, and soaking up the jolly atmosphere at Dubh Linn Brew Pub and you’ll be feeling the luck of the Irish in no time.

A LITTLE HISTORY

In Old Irish, Dubh Linn means “The Dark Pool.” Although this definition refers to a large body of water, in this instance one’s mind could instantly conjure up images of copious vats of cold, delicious beer.

Dubh Linn Brew Pub opened in 2006 and started brewing its own beer in 2011. The pub proudly offers the largest selection of Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch in Minnesota. Located at 109 W. Superior St., you can access it directly from the street, or conveniently within the skywalk system.

The establishment is owned by the Maxim family: Mike Maxim, Jr. and Mike Maxim, Sr. The family is proud to share its Irish heritage, food and drink with the Northland.

THE VIBE

As you enter, you may notice a few things right away: the high ceilings, long bar, red phone booth in the entryway (which was shipped from Northern Ireland) and the dark wood décor. The shelves behind the bar and in the fireplace area are from an old Carnegie Library. Andrew Carnegie designed the cast iron end pieces himself, and the shelves are more than100 years old.

Besides offering a full restaurant serving made-from-scratch food, Dubh Linn also features a comedy club, full bar complete with an on-site microbrewery, a huge selection of malt Scotch and whiskey, and games including pool, darts and trivia. If you like to eat, drink and make merry, Dubh Linn is your place.

On the evening we dined, there were a few people dressed in suits and ties, presumably enjoying an after-work cocktail. Plenty of people were dressed much more casually, too. The eclectic vibe of this Irish pub allows comfort either way.

A bit east of the bar, separated by a half wall, is another huge area full of tables, booths, dart boards and pool tables. There are lots of cool nooks and crannies, including a spot between the bar and the comedy club room featuring comfy couches and a fireplace. Each booth and table are stocked with bowls of salted peanuts in case you are feeling snacky between meals.

There are old beer signs hanging from the walls, as well as Irish flags and gorgeous stained glass pieces everywhere the eye can see.

COMEDY

A pro comedy tour makes a stop at Dubh Linn every Saturday night. Dubh Linn uses the largest booking agency in the country in order to bring some of the top touring comedians to Duluth.

Past performances at Dubh Linn have featured comedians who have written for and performed on The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live and Last Comic Standing. Shows take place at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Comedy tickets are sold at the bar, or can be purchased in advance.

FOOD AND BEER

Dubh Linn has a wide array of food to choose from. The specialty is classic Irish fare such as shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes). But there are plenty of other options, too, with a scrumptious assortment of burgers, wings, salads and plenty of sandwiches.

We had the opportunity to chat with the head brewer, Seth Maxim, who is also in charge of the restaurant’s food. He shared that Dubh Linn uses authentic Irish recipes which have been enjoyed by the Maxim family for three generations.

As a microbrewery, Dubh Linn brews its beers by hand in two to eight keg batches. Seth brews five days per week in order to keep up with demand. Dubh Linn began with just three varietals and now has between six and eight selections on tap at any given time.

WHAT WE ATE

I decided to order the garlic tuna melt. From the menu:

“Classic melt with Mozzarella cheese, peas, onions and celery.”

The sandwich was served open-faced on thick white bread. It was cut into four triangles, and the edges of the cheese were brown and melty, like they had gone under the broiler.

The tuna was piled high and the celery and onion were crisp, which added some good texture to the sandwich. Although “garlic” is in the title, I didn’t find it too garlicky. I ate my sandwich with silverware, and took half home for the next day.

Normally, the sandwiches served under the “Pub Faire” section of the menu are served with Irish potato salad, but I opted instead for the garlic mashed potatoes, and I’m glad I did. The potatoes were rich and creamy with delicious flavors of butter and tons of garlic. I definitely needed to pop a stick of gum post-meal. They were mostly smooth, but there were a couple of chunks of potato within. Very, very good.

My husband, Mike opted for the fish & chips. From the menu, under the “Irish Faire” section:

“Beer battered fish & chips with lemon and tartar sauce. One fillet, two fillets, or three fillets.”

Maxim shared that the fish & chips are actually Tilapia fillets served with French fries. Both were deliciously beer battered and crisp. The fish was firm and white. Mike initially ordered one fillet, but upped the ante by ordering another.

WHAT WE DRANK

Our server, Dave Roden has worked at Dubh Linn for six years. In addition to his work as a server, he is also a bartender and occasional comic – all right here at Dubh Linn. With an expansive knowledge of beer and a good sense of humor, he was the perfect guide for our journey.

Dave entertained us with an observation about his favorite menu item: “I always get the shepherd’s pie,” he shared. “The only person who makes it better is my mom.” Well played, Dave.

At his suggestion, I paired the tuna melt with Dubh Linn’s own River Moy Porter. Thick, dark and smoky, the Porter had notes of toasted bread and coffee. The dark brew was an excellent complement to the fish and the garlicky potatoes. This hardy brew would be especially comforting on a cold winter night.

Mike paired his fish & chips with a Dubh Linn Peach Raddler. A basic ale fermented with English yeast, the Raddler contains between about 20 percent peach juice. It is lighter and fruity, and was a great match for the fish & chips. The Raddler would be a fun choice for a hot summer evening.

THE VERDICT

Dubh Linn is a super fun place to enjoy after-work drinks, or stop by with a crowd to enjoy dinner and a few games of pool. The microbrews are delicious, the selection of Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch can’t be beat, and the cuisine is authentic and tasty.

We’ll end our adventure with an old Irish Toast. Whether you are Irish or not, we’d be honored if you used it at your next social gathering:

“May you always have a clean shirt,
A clear conscience,
And enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint.”

For more information, including a comedy tour schedule, visit dubhlinnpub.com.

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