Reclaiming industrial Dublin, for the people


The story of Rascals is one of reclamation, of clawing back community spaces from industrial wasteland, of facilitating the opportunity for resources to be shared and corporate coercion kindly resisted. When Rich and I pull into the Goldenbridge business estate in Inchicore, we are greeted in quick succession by a community garden- not typical of suburban business parks, I’m sure you’ll agree - then the vibrant turquoise of the Rascals 30 hectolitre brewhouse, equipped with outside seating and overhead cover- equally atypical. Inchicore is not some far flung suburb on the outskirts of a city rapidly being overrun by urban sprawl; it is a well established part of Dublin City, just five kilometers west of it’s centre. Industrial sites here are surrounded by houses, buses and trams are regular and nearby, people walk past the entrance to the Goldenbridge estate on their way to corner shops, doctors’ surgeries, church. This is not a place that can be considered independently of the people that inhabit it. 

Rich and I are early for our meeting with Joe Donnelly, Rascals’ Marketing Manager, and being unfamiliar with the concept of free time or how we should pass it, we stick our heads into Stillgarden, the distillery that shares a wall with Rascals. As it happens, the Stillgarden team (who work closely with Rascals) are responsible for the garden at the entrance to the estate. Joe later tells us that before Stillgarden’s “pro-social” (as opposed to anti-social) disruption of the site, it was more or less a dumping ground for electrical appliances and refuse sacks. Now the garden grows many of the botanicals Stillgarden uses to flavour it's gin, and is a space fully accessible to the public should anyone want a nice place to sit and have a coffee. 

Josh, one of the brewers

The garden is a relatively recent addition to the estate, no doubt a project inspired by the waves made by Rascals’ setting up shop in, back in 2018. The building that the brewery now inhabits lay unoccupied for 16 years before Rascals moved in, and prior to that was a textile factory. Joe would later mention that the site of their storage facility and cold room, which is separate but immediately adjacent to the brewery itself, used to be a car wreckers, and a place that sold tires. Joe says they have plans to fill the space between these buildings with more taproom seating come the summer months, and get food vendors in, create a weekend market space, organise a beer festival- the possibilities are endless and all seem likely given that community and connection pulses through everything the brewery does. 

The brewery’s iconic taproom is central to how it operates as a whole; securing taps in Irish bars is notoriously difficult given that corporate contracts most often tie pubs to the big alcohol companies that invest in them. Contractual influence and restrictions on what beer can be sold on tap makes it difficult for smaller breweries to get their foot in the door of pubs. Rascals avoided this problem completely by establishing their own on site taproom and restaurant. The license wasn’t easy to acquire, but Joe assures us that instant and direct feedback on beer is invaluable. 

We’ve made such good relationships with everyone here, even Dublin City Council love us

There is a 250 litre pilot kit built into the body of Rascals’ brewery, naturally, this is to test out recipes they hope will later go into the big kits, but as importantly- perhaps even more importantly- so they can brew beer that they will intentionally have pouring exclusively in the taproom. One such example is the Catherina sour that’s on tap during our visit, brewer Josh Hampson pours us a glass of cherry sour straight from the tank, another beer that would soon be part of the taproom’s array, and tells us of a Juniper and wood chip infused Weissbier they are hoping to get brewing in the days following our visit. Joe says he can post new beers on the brewery’s instagram page on a Wednesday afternoon, and people will specifically be asking for them at the bar just several hours later. 

The overwhelming impression I’m left with, after eating at Rascals' renowned pizzeria and deciding to ditch the car for the evening (the pizza insists on beer, as the beer does on pizza), is that the whole operation really encourages engagement. Far from being anything that resembles the snobbiness sometimes associated with the craft scene, Rascals is really about getting messy, asking people to roll up their sleeves, get involved, try something new and be honest about how that feels. “We’ve made such good relationships with everyone here” said Joe, “even Dublin City Council love us” - which I should point out, is no mean feat. “We’ve made it our job to scale the relationship locally, support local organisations, and it’s paid off. People can see you’re coming from a good place - obviously we need to make back the custom, but we do, without even trying too hard”. It seems to me that Rascals invested in Inchicore, and the whole of Dublin gave back. 

What’s in the box?

Fruitropolis Tropical Pale Ale

Joe says; “This sessionable tropical pale ale has been brewed with Magnum, Amarillo, El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops, as well as orange zest and tropical fruit purees; a cascade of exotic fruit flavours leap from this tropical pale ale. Easy going and with a nice bitter-sweet balance: It’s like a Caribbean holiday for your taste buds!”

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