Peadar Kearney’s: Dame St.

It was in a local pub a few years ago and just as the final notes of Amhrán Na bhFiann rang out from a battered old Yamaha that I found myself in a bit of a troubling situation. Having become somewhat hemmed into the corner of one of the pub’s alcoves, I’d wound up at the barrel end of a barrage of threats from some coked-up little head-the-ball who had wasted little time in informing me of his strong connections to republican socialist republican paramilitaries – The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Given that it was after last orders, it’d be handy enough just to blame the gargle and the time of night. But the thing is that ever since my early teens, and up to the present day, I’ve always been reminded by both of my parent’s – together and separately – that my ‘big mouth’ will get me ‘in trouble one of these days.’ So therefore, I’d have to put my overlooking of the fact that the INLA had disbanded in 2009 down to the distraction that had resulted from the sheer irony of having gotten myself ‘in trouble’ while engaging in an act of pacifism.

What lead me to this point could probably be construed as an unpopular opinion, for you see, over the years I’ve come to acquire a personal distaste toward the practice of rolling out of our national anthem to celebrate a night of drinking and sub-par entertainment. We’re not currently at war, there’s no overwhelming need to be bolstering national pride! Appending the national anthem to events of such mundanity as a few local pints only serves to denigrate its integrity – you’re not engulfed in the roar of cannons or the peal of rifles and the only bhearna bhaoil likely to be encountered after eight pints down the local will be little more than a few digs thrown outside a chipper. So when some one-man-band calls last orders and queues up their Amhrán Na bhFiann backing track you’ll likely find me in a state of respectful abstention. And this is what aggrieved my newly acquired INLA contact.

Thankfully the gift of the gab was well lubricated at this particular hour and the hostile situation was easily diffused and made a friendlier one – once the above argument was made and peppered with plenty of continuity republican sentiment, that is. I even got the opportunity to impart some knowledge onto the inebriated would-be liberator by telling him that the national anthem was originally written in English by one Peadar Kearney – a name he knew only from the Dame St. pub.

According to their website, Peadar Kearney’s is so named due to the fact that the great man himself once dwelled within the walls that now house the pub. This was a claim that we could neither confirm nor contradict with google. Sitting on the fringes of the tourist chaos that Temple Bar entails, the pub is one that’s decorated traditionally. Alike it’s neighbouring boozer: Brogan’s, retro Guinness adds are de rigueur with respect to the pictures about the wall – these share space with mirrors branded with different whiskeys, local road signs, a portrait of a boxer and most notably – two jockey’s outfits enclosed in a glass case. All of which we neglected to obtain the significance of, if any.

A small to medium sized pub, it could be categorised with many others in the city in the way that a relatively narrow corridor comes to open up toward the rear of the space. Seating is untraditional and makes use of large barrels, flanked by high stools, in lieu of the usual table set up.

The pint was of a high standard and hit the wallet for €5.30 which admittedly was on the lower side of our both mine and Pintman №2’s estimates – both of which took more than enough influence from the pub’s proximity to Temple Bar. The barman was sound and plenty competent too. We found reason also to note the variance in the music being piped in which started well with some Deep Purple and had descended into that plastic-paddy genre of ba***dized classics by the time we were leaving. Pintman № said he would have preferred to hear the commentary on the match at the time.

Being entirely honest, we couldn’t say that we disliked Peadar Kearney’s, but by that same virtue we did note that we couldn’t shake the feeling of it being a bit more geared towards tourists. This ultimately means that we’d likely not spend too significant an amount of time on the pints in here, but we’d certainly not avoid it altogether.

The Beer Market: High St.

As you move away from Thomas St. and make your way toward Dame St you will likely find yourself wandering past a noticeboard. Upon this noticeboard there is a crudely painted heading which reads ‘Upcoming Events’. As you continue to read, you’ll find no less than six events listed in equidistance below the heading and painted in the same crude manner, yet smaller. Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer. This may well be your first encounter of The Beer Market – a pub that sits on that buffer zone between The Liberties and Town, known as High St.

The Beer Market is one of the ever growing number of Galway Bay Brewery (GBB) Bars that have begun to proliferate throughout Dublin over the last few years. With a veritable myriad of beers on offer in bottle and from the twenty taps behind the bar, there’s absolutely no denying that this is a pub which is more than aptly named – beer is most certainly the focus here.

As a whole, the pub is set on three separate mezzanine-like floors that zig zag to one another. The main bar is placed on the middle of these three floors in and is a relatively small space. Compounding the diminutiveness of this middle room is what Pintman Nº2 and I categorized as one of the largest pub tables in Dublin. The unnecessarily large table, which sits in the centre of the room, comes complete with a hollow in the centre – for those all-important board games, and takes up 40% of all available space in this section, easily.

Given the above, and unsurprisingly enough, we opted for a seat at the bar where I happened upon a small design flaw that irked me enough to include it here. Presumably due to the dynamic nature of the range offered by The Beer Market, taps are marked with numbers instead of the usual branded disc you’d find in most other pubs. In order to identify what pours in any given tap you need to check the corresponding number on a board – this sits above the bar and annoyingly is outset from the boundary of the bar itself. Call me lazy if you want, but having to get up off my stool and take those two or three paces back just to pick what I want to drink for each round is something that impacts my drinking experience negatively. For the little details, an experience, make.

The top section of the pub is easily the best. Large windows complete with a ledge offer prime people-watching real estate – some of the best in Dublin. Ultimately though the vibe of the place is pushed away from our liking with the furnishings. The seating is a particular annoyance – comprising of antique metal and wooden industrial stacking chairs – they bring back memories of some uncomfortable and over-ran school assembly that might have taken place in any given Irish national school between the 1950s and the 1990s.

But all to their own, and just because the boozer’s vibe isn’t to our liking we can’t deny its success. This is a building that has been something of a perpetually failing boozer to our memory – given the volume of times it has changed names (and presumably hands) before GBB had a crack at it, and they’d certainly appear to be going nowhere anytime soon by the looks of things. Aside from all that there is no denying the quality of the beer – I opted not to go too adventurous and get my usual GBB order of ‘Of Foam and Fury’ which is a fantastic DIPA, Pintman Nº 2 went with the house stout – Buried at Sea and drank it with little complaint.

When all is said and done, there is no-one that could say that Galway Bay Brewery aren’t capable of running a good boozer. Because they are. And there are a number of their pubs in Dublin that we’d happily spend a good few hours in. Unfortunately, for us though, this isn’t one of them.

McCann’s: James’ St.

A month or two back I found myself in the fortunate circumstances to be chatting away to a ninety-five year old man by the name of Bill. Bill, as it turns out, is someone who spent sizeable portion of his life working at the St James’ Gate brewery. A man more than capable of spinning a yarn or two, he had me enthralled with all his stories of the antics and the goings-on in Guinness’ way back in the pre-Diageo days.

As you can well imagine, it didn’t take me too long of a time to get around to quizzing Bill on what pubs local to the brewery were like back in the day. His response to which, initially, was something of a disappointing one. ‘I couldn’t really tell ya’ he told me, before adding that he ‘seldom drank in them’. Having my suspicions that his response wasn’t one that was the result of temperance, I could only find myself able to respond to his answer with another question – why? So he proceeded to tell me the reason for his answer, and it’s a bit of a gem.

‘This Friday’, as he put it, ‘we were after arriving into work and finding out that one of the men had had his first baby, well, his Mrs did, that is. So we said we’d better go around and wet the baby’s head during our tea, y’see.’

Electing to head across the road to a pub by the name of Hannan’s, all the men present opted for a libation befitting of the celebration at hand, and it was when they began to drink these particular beverages that the trouble began.

‘So we fill-t the table up with plenty of little fellas’, said Bill, ‘because we were celebrating y’know. But no sooner had we started drinking, in walks God Number One and God Number Two – My boss and my boss’ boss. And the two of them gawking across the pub at us all drinking shorts – and this is eleven o clock in the morning, remember. So we said we better finish up and head off.’

So up they did finish and off they did head and no more was heard of it until Monday morning. It was then that Bill was called into the boss’ office, where the boss then proceeded to… lambast him, to use the appropriate parlance.

‘Ah he gave me an awful telling off’ Bill recalled, ‘since we were after getting him in trouble with his own boss and that, and d’ye know what he says to me?… He says to me that it wasn’t even that yis were all skiving off to the pub on your tea. It’s just that there wasn’t even a single Guinness product on the bloody table! Not even a bottle of stout between the lot of ye.’

Things have changed since then. The marketing tactics deployed by Bill’s former employers are a far more sophisticated affair and Hannan’s is now referred to McCann’s. Unchanged, thankfully, is the building’s purpose as a public house. And a good one at that.

A small one-roomed sort of shop, McCann’s has cosiness in spades. Exposed brick and natural wooden tones keep the vibe traditional at its essence. A large clock takes pride of place behind the bar – it being recessed into the structure while the seating is standard enough – high stools at the bar and couches and low stools around the low tables elsewhere. Walls are adorned with portraits of persons of Irish historical significance – JFK, Arthur Guinness, Behan and The Dubliner’s.

The drink isn’t as run-of-the mill as one would expect from the pub’s traditional appearance. Contained within, is a good amount of promotion and branding relating to a beer by the name of Kentucky – several variants of which are available behind the bar (their bourbon barrel ale being a fairly tasty sup) along with a good selection of beers from Foxes Rock. My suspicions were confirmed when I googled these together to find that they were produced by the same brewery – Station Works Brewery. The selection of whiskey isn’t too shabby either – there’s plenty of the Pearse-Lyons range on offer, as you’d expect with the pub being situated next door to the distillery. The Guinness is as good as it should be in such close proximity to the source and is priced agreeably enough too.

The far end of James’ St is not an area of town that we manage to find ourselves in all that often. And with cosy little boozers like McCann’s slap-bang in the heart of it, this is something we need to change, pronto!

Hartigan’s: Leeson St.

Don’t you have to wonder about billionaires sometimes? It might just be me, but you have to even slightly agree that there’s something inherently untrustworthy about someone who manages to pass the million mark in their bank account and instead of going full rockstar and pissing a sizeable chunk of it away in a glorious lengthy bender, sits down and plans on how to times it another hundred? Shite craic say we!

Outwardly, that opening passage will read as if being the start of another ill-advised tangent. I can assure you that this is not the intention. There exists, in my mind at least, good reason to link the aforementioned sentiment to the topic of the pub pictured here, but in order to make this connection I need to tread a little bit more carefully than I usually would. For this connection hinges heavily upon the mention of a well-known, divisive Irish figure, and this particular person has an infamous proclivity for litigation. Given all this, the person in question will henceforth be referred to as a “well-known Irish billionaire” or WKIB for short.

By now you’ll probably appreciate that there is no setting that I won’t talk about pubs in – so it should come as no surprise that it was over a discussion on Hartigan’s with a colleague in work that I came to learn that WKIB had such a penchant for Hartigan’s that they opted to have a replica of it built in their back garden as part of a landmark birthday celebration. This was an act that in normal circumstances would probably have upped my estimation of WKIB – but this had another dimension. What soured this from being perceived as a mere act of wealthy extravagance was the fact that this pop-up-pub happened to replicate the very boozer in which it is widely reported that WKIB (allegedly) sat down for a crucial meeting with a well-known TD back in the 1990s. It is alleged that the two of them, while there, got up to some shady dealings over some mobile phone licenses and the sort… Allegedly.

A tribunal we ain’t! And given that, we’ll say no more on this alleged meeting for now other than to say that it was one that fed into my natural distrust of the billionaire class, and strengthened my nurtured disdain for brown-envelope politicking. But worst of all – this was an anecdote that ultimately led me to approach Hartigan’s with something of a low expectation. An expectation that would ultimately find itself mostly unchallenged.

Boasting the sort of drab appearance that visitors to public hospitals in the 1990s will remember with little fondness, the pub is characterised by a too-bright-for-its-own-good sort of colour scheme complete with a cold hard floor comprising of greyed tiles, with the odd red one thrown in for good measure. Pintman Nº3, having only moments ago, been made aware of the replica commissioned by WKIB re-evaluated, downward, his level of amazement at the feat by remarking that he’d probably be able to throw the same up with a few sheets of ply out his own back garden in half a day “at best”. Rugby and golf paraphernalia was the order of the day when it came to the pictures upon the wall – all of this shared space with exposed cabling and plenty of UCD class photos too, we were surprised to see that the pub retained its ties to the university, which moved from what is now The National Concert Hall many years ago.

We should note, however, that there are a number of redeeming features to be considered too – most of them being on the exterior. Stained glass windows at the front of the pub are certainly a conversation piece. The four of them bear a letter each – T J L L – the meaning of which we ultimately forgot to ask the barman about. Along with these, the façade also boasts a fine example of some traditional signwriting – the name of the pub being unambiguously displayed in beautiful gold leaf lettering. And then there is some interesting wrought style ironwork which makes up a gate that guards the front door. Bearing the letter’s A and M, a quick bit of research would inform an educated guess that these are the initials of the pub’s long serving former publican – Alfie Mulligan, whose full name once adorned the neighbouring pub.

The pint didn’t warrant too much complaining and came in at €5.10, a figure we all agreed was a good one, given the pub’s central location. The barman that poured said pint seemed a sound enough lad too.

Hartigan’s is not a pub that I ever envisaged us having much to say about – certainly not this much. It’s not a boozer with a vibe to our particular liking, but it would be ignorant for us not to tip our hat to the brazen manner in which it sits in comparative dereliction to some of the relics of the celtic tiger in its immediate vicinity. And while it may always be a pub that is synonymous with the infamy that comes with (alleged) political corruption, there’s no denying that it is one of the great Dublin boozers of old. And no (alleged) money-hungry bastard will ever take that away from the place! … Allegedly.