Consider, if you will, the following couplet.

“There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”

Taken from Canadian crooner, Leonard Cohen’s back catalogue – these much quoted and poignant lines have many different meanings to many different people. Some think redemption, and some reckon resurrection are the abiding themes to which Laughing Lenny’s words refer. But us, we have our own interpretation, namely that Leonard Cohen is obviously a man who’s never been to Frank Ryan’s.

Presumably named after the republican veteran of Irish and Spanish conflicts – we’d be comfortable enough in labelling Frank Ryan’s as the darkest pub in the city of Dublin, perhaps even the entire country. And as you find yourself rubbing ointment into your bloodied shins of a morning after being there, you will surely agree that there’s neither crack nor light to be found in this Smithfield bar. Sorry Len!

A seemingly traditional pub beneath all the darkness, it makes use of wood as its primary material and is relatively narrow upon entrance. Becoming partially divided twice along its length, it eventually steps down a foot or two at the back opening somewhat to reveal a pool table. Feeble light that is afforded to patrons of the pub tends to be by means of tea and fairy light, mostly hued in shades of red. Along the walls and hung from the ceiling, should you manage catch a glimpse, you’ll find any amount of paraphernalia scattered around – the overarching theme of which seems to lean mostly toward music. But, that said, there’s plenty of drink themed bric-a-brac and license plates filling in the gaps between.

I suppose you might call Frank Ryan’s the original hipster pub – it espouses all the principles the newer incarnations are at pains to remind us about. It has the craft beer, it’ll let you bring the madra in, I think it does pizza somewhere out the back too. But because it doesn’t roar this from the rooftop, and probably because the Guinness is pretty decent too, it manages to retain the charm of a proper Dublin boozer.

Whatever about cracks, there are thankfully no shortcomings in the craic in here. Generally, the place keeps a nice relaxed vibe and is the perfect venue for a night of pints and chats. Though, be warned: you’ll want to try somewhere else if you find yourself oscillating at a higher frequency. We decamped into the pub last year, hyper and half-drunk, only to find ourselves subject to the sort of fascism that Frank himself sailed to Spain to fight against. They cut us off! The Bastards!

The morning, nay, afternoon that followed this sorry incident was, as you might imagine, a rough one. Waking to several texts countenancing my proposed cancellation of Frank Ryan’s, the fear set in like a sledgehammer of doom. Such was, and is the abiding memory, of this anxiety that I’ve yet to, ahem, darken the door of the pub since. And to this day the fear that I might have been barred persists. So with that in mind, allow me to finish just as I started, with the wise words of Leonard Cohen. And please, allow me to directly aim them toward the Gatekeepers of the pub which bears the great Frank Ryan’s name:

” If I have been unkind

I hope that you can just let it go by

If I, if I have been untrue

I hope you know it was never to you ”

Though there’s no smoky haze or abundance of black faces, and still without the bourbon stink or distant cricket hiss you can still close your eyes and immerse into the hollering and the bawling of man and instrument. And in the rhythm of that juke joint rattle you can cast the Liffey as your Mississippi, and Martin Dunleavy as Blind Willie McTell and just, nearly, almost reach a state of transcendence.

The Facade of The Ha’penny Bridge Inn, it’s currently missing its ‘y’.

But then it all shatters with a sharp tug on your coatsleeve and the piercing screech from the reddened face barking violently and abrupt toward you… ‘DRINK! DRINK!’ he screams it into my baffled face as I struggle to muster a response. “DRINK!” he screams louder again. And just as I begin to utter a response, he clarifies the matter – ‘Buy a drink! This music isn’t free”. He’s a manager… or the owner. I’ve been in the pub for no more than 40 seconds.

You could say that my first adult experience of the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn was a bit unusual, well that was what I had assumed until I’d come to realise that finding yourself at the receiving end of the ire of this particular barman was not an unusual occurrence. Dozens of people have too relayed to me, their stories of being howled at in this particular pub. I even seem to remember hearing Lankum recounting a similar tale onstage to a sell-out audience in Vicar St one night, and again in an interview.

I’m not for one moment going to suggest that it’s okay for a grown man to shout at people like this, but you might forgive me on this occasion for endorsing this man’s penchant toward tirade. Allow me to frame it in terms of Bang-Bang. Bang- Bang, Thomas Dudley to his mother, was a Dublin character of old and is rightly revered for the break from mundanity he provided to ordinary Dubliners of his era. But, an inescapable fact of the matter is that there were almost certainly persons who departed from an encounter with him in a less than a positive mood solely for the reason that he didn’t conform to the status quo. For better or for worse, this shouty barman is a character, and you’ll certainly leave the pub with a good story if you happen to trigger his vocal cords, which is eternally better than leaving with no story at all.

So, a month or two back Pintman №3 and I, in the absence of any nearby uncharted pubs, decided to seek out this pugnacious publican and get to grips with a pub we haven’t paid much prior service to in the past.

Arriving in of a weekend evening we found the place as busy as expected – I set about grabbing the last remaining seat while Pintman №3 headed to the bar. Returning pintless shortly thereafter, Pintman №3 tossed a wrapped knife and fork onto the table leaving me to wonder aloud as to whether he’d ordered food. No, no he responded, throw them into me bag there will ye? Obliging him, I held off on a follow-up question when he immediately explained his rationale around the act – it’s €5.90 a pint, have to make that up somehow.

One of the more authentically traditional boozers of the Temple Bar district, the Ha’penny Bridge Inn is standard enough in its appearance, an L shaped sort of room with the bar on the larger side of the L, we’d categorize it as a small to medium pub. There’s no messing about with seating which is upholstered in a red pattern and comes just as good and cosy as it would in any standard suburban local. A mesh of tile and wood makes up the flooring and the most notable feature of the pub is probably the collection of fabric badges and crests which are affixed to the ceiling above the bar. We agreed that it had the makings of a good cosy shop but lost out on being classified as such due to the front doors to the street being permanently open. Oh, and that €5.90 pint was far more acceptable to all relevant sensory considerations than it was to those of a budgetary nature.

In the end, having discovered that our cacophonous friend wasn’t about, we headed on for somewhere a bit more familiar on this night. I hope he’s still putting in the odd shift now and again. The Ha’penny is certainly by no means a bad pub and is most definitely the pick of the bunch when you lump in its nearest neighbours. So, if you think €5.90, or 1,180 ha’pennies, is a fair price for a pint, by all means – have at it. Just leave the cutlery alone!

“This old pub standeth on sacred ground, surrounded by the high walls of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital, by the ancient cemetary of Bully’s Acre and the dungeons of Kilmainham Jail. The Patriot’s Inn has been closer to the pulse of Irish history than any other contemporary pub.”

So says the signage sitting at the entrance to the Patriots Inn pub in Kilmainham. Now far be it from us to stand here today and call this pub’s historical bona-fides into question, but can we just ask you whether you might agree with us that the sense of historical significance that may well be afforded to this pub just happens to get even a little bit diluted when you factor in the fact that that sitting just atop the pub is Dublin 8’s most authentic, lively Italian dining emporium – La Dolce Vita. I mean, pizze di Napoli, fettuccine alla carbonara and spaghetti al pomodoro, don’t exactly scream saoirse na hÉireann now do they? Maybe it qualifies under ‘our gallant allies in Europe’. I don’t know.

The Patriot's Inn Pub Kilmainham

It’s probably just me. But when I first pushed back the door of the bar in The Patriot’s Inn of a November evening, the first thing to grace the olfactory plains of my internal workings was the pungent bouquet of basil, garlic and tomato. All fine things in their own right and great in the appropriate time and place, but when a man has the desire for porter, he need not be enticed by certain aromas and these are certainly included with those. I, and others so discerning, have been known to leave pubs for less.

But this night, it would take more than the smell of decent Italian gnosh to move me and my companions as we were there to get this pub well and truly ticked from our list. Making our way to the bar we hastily retrieved a few pints and set about getting a table. Finding our way to a free table toward the back we listened a while to the music which emanated from the lounge before tucking into the pints before us. While the enjoyment of these was impacted by the smell of food, it was agreed that they were of an acceptable standard and a decent price too. (€4.80 in November 2018… we don’t often get the chance to get out to Kilmainham)

As we discussed Italian involvement in the course of Irish History and considered floating to the owners – the idea of changing to the restaurant to French cuisine for the 1798 tie-in, we came to notice two lads who had become uneasy about themselves and were up and down from their seats a lot. Deciding that they were probably looking for something we left them to it before they interjected and asked the entire enclave which we were sat in if they had seen a ring about the place. Having received entirely negative responses to their queries one of the men informed us of how it was the other’s wedding ring which had gone missing, the other having only been married a few short weeks and out on his first few pints, sans-missus, since the big day.

It was at this moment when a beautiful act of male telepathy occurred. We all knew that losing a wedding ring was bad. But losing one on the first few pints away from the wife – fatal. Every person harbouring a Y chromosome in that room knew that this fella’s entire drinking future was at stake. So with that, we all mobilized. Recruits seemed to appear from all angles. And after a solid ten or fifteen minutes of ransacking the back alcove of this bar, a tolkeinesque roar could be heard throughout the town of Kilmainham as this newlywed was reunited with his wedding band once more. And even better was the fact that after such upheaval, I’d no longer found myself bothered by the smell of Italian cooking. We sank a pint or two with the newlywed afterward to celebrate before heading down the road.

The Patriot isn’t a bad pub by any stretch of the imagination. But they could do with leaving the pasta upstairs.

Dublin! It’s a city, if the annals of internet comment sections are to be believed, that divides opinion. And while pub-dwellers prone to over-romanticisation, such as ourselves, are ten a penny – there’s also a hefty cohort out there in the world who refuse to base their opinions of our native city on anything other than the darker end of the full spectrum.

Though our official line is one attesting to the craic and beauty being in plentiful supply, we’re not so ignorant as to equate Dublin to some utopia and even we like to take the road out sometimes in search of an atmosphere where urbanity doesn’t abound. Where settings are a little, if not a lot, more rural.

Thankfully when such pangs kick in and when time or money won’t allow – we can achieve something akin to a rural encounter without having to travel so far. Sometimes an experience bordering on bucolic can be had mere minutes from the city centre – we’re referring, of course, to a pub which rightly calls itself an authentic country pub in Kilmainham – The Old Royal Oak.

In researching the name of this pub, I can’t say with any great degree of confidence that we’ve managed to establish its exact origin. Some say that there must be a tie with the nearby Royal Hospital given its inclusion of the word royal, but in the course of our research we’ve come to establish our own particular theory. We have previously touched upon the genesis of some modern pub names in our post about The Deer’s Head and similar to that, we’ve found ourselves looking back toward our old colonial neighbour for answers. You see, it so happens that an abundance of pubs across in the UK have names containing any given permutation of the words royal, oak and old. And as you might imagine, there’s a good reason for this.

Way back in the 1600s during The English Civil War, Royalists and Parliamentarians were having a bit of a disagreement. And this disagreement was of such severity that it brought about the need for a battle in the town of Worcester. Possibly about governance, possibly about sauce, who knows? Anyway, King Charles, the king to be; not the dog, being head of the Royalists and a bit of a useless prick to boot – decided that he had scant chance of survival when pitted against Lord Protector and cunt of the last millennium – Oliver Cromwell, Ollie being head-honcho of the opposing side. Opting to hide away from all the bloodshed, Charlie sought refuge – and as the story goes, found it in the relative sanctuary of a big oak tree.

Fast forward a decade or so and the civil war is over, Chaz is back on the throne and is regaling everyone with the tale of the time he was shielded from danger by a big bastard of an oak tree. So Brits being Brits – they start writing songs and naming boozers after this Royal Oak, as it had been dubbed.

Let it be known that our guess, educated by the fact that The Old Royal Oak was first opened as a pub when British rule still reigned over this country, is that this pub took its name – as so many others across the Irish Sea did – from that tree in the middle of England. And if it didn’t then so be it. We still managed to get around to calling Ollie Cromwell a bollox in at least one of the things we’ve posted on this website.

The Oaker is a pub that would seem to espouse the principle that less is more – the bar, a one-roomed, undivided space, is characterised by its simplicity. Upon entrance you’ll observe low seating on your left and a medium sized bar to the right. Seating, while not in short supply, is limited and when the place fills up it fills up fast. We commandeered a few stools up near the bar just in the nick of time when we last visited. Decoration is made up of the usual cavalcade of ephemera you might find in traditional pubs – paintings and pictures of local landscapes and landmarks, old drink adverts, framed jerseys and a few flags on the ceiling too, just for good measure.

I’d made my first visit here in the company of Pintman №5, who rates this pub as his favourite in the city. My fears of disagreeing with him were quickly allayed as we settled in to a few pints and he pointed out an elderly lady perched on a stool at the end of the bar. Describing her as “a little dreamboat” he informs me that she is the owner, or related to the owner as it may be.

When the time comes to use the jaxx, I’m reminded by my companion to inspect the snug while en-route – and I’m glad that take this instruction. Peering through the unassuming door I find myself in a space that is more family – living room than pub-snug. Its cosy inhabitants, all of whom are glued to a match on the TV, react to my interruption with the same sort of perplexity you might to a perfect stranger wandering into your own sitting room. I return to the bar extoling the cosiness this snug to my companions before demanding of them that we sit in there upon our next visit. We will!

Pintwise, we’re in dream territory here €4.80 on our last visit (which was Nov 2018, way too long ago) and a decent skinful sunk with great pleasure. Pintman №5 indulged in a toasty on that occasion too and it looked the part.

Out and out this is a fine establishment. One I wish was in more of a convenient location relative to a northsider such as myself. The pub too is also a great lesson for all new and prospective publicans thinking of going for that big revamp. Simplicity can be effective, if the place is run right.

Recently we were philosophising about what it is that brings that certain sense of je ne sais quoi to pints when they’re taken in enjoyable numbers of a Sunday. Having given due regard to theories of Old Ireland and The Sabbath, we came to look on the whole situation more generally and found some consensus that the sweetness derived from a Sunday session is most certainly directly proportional to its inherent risk. Riskiness, when you consider its intrinsic incalculability, is something that borders on the magical. And you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie out on a tightrope or a high roller staking five grand a hand to get the endorphin rush that risk can deliver. All you need to do is put your next days’ wage or even your entire job on the line and get down to the boozer for a skinful on a Sunday. Fair warning though, I tossed these particular dice a few weeks ago and I lost.

Thankfully this loss brought about no need to hightail it back to hatch number two or to pawn the family silver, the nature of my punishment this time around was to be more sensory than anything. With a humdinger of a hangover the next morning, I rushed queasily down the road to make the last Monday DART that would deliver me to work on time. Sufficiently sardined onto same, I made the horrifying discovery that I was headphoneless. And of course, it wasn’t even a tiny moment after I’d made that realisation when two particular gentlemen, whom I could only describe as the type who would have been dealing with NAMA during the recession, boarded the train. Unfortunately, these boys had no inclination to keep as quiet as the rest of the passengers and set about letting the whole carriage hear their conversation which was convened entirely with the use of business buzz-word bollock-talk. You know the sort of stuff – acronym laden shite that you’d hear the minister for finance yammer on with when he’s speaking about citizens like financial commodities. Anyhow, it was these two gobshites and their overuse of the phrase Silicon Docks in referring to the Grand Canal area that had me thinking of The Ferryman.

Almost certainly named in accordance with the dockland profession, The Ferryman adds to that reverence which (rightly) is afforded to historical working-class figures. Dockers and their ilk tend to be particularly esteemed compared to their inland contemporaries when it comes to works produced from all pillars of culture such as art, literature, music and, em, pub names. And given that the docks are now tech-centric you’d have to wonder if the dockers that future generations will refer to will be silicon dockers. I don’t suppose that it’s entirely unlikely that gravel-voiced troubadours will sing merrily in slip-jig timing about the days of user acceptance testing to patrons gathered around the lounge of The Senior Data Analyst Inn in a century or two. Thank the big fella upstairs that you and I won’t live long enough for that one.

On the medium to large side of things, The Ferryman is a pub whose look is very much timber focused – wooden flooring, tables, and facades abound while surfaces which are not covered with timber are painted in tones resembling such. Ephemera is mixed and follows no defining pattern, but one could pick out plenty of maritime stuff in there to tie in with the name if they chose to. Wrapping around in the sort of shape that almost resembles an L, the bar is relatively open and boasts plenty of seating options. There’s a sizable downstairs bar in the pub too and overall you couldn’t fault the appearance of it. There’s plenty of window space around the street-facing walls of the building too which make for fine people-watching opportunities while you sip away on a pint. And speaking of the pint, it won’t bring about any cause for concern in the tastebud department but will rock the wallet for five and a half euro which is certainly on the higher side of things.

Pintman Nº7 and I were in last over the summer and had a couple of mid-afternoon scoops before heading further afield. The place was ticking over with a customer base mostly comprised of tourists from nearby hotels as well as one or two more local sounding lads who were appropriately garbed in lifejackets. We considered making a bad joke about them falling into their pints but decided against the risk of offending hardier souls than ourselves.

Aside from a pricey pint, we couldn’t criticize The Ferryman too much. It’s a pub that must be commended for having weathered the storm of the recession and managed to keep the doors open when so many others were closing. And given the concentration of industry back into the docklands these days, it seems that The Ferryman should be more than able to stand dockers (silicon or otherwise) in good stead for all their future quayside drinking needs.

It’s early afternoon on a bitter February morning and I’m huddled around the graveside of Fenian Leader – Jeremiah O Donovan Rossa with another dozen cold persons on a guided tour of Glasnevin Cemetery. An actor in full Irish Volunteer regalia is in the throes of his re-enacting of Padraig Pearse’s famous graveside oration. The wind is whipping up in short frenzied bursts which are shaking the surrounding trees, strong trees – nourished on the since-decayed flesh of patriot dead. Haphazardly, this wind is spraying a pin-prick icy drizzle laterally toward my face, aiding it in its apparent attempt to render all exposed flesh numb.

I’m entirely sure that February is a fine month for a great number of things, but even more certain am I that Saint Brigid herself would agree that this is no optimal month for traipsing about on consecrated grounds for prolonged periods in the frost. After an hour or so the otherwise enjoyable tour ends and before I can speak the reddened faces of my companions render moot the question I have in my head. We are all in telepathic agreement that the time has come to seek shelter from the cold – and our chosen location for such is another thing that Brigid would’ve probably been agreeable to, her being the patron saint of beer, and all. We are bound for Kavanagh’s, The Gravediggers.

At this particular point in time our having never been to the pub is a shame we carry in secret. We fancy ourselves as knowing a thing or two about the most well-regarded pubs in Dublin and we’re repeatedly deflecting suggestions and changing subjects in order to try and conceal the awful truth. And with this comes the expectation, the hype. It’s not possible for this pub, good and all as we’re sure it will be, to live up to the standard our respective unconsciousness set for their waking counterparts. We find our way out of the cemetery and push back the heavy iron gate and proceed toward the battered wooden door. The world stops. It’s glorious.

Before long, the eight or so of us are burrowed intimately into the last remaining enclave which shier groups, similar in size, might have regarded as too small. Scatters of pints begin to arrive from the bar and arouse, in the faces of their recipients, the sort of joy you might expect to see on that of an exhausted mother postnatally cradling her new-born moments after birth.

With that, the heat has returned to our faces and the pints and conversation flow in synonymy. Outside, a mutinous streak of sunlight gasps from the grey clouds which could not conceal it, it passes through the windows at the front of the pub and works as best as it can to illuminate the pub before ultimately becoming choked out by the shade therein. And with the light and shade in battle and the joviality and expressiveness around the place you could easily convince yourself that you were inside the frame of a Vermeer or a Caravaggio, if you wanted to. .

This pub is the archetypal Dublin pub – but not just in appearance. A family run boozer with strong community ties, it’s the very essence of what a Dublin pub should be and the yardstick against which all others should be measured. This is the original model of what so many imposters unfruitfully seek to recreate for profit or for glory. To walk into the sepia-toned confines of this pub is to step squarely into the past – each feature is as characterful as the next: be it the smoke-stained ceiling, the bark chipped table or the saloon doors. There is no coincidence in the fact that the pub has been used in countless TV and movie productions to elicit a sense of days gone by.

And it’s entirely apt that the pub, which opened in 1833, is used for historical programming, as it’s dripping in lore and history. I’ll assume that everyone is already au fait with one about the afters of Luke Kelly’s funeral, and forego that for now. Even more interesting, as Luke too I’m sure would agree, is the fact that the pub and the set of customers whom gave it its name are responsible for some of the lingo that’s still commonplace in the modern lexicon. During the war, when glass was in short supply, they say that the grave diggers, weary from their work in the adjoining cemetery, would adjourn for a drink and offer up earthenware jam-jars for the purpose of being used as receptacles for their well-earned beer. From there the phrase “are ye goin’ for a jar” was born.

The pub, they say, is also responsible for the main entrance to Glasnevin Cemetery having to be relocated away from Prospect Avenue to its current one on The Finglas road. It seems that the delays resulting from mourners who couldn’t resist a liquid detour before the coffin was lowered into the soil were so bad that the only way to combat it was to build an entire new entrance.

I suppose I should get on to the pint. This is as good as it gets folks, each and every one is a showstopper and I make no hesitation in saying that this pint is the best in Dublin. This fact then, by proxy makes the pint of Guinness in The Gravediggers the best in the country, which in turn then makes it the best pint in the world. And what’s more is that it’s always charged at a fair price too, the lads could probably charge six quid a pop if they wanted to, but they won’t, the last time we managed to get up that way it was going for €4.80 a measure. A bargain!

So anyone who’s followed our ramblings for the last few years will know that we’ve been a while trying to convey our love for this pub through text. A while being measured in years in this case. I think we’ll never manage to write something that we’re 100% happy with so we’re going to convince ourselves that this one is good enough because if we don’t we’d only end up writing a full book on the pub, which I suppose we couldn’t rule out into the future either.

Ever since Molly wheeled her barrow up the road from those pelt-peddling pricks down at the mouth of Grafton Street and plonked herself where it’s supposed that the Vikings once erected the thingmote, their version of Dundrum Shopping Centre, you could argue that the most westward point of Suffolk street has been subject to something of a rejuvenation.

It’s here outside St Andrew’s church that you might listen to the portrayal of fiction as fact when steady throngs of tourists are corralled around the likeness of the city’s most famous mythical brasser only to have her described as if she were as real as Tone or Collins. And as you watch these tourists, one by one, mount Molly’s plinth and degrade the cause of feminism one brush of her brass bust at a time you might think to yourself that it’s not ideal but that it could be worse – it’s only a statue after all and where’s the harm in a few Yanks thinking of her as once actually alive… alive-o. It’s also probably apt enough that O Neill’s is the public house which sits upon this site because it, to me, falls into this same category as the scene aforementioned – it’s not ideal, but it could be worse.

Relative to our, ahem, studies… this bar is quite a notable one insofar that it’s the first where we can conclusively state a connection to James Joyce, a good pub does not make. And yes, this is another pub with strong links to JJ himself, it being featured in Counterparts – one of the short stories contained in Dubliners. In this story we meet Farrington, a legal secretary whose vitriol toward his superiors is severe enough that it manages to manifest itself as a thirst. And such is the insistence of this thirst on the day that Counterparts is set, that Farrington heads off on his afternoon break to quench it:

He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out: “Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.” The curate brought him a glass of plain porter.

Thankfully the standard of the jar seems that it was up to a higher level back at that time for if Jim happened to be writing about my maiden visit to the pub he’d be flinging his lingual prowess at describing how the curate poured my drink into a near empty and used vessel in one single pour and offered to sell it to me at full price. A decade on that still gives me the shivers.

I don’t know whether its just the size of the pub of the proliferation of taps, but the drink in here tends to be an issue more so than it should be. Personally, and anecdotally (off and online) we hear of bad pints galore in here (check out the Guinness we came across on twitter recently in the picture.) and with the price tag of €5.50 a go, the standard should be far higher.

Aesthetically the pub has its ups and its downs. Traditionally decorated, the front bar is resplendent with wood alike all other show piece pubs of the Victorian age around the city. It would be my pick of the many sections on offer especially seen as it’s good and out of sight of the dreaded carvery bar – a feature which Pintman №2, №3 and I have spent plenty of time arguing about. I should also, at this point, mention that the two lads aren’t quite as anti-O Neill’s as myself, their assessment of the place being an adequate one for taking in a match or two. But I think I might have them on the ropes about it these days.

Returning to the point made earlier on, and while not my pick of the bunch, O Neill’s is a pub that isn’t quite as bad as it could be. But with the touristification of Dublin ongoing it’s most certainly following the cash in the wrong direction. And what a shame it is to find that a pub with such fine potential to sit up top with the big leaguers would seem to be having it’s genuine cultural bonafides paddy whacked into a twee tourist only experience. Something which I suppose the quare one outside knows all too well.

If you were to ease yourself into a chair in the busy waiting room of an oncology clinic and gorge yourself upon the alcohol hand sanitizer that presumably hangs from the wall there, you’d be spending the same amount of money, but having ten times the craic as you would be if you were drinking in this defacto famine-era soup kitchen!

Have some respect for yourself and walk 20 seconds up the road to The Flowing Tide instead.

Seriously, it’s a kip. Don’t bother. I’ve made a balls of the image above there and thown the colours out of whack. I’m not arsed fixing it because the place is a kip!

In the early hours of a Friday morning somewhere on Parnell Street in the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, you might have found me in the time honoured sweaty skirmish that I’m sure you’ll still find long haired leather clad rockers in to this day.

With pint glass firmly clasped like all should be when mosh-pit adjacent, I’d be quaffing some unholy concoction sold to me as a loss-leader – aniseedy and tinted in shining glowstick green – you’d still be able to smell it in the morning afterward.

Having arrived early, as to avoid the bouncers, I’d generally be garbed in building site-safe attire, content that at least my steel-toe boots were half on par with the dress code. Eventually then the gang would spill in and the night would while away into that green aniseed haze and you would find yourself in that menagerie of boots, chains, leather, denim and all the sweat and beer spilt therein.

And as the drinking-up hour would close in you might be going hoarse from defiantly shouting the repeated lines of the last song spun – it usually being Rage Against The Machine. “F**k you, I won’t do what you tell me”… you’d howl it as you swayed arm in arm with any number of sweaty metallers.. “F**k you I won’t do what you tell me.” Then the bouncers would move in to clear house – and you’d do what they told you.

There are but a handful of widely accepted institutions in Dublin City and the place mentioned above – Fibber Magee’s is certainly one. Dublin’s premier Metal bar, it was a rite of passage for young trainee rockers like myself who found that their fondness for music could no longer be confined to unlicensed premises way back when.

Though ultimately I’d find the tunes in Fibbers a bit on the heavier side and transfer up to Eamon Doran’s, and given that it’s not somewhere I’ve ever frequented in the true sense of the word, I’ve always retained a fondness for Fibbers and the foundation it provided to me to learn the trade of drinking pints.

Being the likely best example of a Dive bar on offer in Dublin’s portfolio of pubs, Fibbers is cut into a sizeable number of defined sections – a medium sized bar runs along the left side of the room as you enter, toward the right side you’ll find an alcove containing two or three bays of semi-circular couches which snugly house a circular table apiece. Moving toward the back of the room you’ll come upon a bank of pool tables and as you move right from them you’ll end up in the venue section complete with stage and dancefloor. Beyond all that there’s a vast smoking area out back which we wouldn’t normally bother commenting on only for the fact that it is contained on a common courtyard with two vastly different style of bars/restaurants – Murray’s and The Living Room. This lends to a sort of Gangs of New York – Five Points vibe, the likes of which is found nowhere else in the city.

Pint-wise, we can’t really comment in any great certainty as we generally find ourselves here when our tastebuds have been rendered less sensitive than they would’ve been before a hearty sceilp of pints. But I cannot say that our last visit is remembered as being one where the pint was below an acceptable level. I’m told the pint is at the fiver mark here but we’ll stand open to correction there.

We last visited of a Halloween night which ended somewhat acrimoniously. With a sizeable crew of costumed and costumeless in tow we’d awarded the night’s best dressed award to Pintman №7 who had ignored all advice of it being more of a 2009 thing and decided to dress as Heath Ledger’s incarnation of The Joker from The Dark Night… as a nurse… in a dress… I think he might have even shaved his legs for the occasion.

Pintman №7, who despite being a long time subscriber and attendee to the cause, has heretofore gone uncredited in the annals of DublinByPub. A man caught in a never ending cycle of giving up and getting back into drinking strong IPAs, he would, as it turns out, have made a fine character actor.

For, you see, it was on this fine October night that Pintman №7 had truly engaged his inner Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero all in one. And the timing of this couldn’t have been more perfect. We’d been unfortunate enough to find ourselves having made the acquaintance of some nasty, uncostumed upstart in the course of playing pool. And it was just as this little bollox was smack bang in the middle of his twenty-somethingth ill-advised insult of the evening when he felt five of Pintman №7’s knuckles speedily settle into his cheekbone. It was so perfect a hit some of us even swore we saw one of those 60’s Batman pop-art graphics depicting the word POW right before our eyes. Needless to say, the boy went down.

Next of all we’d found ourselves witness to one of these wonderful Halloween scenes where Donald Trump and Wonderwoman beckoned bouncers as Obie Wan Kenobi attempted to barrel The Joker out of sight. The bouncers did arrive and when Pintman №7 freely gave himself up they informed him that he’d have to be thrown out. He went peacefully. He went so peacefully that the bouncers even cheerfully bade him good night and the best of luck for good measure too.

Unfortunately our hopes and prayers that footage of this melee would eventually surface on the national airwavews as part of Crimecall’s CCTV segment have year to bear fruit. We continue to live in hope.

So that’s about all we have on Fibbers for now. Let us conclude by saying that if you’re the type of person who’s looking to accompany a pint with the aural pleasures of the more advanced sub-genres of metal, or if you’re just a lad in a dress who wants to shoot some pool and watch the world burn, Fibbers might just be the place for you!

Sitting directly across from City Hall on the corner of the historic promenade of Dame Street and the equally historic Crane Lane, The Oak is a pub I must start by admitting to you that I’ve never spent an awful lot of time in. Nowadays I’m reasonably happy enough to admit that the reasons for this are probably a bit nuanced and snobbish, but way back when I was a young naive pintboy in training the cause of this was far more primal.

I can tell you now, with all these years of hindsight under my belt, that my reticence toward frequenting this particular bar back then was a textbook case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’. You see, I was at that impressionable stage of life where one finds themselves at a crossroads, that delicate hour where it becomes time to take up the mantle laid by generations gone before. It was time to start drinking pints of stout.

So with cautious abandon, I began dipping my toe in the proverbial dark ruby sea and set about acquiring a taste for this seemingly unassailable brew. But alas when I chose The Oak as my dispenser of same I found myself to fall afoul of the dreaded ‘bad pint’.

It’s all good and well nowadays with scores of vans servicing the pubs of the city with regard to their stout-pouring apparatus, but before this was widespread practice a bad pint wasn’t one where the taste was a little off, or the head was too thin. A bad pint back then was something that attacked you with a severity synonymous to that of salmonella. I dare say that this unlucky order may well have set my acclimatisation to Guinness off course by a good 12 months or so.

The Oak, in its current guise is a far larger premises than it originally once was given that it is now comprised of the original pub and the adjoining building which sits on the corner of Parliament and Dame St. This larger part of the complex was previously called Thomas Read’s, a name it took from its neighbour (which was once of Dublin’s oldest shops) and was accessible from the original pub for as long as this author’s memory will stretch. This section is fairly plush and continental and isn’t really of concern to us in this article. The main bar, the original Oak is the space in particular to which we refer here. Having been tarted up in recent years with some new fittings, furniture and a good dollop of red velvet, the bar is looking a good bit more upscale than it once did. What remains as part of the bar though are the Oak panels which gave it its name. These unassuming pieces of wood, believe it or not, have probably crossed the Atlantic more times than you’ve crossed O Connell Street given that they were installed in the bar after being salvaged from the ocean liner The RMS Mauretania after it was decommissioned in 1934.

Thankfully nowadays the pint is much improved from that which I tried to cut my teeth with back in the day. Not the greatest in the area but not the worst either. Unfortunately, none of us happens to remember the price tag on the pint in there. The last time I ventured into the place was in the wee hours a Christmas or two ago and with a sheet or two toward the gales. I’m not ashamed to admit that my only abiding memory of this evening was of talking to an Irish celebrity gardener who was far gone in G&Ts and speaking exclusively in posh, soutside-sounding mumbles about rare geraniums and the like.

It’s not a pub we could fault too greatly though. Its newfound grandeur might unconsciously send us looking for somewhere a bit more threadbare, and its proximity to The Lord Edward certainly leaves it the less of our concern on the often, but it’s definitely not somewhere we’d advise you avoid.