There’s one in every town and parish of Ireland. You can’t miss them as they cut a dash in shops, workplaces and public houses; going about their day to day mundanities. Nearly everything about them is as it should be – the attire is in keeping with what is to be expected, as is the accent and the mannerisms, there’s usually just the one thing that will stand out – the hair. Jet black and generally extending to flank the face with sideburns of varying sizes, this is the primary indicator of what I term a particular Irish character called ‘The Elvis Aulfella’.

Bakers: Thomas Street

Elvis Aulfellas, on average, tend to earn their keep as manual workers or as drivers. If there exists a job where one can sing or whistle freely, there is an Elvis Aulfella to fill it. Though manifested daily in their physical appearance, an Elvis Aulfella’s devotion to the king is not something that he may always be so outward about in general conversation. Should an Elvis Aulfella come to build your porch or pave your driveway, he’ll do just that – you shouldn’t expect yourself to be canvassed on the virtues of Presley in order to have the work done to an agreeable standard.

It’s at social gatherings where Elvis Aulfellas come into their own. DJs see them approach on the regular and cheap karaoke microphones are more than acquainted with their h-sound ladened warbling. They drink in normal pubs, local pubs – pubs like Bakers. In fact I’d go as far as to say that Bakers is the ideal Elvis Aulfella pub – and that’s not just because it was flush with Presley ephemera.

Bakers had a sort of a warm charm to it – a real down to earth shop. The walls were covered in all sorts of things pertaining to the tastes of the working class ageing Dublin gentleman. The sort of things they’d hang in a room of their own at home – if they had one. But the sizes of Liberties abodes being what they are, Bakers stepped in to provide a sort of communal man-cave for its customers. This, in turn, provided a real treasure trove for eejits, such as myself, who find interest in the modern social history of The Liberties in the face of all the gentrification ongoing, there.

Whenever we drank in Bakers, we’d opt for the bar and, subconsciously, try to sit as close to the collage of John Wayne pictures as we could. There’s something calming about John Wayne. It’s probably his standing as the most beloved figure of our grandfathers’ generation, but images of the man they nicknamed Duke tend to elicit comfortable feelings of clandestine donations of shiny pound coins and a seemingly unending supply of hard toffee sweets for me and my ilk. Once happily sat in the environs of this collage we would set about tucking into a few pints, which were always anticipated with no fear for their quality. What was always surprising, however, was the price – last noted in the late summer of 2019 as being €4.40 – far lower than some immediate neighbors.

At this point you might be wondering – why the use of the past tense in most of what was written above? Well, as unfortunate circumstance would have it, this piece is more of a Eulogy than anything else.

It’s another sad reality in this pox of a year that Bakers is set to be one of the pubs which will not return to trade whenever this all-encompassing pandemic has sang its last encore and made for the stage exit.

And that really is a terrible shame. Not just for all the Leeds United plaques and fake Elvis Presley gold discs that will be condemned to landfill – not even for the collection of John Wayne imagery, but for the old stock locals, Elvis Aulfellas included, that will have to find a new third space. It’s true that The Clock and Kennedy’s in nearby proximity are a similar sort of pub; but the truth is that pubs like these are getting fewer and fewer in the heart of town, and, sparkly and intriguing as they may be at first, no amount of donut shops, aparthotels and for-profit rural hardware simulacra will ever provide the cultural sustenance that the likes of Bakers did. I’m just glad I took the chance to darken it’s door when I had it.

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”… so sang Gene Wilder when he played Willy Wonka in the on-screen adaptation of Rohl Dahl’s most famous book. The song is one that you might hear from time to time as an adult and find yourself kicked by the boot of nostalgia right back to the dreamy state of childishness where you were innocent or naive enough to believe that such places as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory might exist.

The Open Gate Brewery – Thomas St.

Unfortunately life gets its hands on us all, and by the time you get around to our age you come to realise that chocolate factories are in fact cold humourless industrialised complexes filled with hardy workers operating noisy machinery and ne’er an Oompa Loompa in sight. You even know by now that if Willy Wonka’s factory was actually a reality it would be burdened with litigation and health warnings and such…. It’s tough being an adult.

But fear not ye dejected grown-ups, we here at Dublin By Pub have found a space that will fill that Wonka shaped void that plagues your soul so! And it’s happens to be right here in Dublin. The Open Gate Brewery is a space within the confines of St James’ Gate Brewery where magic happens. There’s no confectionary and no little orange lads singing songs which, to be fair, wouldn’t really be that much craic when it came down to it. What they do have instead is something far more exciting – gallons upon gallons of beer!

We will acknowledge that this spot isn’t really a pub – but given that it’s contained within the complex that supplies pints to the vast majority of pubs that we visit, and also given the fact that we’ve contradicted ourselves umpteen times previously on DBP we’re going to make an exception. A working brewery, you could think of this space as Guinness’s very own Frankenstein’s Lab where teams of brewers are given free rein to cook up whatever conceivable form of beer takes their fancy. The gates of this brewery are then opened weekly on the evenings of Thursday, Friday and Saturday – allowing the public sample the brewers’ wares.

I think we might have mentioned in one previous post or another that Pintman №2 is a bit of purist when it comes to drink. It’s not often that you’ll find this man with anything other than a pint of Guinness in his claw, so you can imagine my surprise when himself and myself managed to try each of the 10 or so beers listed on the large board behind the bar on our first visit into the OGB a number of months ago. The setup is handy enough, you can have any of the beers listed outright or you can get a set of samples. The staff were sound and guided us through the options with a good degree of knowledge and friendliness, they explained that most of the taps change as new experimental brews come on stream and older ones dry up. Once we’d finished with all the seasonal beer, Pintman №2 and I knew that there was only one show in left in town, and let us just say how weird of a thing it is to order a pint from within the confines of the belly of the beast – expectations run as high as they possibly can.

Thankfully there’s no sting in the tail here – these pints were perfect down to the last drop: the temperature, the head, and the pour – all spot on. The only criticism we had was that they were served in a new style glass rather than a tulip glass. We debated as to whether we’d reasonably be allowed to take points off Guinness for the way they serve their flagship beer in their own brewery as we drank a few more that evening. I’m not sure if we managed to come to a conclusion in the end.

The Open Gate Brewery is good craic. It’s not a pub in our definition of the term but it is a good precursor to the pub and should accommodate beer thirsty palates of all types.

Full disclosure folks: we’ve since visited here on the invitation of The Open Gate Brewery and the lads from The Fine Ale Countdown and were very kindly looked after on that occasion. The piece above is based upon an initial and impartial visit, as all the rest of our posts are.

Do you ever find that in our modern existence, where our surroundings are becoming more and more homogenised in the pursuit of commercialisation that you can lose touch with things of substance? – Things like history and culture! As you take a wander up Thomas St. and witness the encroaching trends of burrito and donut shops that pop up in identical guises to their sister outlets it can become all too easy to forget just how old Dublin actually is.

Tom Kennedy’s: Thomas St.

Thankfully there are things that can reconnect us to our past, these can come in the guise of a grandmother shouting about cheap detergent on her metal stall, or for us they can come in the form of reading that a pub on this same street – namely Tom Kennedy’s, is one that is contained within a building that has had a presence upon Thomas Street since somewhere in or around the 1750s, an attribute that is put into context with ease when you consider that The Yanks only declared independence from The Brits in 1776.

It’s said that Wolfe Tone may have been waked here in number 65 Thomas St, and if there’s any truth in that, it could be argued that this building has been accommodating functions for longer than most others in the city because when we arrived into the pub last we were greeted with banners and balloons aplenty denoting not that a revolutionary had been executed, but rather that Jessica was 21.

Walking into this community-warmed local of a summer evening we found ourselves welcomed into the fold without the degree of scrutiny that you might find yourself under in some other shops – as we settled into a few high stools at the front of the bar we couldn’t but be charmed at how the place was abuzz with a warmth that felt akin to something from a Roddy Doyle novel.

A long and narrow pub –it’s one that boasts all the character that a 260 year old should. The seating is mostly cosy – long comfy couches sit you a short distance from the ground in a span that runs parallel to the bar. A handful of high stools sit toward the front of the room ahead of those found at the bar too.

The walls leave no uncertainties as to the city within which you are drinking – framed images of all things Dublin are a recurring theme. Panelling coloured in creamy tones make up the upper half of the wall space encountered upon entrance and overall the pub is more brightly lit than is to our preference, but not to a degree that warrants any negative commentary on our part. Opening up toward the back there is a raised section upon which sat a DJ who was blasting numerous ladies of the liberties with contemporary floor fillers as they loaded up on cocktail sausages.

The pint is as is hoped for in these sort of local boozers – having two of the modern Guinness drinker’s most sought after features: creaminess and a price tag south of the fiver mark. We drank a couple confirming the consistency too.

There’s no real negative critique we could offer on Tom Kennedy’s here. We found an old article on a from 2013 where the owner was expressing concerns about the future of the pub and lamenting the demise of other local ones that were shutting up shop back then. Five years on we can only hope that he sees things a little more optimistically. The craic we had in here last summer would lead us to believe he should.

It’s no surprise that we’re fond of a pint of Guinness here at DublinByPub, the iconic black and white tipple that has been both our ruination and salvation is one we regard with the utmost veneration. Adding further to that sentiment is the internal reaction we encounter when we take a relished wander up Thomas St. in its entirety. It’s in this location that our fondness for a jar of stout becomes most evident to ourselves. Passing the spot where Robert Emmet met his demise on a colonial rope in the name of Irish independence – our sense of historical intrigue shortly finds itself overcome with a sort of Wonka-esque joy as it becomes apparent that to us that we’ve entered that particular area of Dublin that could only be described as The Guinness District. Taking full heed and advantage of these surroundings, there sits a pub which serves as a sort of demarcation point heralding the beginning of this district – and suitably enough this pub trades under the name Arthur’s.

Arthur’s: Thomas St.

Purporting itself to be the closest pub to the Guinness Storehouse, Arthur’s sits on the corner of Thomas Street and Thomas Court and is indeed a well-placed spectator for thirsty tourists bemusedly wandering up in search of the source. It would be hypocritical of us to describe the fit-out of the pub as anything other than an idyllic interpretation of our preferred design specifications. Wooden flooring and panelling of various tones, mid to dark, define the colour scheme of the bottom half of the space, while the lighter coloured ceiling allows the pub proper use of the ample light provided by its many windows. A massive fireplace sits on the back wall of the pub- the mantle of which holds more candle wax than your local S&M club during a blackout. Upon this same back wall, exposed brick aids the traditional appearance of the boozer and the seating is made up of high stools entirely, with high tables throughout.

This pub is one of the variety whereby the installation of a television was not deemed to be a necessary act – a feature that this author would happily award a further bonus point to that which was automatically credited for the fireplace. Along with all these things pleasing to the eye it is also worth noting that Arthur’s host a decent amount of live music in their upstairs bar too. We’ve been in for a blues night here and there and found the room to be an agreeable location for some music.

But all of the aforementioned is useless if a pub trading under the name Arthur’s in the shadows of The Guinness Storehouse isn’t pouring a pint of porter that’s more than palatable. Thankfully the folks behind the bar on our last visit were more than capable. Having taken our first gulp of the fine specimens presented to us, we were just about to tack on another bonus point until we were handed our change. Realising that we’d just paid five euro and forty cents for one of the shortest travelled pints in the world we immediately rescinded all prior bonus points and made plans to relocate to a cheaper shop. Arthur’s is a bit like that attractive partner you had with the expensive taste. Great to look at, but too pricey to stay with.

We like to think that we try and give everyone a fair crack of the whip here on Dublin By Pub. Our creed is that each pub we visit gets the prior benefit of impartiality and open-mindedness regardless of its reputation, location or clientele. And when we visited Agnes Brown’s in the summer of 2017, this was most definitely the case. The only problem was that in this instance, a rogue third factor joined he prerequisites of impartiality and open-mindedness; namely the factor of about eight or nine pints in the tank.

Agnes Brown’s: Thomas St.

Under the cover of a late fallen darkness we bustled through the smokers gathered at the threshold and quickly ensconced ourselves into a corner toward the front of the pub. A DJ complete with technicolour lighting took on the job of entertainment for the evening as a few regulars gave us the look one gives to a group of mouldy strangers barrelling into your local on a summer’s Saturday night. We acquired three pints of stout which don’t stand out in memory as being bad pints albeit that one of them was served in a Tuborg glass – which to be fair was the preferred tulip shape.

The décor of the pub was an interesting one from the little collective recollection we can muster. We can recall an unconventionally coloured bar coated in hues of red and blue. Plenty of nationalist ephemera adorned the walls and if the writer is not mistaken a few painted bodhráns hung about the space too. The walls were a bright shade and overall the lighting is remembered as being of a fairly optimal level.

We stayed for the one pint in this instance and our visit passed off mostly without remark. We found the locals to be reminiscent of the type found in the boozers of Meath and Francis Street – friendly and boisterous, evidenced by the two grandmothers who danced arm in arm with us as far as the chipper upon our exit which did make for a hell of a flashback when it arrived into consciousness 3 days later.

I could say we had a memorable time in Agnes Brown’s but you know that that would be a lie. Rough around the edges as it was and all, we certainly have no qualms about going back sober to notch off that memorable visit someday.

It’s fair to say that we’re fond of drinking in The Liberties, we find that having a pint there tends to make us suburban dwellers feel more authentically Dublin. That said, we’re no experts, and a while back when we had finished up a few pints in Fallon’s and were considering our next course of action one of the lads suggested that we tip down to Shanahan’s for a look. The only response I could muster to this suggestion was to wonder aloud as to where in the name of jaysis that could be.

Shanahan’s The Coombe

This is a case in point about why Ireland and Dublin are a wandering pub lover’s paradise. The haphazard, ad-hoc street layout afforded to our home soil gives rise to little hidden nooks and crannies that could only be dreamt of in the symmetrical gridded streets of the USA. Following the trail of The Coombe we tipped on down toward Shanahan’s.

The pub is unassumingly situated amidst residential properties of varying types, a plain red facade fronts the pub which is of a small to medium size. We headed towards the raised section at the back and were greeted by a very welcoming barman who quickly furnished us with three top notch pints, even delivering them to our table.

The fit out of the pub was traditional yet the furniture looked relatively modern – it being in a fairly clean shape. The locals were in good form and left us to it when our conversation became a bit heated with the drink after we disregarded one of the golden rules of drinking and steered the conversation toward a political nature.

Once we had all settled down and had managed to find common ground again we agreed that we’d happily return to the pub, as we left and were bade a farewell by the friendly barman we vowed to do so before the year expired.

Sitting at the mouth of the Liberties lies a street which is as intrinsically Dublin as a bowl of coddle on hill sixteen. The Coombe is said to have been a valley which was carved by a tributary which fed the river which gave birth to Dublin: The Poddle. Arguably this valley is still feeding the lifeblood of Dublin by dishing out creamy scoops to welcome folk beyond the boundaries of the Liberties.

Fallon’s: The Coombe

Sitting at the mouth of the Liberties lies a street which is as intrinsically Dublin as a bowl of coddle on hill sixteen. The Coombe is said to have been a valley which was carved by a tributary which fed the river which gave birth to Dublin: The Poddle. Arguably this valley is still feeding the lifeblood of Dublin by dishing out creamy scoops to welcome folk beyond the boundaries of the Liberties.

In our exploration of the pubs of Dublin we’ve visited many places and the truth being told, sometimes one has to scratch under the surface to seek out the magic of a premises. But that said, sometimes you know you’re on hallowed ground the minute you cross the threshold of a pub. Of these sorts of pubs Fallon’s is the latter.

We’ve been in Fallon’s a few times over the last month and both busy and quiet occasions and we’ve had some ups and some downs.

Visually the pub could not be mistaken for any other type than that of the Irish variety. Eyes that enjoy the sight of a good traditional pub will light up upon entry. The floor is unvarnished, un-sanded and scuffed to perfection. A relatively large snug occupies much of the front of the small pub. The exposed tan brickwork add further to the place’s primitive aesthetic. A large cast iron stove/range sits at the rear of the room, the walls surrounding which bear the scars of harbouring such a device. Varied drinking ephemera alongside historical framings of local interest occupy wall space throughout.

The crowd here tends to consist of a mix of younger locals mixed in with a few elders and a couple of tourists for good measure too. As for the pint. This was in the top three of the year. We wondered if a pipe ran directly from James’ gate such was the calibre of creaminess. And under a fiver too. This pint was an undeniable 10/10.

The pub is definitely a hidden gem when it comes to older untouched places in the city. The only detractors from the experience are an unwaveringly narky Barman and a bit of a stinky jaxx. But these probably wouldn’t discourage us from visiting again.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania there sits a large metal bell – the bell is almost a tonne in weight, over a metre wide and 265 years old. Named The Liberty Bell , it is a symbol of American freedom and boasts a commendable 4.5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. Reviewers advise of an average waiting time of 20 minutes to gain admittance to see the bell. Catherine H calls it a “Must See” and Bill E asks “Why wouldn’t you?”

Well Bill, aside from the hefty airfare, the main reason I wouldn’t is down to the fact that us Dubliners happen to have our very own Liberty Bell here in the city. And this particular Liberty Bell incurs neither cover charge, nor any twenty minute wait and unlike its Philadelphian counterpart it dishes out creamy pints of stout.

The Liberty Belle: Francis St.

We were last in the Liberty Belle of a weekend evening not so long ago, none of us had ever darkened the door of the pub prior to this and truth be told we had relatively few preconceptions of the pub compared to some others we have made debut visits to prior. First impressions of the pub were quite good – we agreed that it had been aptly named insofar that it was the most attractive looking of the pubs of Francis St.

The exterior with its painted signage and hanging baskets serves as a welcoming sight to a thirsty set of eyes. The interior is rather homely with its carpeted floor, glass panelled doors and curtains. Copper vessels decorate shelf space and the bar is back-lit with effective ambience afforded by stained glass which frames a large mirror bearing the name of the pub and an image of a Japanese geisha girl.

We sat in one of the booths that were partitioned from one another with wooden dowels. We remarked how the partitions offered no visual privacy but did provide a comfortable sense of ownership to any occupying group who chose to sit there. We lowered a couple of very good pints as a few locals engaged us in a bit of chat. The overall vibe was very warm; a healthy mix of new and old liberty locals afforded the place original warmth which we greatly enjoyed basking in.

We wondered why we left it so late to get into this boozer and all agreed we’d certainly be back.

We’re an absolute shower of suckers for a good pub name here at Dublin By Pub and if we’ve noticed any developing theme on our Odyssey through this town’s boozers it would have to be that defunct career titles make for great names. In our modern world with all the talk of AI and driverless cars it couldn’t but help make you wonder what sort of pubs our children’s children will be drinking in when the robots take over. Will they meet their buddies for a few gargles in The Librarian? Or The Taxi Driver? Or maybe The Postmaster? Or good forbid – The Barman!? Anyhow as far as current names go: along with the likes of The Glimmerman, The Lamplighter is another cracker.

The Lamplighter: The Coombe

I suppose in hindsight we probably didn’t get an exemplary impression of The Lamplighter Given that it was near-on empty when we dropped in of a cold February evening. We sat toward the bar and enjoyed a few decent scoops taking in the banter between the staff who seemed a friendly bunch.

On the aesthetic front, it would be hard to romanticise the pub too much. The fixings and furniture are fairly drab and dated. Large wooden partitions section off different seating areas and faded carpet further dulls the overall look.

Aesthetics aside, the lingering thought from this boozer in our minds is the patrons. Though it was fairly sparsely packed when we nipped in we did enjoy observing the liberties locals exchanging banter with the staff in their own peculiar way. Not to mention price to quality ratio of the pint.

The funny thing about the pubs of Dublin is that they can easily be likened to the types of characters that inhabit the city itself. Take the likes of Mulligan’s or The Palace – I like to think of these pubs as wise elders; grandparents who dispense with worthwhile advice at the drop of a hat without prior notice. Then take the likes of your Strand Houses and your Auld Triangles. These are a bit more like the local rogues from around where you grew up. The ne’er-do-wells who people dislike but you don’t mind because they were always okay to you.

The Thomas House: Thomas St.

Now where does The Thomas House lay in this array of clichéd characters? Simple! This pub is your proverbial Hollywood portrayal of a cooler older brother. He has the tunes, the motorbike and the way with the ladies. He’ll stick up for you and buy you a few cans. He’s sound.

The Thomas House is a smallish rockabilly bar with neither air nor grace, Its essence is perfectly encapsulated in the fact that Morrissey (him of The Smiths) was pictured pouring a pint of the black stuff behind the bar here shortly after Guinness publicised the fact that their flagship brew had gone vegan. An act that surely brings new poignancy to the song title ‘How Soon Is Now?’
The pub is a hub for alternative sub-cultures, but not in a manner that disbars outsiders. Dim lighting punctuated with flourishes of neon is the luminance of choice. A large fishtank greets those who enter; following the narrow length of the bar they will find a hefty Jukebox and adjoining DJ box at the back of the room – the walls around which have been dressed with old 45s. Flags adorn the ceiling while the walls display liquor signage, music memorabilia and general rockabilly décor. The jaxx is a pokey affair and is wallpapered in comic strips for good measure.

The bar itself is no craftperson’s masterpiece but does boast an impressive array of options given its size. The Guinness is a great pour and the craft options are well picked and some of the best priced ones in the city. It may be the author’s favourite spot for a craft brew in Dublin and it’s certainly his only choice for a jar before Vicar St. Highly Recommended!