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“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.

A couple of posts back you might remember that we were drawing parallels between pubs and books. Well, rejoice ye lovers of poorly constructed prose because here comes this poorly effected simile once again.

Pubs and books… consider, if you will, the similarities between the two – how both a pub and a book are home to many a great story, both have acted as vehicles for education and enlightenment for as long as we care to remember, and both are a source of refuge where the common man can go to escape the mundanity of ordinary everyday life.

Keeping that in mind, let us say that as we continue to wade through the convoluted task of drinking our way through the entire network of boozers in dear old dirty Dublin town, we’ve come to recognize a great many parallels between the pubs of our beloved capital city. We’ve identified things that are true of some pubs and have also come to recognize some traits that can be attributed to all pubs. It’s one of the latter of these two observations that brings us back to our initial thought – given that it’s true that of all books that they should not be judged by their covers we’d argue that the same sentiment can be applied to pubs regarding their façade.

Taking the pictured Peadar Brown’s here as an example, it’s haphazardly decorated frontage sitting amidst apartments and fast-food units just don’t really constitute the type of composition typical of the more refined imagery you’ll find adorning products upon the shelves of souvenir shops. And this is, at least for our own selfish reasons, a good thing. For if an image of Peadar Browns’ facade could convey the level of craic available inside – the place would be besieged by every imaginable incarnation of plastic paddy conceivable, and within days it would be rendered uninhabitable for discerning drinkers like you and me.

It was the weekend of the All-Ireland Football Final last year when Pintman №2 and I had fallen afoul of the ire of the man behind the taps in Fallon’s (we love you Fallon’s but good jaysus can you be a narky one.)Deciding not to tarnish our perception of the pub any further, we decided that it was high time that we ticked Peadar Brown’s off the list. Heading southward up to Clanbrassil Street we soon found ourselves at the threshold of the pub which had temporarily rebranded itself as Jim Gavin’s in tribute to the Dublin bainisteoir himself. Tentatively we crossed the threshold to find a pub that we instantly regretted having not visited sooner.

With tiles toward the front of the pub and beautifully weathered wooden boards flooring the back end, the pub is decorated traditionally throughout. The ephemera around the place is in plentiful supply and ranges from local and national history to sport to the usual knick-knacks like vintage beer and cigarette advertisements.

Amongst the more traditional décor, there is a theme to be found. Denoted by painted bodhráns, as this particular theme tends to be, we recognized a definite Republican flair to Peadar Brown’s. With portraits of the signatories of the 1916 proclamation and the prominent placement of the green Irish Republican flag over the mantle, it’s not the type of place we personally would have been advocating a visit to for any of the lads in white rugby tops that we encountered culturally appropriating African American slave song around temple bar over the weekend just gone. We’d also be wary of bringing any Rangers fans in too, we noted the pub to be a bit of a hub for Celtic fans given the couple of die-hard hoops propping up the bar early one Sunday taking in some inconsequential tie with a rival from the bottom of the league table.

Upon our first visit (which would inspire plenty more) we settled in with two jars of Arthur. Having counted the change returned and calculated them to have impacted the pocket to the tune of €4.60 apiece, we turned our attention to the quality. And let us say that these gargles were as creamy as that poxy couch in your granny’s front room. Served in the preferred tulip shaped vessel, we found no fluke to be identified with the quality remaining constant throughout the duration of our first session here, and let me tell you – it did end up as a session. With the sole intention of dropping in for a pint or two to give the pub a try, Pintman №2 and I soon realised we’d be here for a longer spell than initially intended.

As if being satisfied with the atmosphere, the gargle and the aesthetics wasn’t good enough, Peadar’s had another ace up its sleeve. We were barely into our third pint when we came to notice a growing assembly of musicians beginning to occupy the back section of the pub. In ones and twos, we observed the arrival them – a guitarist or two first, then a piper, then a fiddler and then plenty more besides. By the time we were halfway through our fourth pint we were front row to a blistering All-Ireland eve céilí and Peadar Brown’s had captured our heart.

So you may take your picturesque rip-off dens festooned in fairy lights and hanging baskets. They might look the part on a calendar or a postcard or a fridge magnet. But no such piece of overpriced tat could possibly deliver the type of craic that you’ll find within the walls of Peadar Brown’s. This pub is a pillar of its community, a place of music and culture, a proper public house! This is a real Dublin pub!

The Long Stone we hardly knew ye.

You stood proudly on Townsend Street for over 200 years and now they’ve decided to knock you down. We never even took our chance to photograph you while you were open and now it’s too late. Soon you’ll follow your neighbour – Ned into the dusty abyss and take your rightful place in Valhalla, and all we can do to console ourselves is to think of cliches – you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

We went to visit you on your last day and came to realise what fools we have been not to have spent more time drinking within your confines. We were like flies scutting along the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – ignorant of the beauty upon which we were standing.

It’s true that I’ve said things in the past that you mightn’t have liked. I was no fan of the hot nut machine that sat atop your front bar and bathed all around it in an uncomfortable fiery hue. I certainly bemoaned the price of your drink on more than one occasion, but none of that matters now.

How we wish you were still open. How we wish we could saunter into the back bar and sit at the mouth of a 10ft sculpture of Odin’s head and gaze upon your bespoke wooden features, your slate flooring, your ancient hanging banners.

But we can’t visit you anymore. The newspapers say that a wrecking ball is due on-site in January, They’ll probably build a hotel on the ground upon which you currently stand. Tourists might come to stay and they’ll ask if there are any good pubs around. No, we’ll respond… Just hotels.

Rest in peace, The Long Stone. We’ll miss you.

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!

“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.

 

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.

January… It’s tough going! The dark misery of winter’s icy grasp persists and the anti-climax of Christmas’s end kicks in. Advertising media reminds you of the upheaval you’ve caused to your general health and the workplace is abound with incessant mundane tales of ‘nice quiet’ Christmases. All in all, a fairly brutal month. But January is good for at least one thing – introspection. And it’s in this spirit we’ve decided to upgrade one or two pubs posted on Instagram during DublinByPub’s infancy to conform to our more established format.

Becky Morgan’s is just about within our city boundaries sitting a literal stone’s throw from The Grand Canal. The building strikes a distinctive chord amongst neighbouring buildings with its rosy red signage.

It’s a small enough pub on the inside, one where prospective punters should forego shyness if they visit during the pub’s peak hours as they may need to squeeze in beside one stranger or another to take the load off. When we last visited, a local lad scooched across at the bar to accommodate us before giving us a detailed overview and analysis of his day’s gambling. The bar itself is a well presented setup – uniform taps pour a decent range of beer for such a compact boozer, there’s also spirits aplenty behind the bar too.

The seating is well thought-out with space at the bar and low tables running parallel to the bar along the circumference of the room. The pint was of good standard and a nice price to boot. We were in around Christmas time and the staff were well capable of keeping up with the seasonal rush without any impact on quality.

So whether it’s on the way to a wedding in the nearby registry office, or up to Lansdowne Road for a match, or just for a causal scoop, we’d happily recommend you drop into Becky Morgan’s at your earliest convenience.