Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: J. McNeill’s Pub

J McNeill's Pub - musical instruments in the windows

As is the case for countless Dublin pubs – indeed, for countless pubs across Ireland – J. McNeill’s Pub purports to be quite a different business, at least partially; in this instance, a music shop. However, as with the many pubs that were once also grocers (insofar as licensing purposes required) or other sorts of local shops, there is very much more than a grain of truth in this case. Indeed, J. McNeill’s did begin life as a musical instrument shop, back in 1834, albeit a few doors further down Capel Street, though the music business moved out of Dublin a good 20 years ago, and J McNeill’s has been ‘just a pub’ ever since.

Three ladies under the stairs in the pub, with your author in the middle. Does this count as a snug? Sure.But it retains a strong musical tradition, from the instruments in the window to the nightly-ish trad sessions in the main bar, and the wealth of photographs of well-known musicians throughout the pub. While the entrance and front bar are rather small, the pubs winds its way back in slightly eccentric fashion, with a series of not-quite-snugs (you may decide for yourself whether our seating area pictured here, with your own fair author deep under the stairs, counts as a snug) to a cozy back room with another fireplace, as well as a heated outdoor area, which on our visit was rather smoky, as outdoor areas tend to be, but given how central this is, it’s rare to have much of an outdoor offering at all.

Beer-wise, there’s only a single local craft tap – Wicklow Wolf on our visit – but it does change hands from time to time. However, given that many trad pubs are Diageo-only shops, it’s nice to have at least one alternative option. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with a Guinness with a trad session, but it is pleasant to have a few more choices. There is some well-kept Beamish from the folks at Heineken as well (one wonders if the Beamish is back after an our long national Islands Edge nightmare ended – excellent news, if so), which is what I opted for on this occasion.

BeamishWe didn’t stay for the session, as it happens, but it did look like it was going to be a good one; plenty of regulars were arriving for it just as we were leaving, which is always a good sign.

All in all, J McNeill’s is a great little spot on Capel Street for those seeking out a more traditional pub experience vs a bar or club setting, but within easy walking distance of a wide variety of options if your afternoon or evening (or even morning, if you started just down the road at Slattery’s at 7 am – no judgement, I mean, we’ve recorded a Beer Ladies Podcast episode on early houses there, as you do) is just getting started…

Pub fireplaceWhere: J. McNeill’s Pub, 140 Capel St, North City, Dublin, D01 F9R2
Access from the city centre: Buses 13, 27, 54A, 77A, 123, 150, 151; 12ish minute walk
Food: Toasties and the usual peanuts and crisps
Sport: GAA, rugby, football, etc
TVs: Scattered here and there around the pub
Music: Trad session most evenings
Family-friendliness: Probably not the best spot for the littles
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Capel Street is lined with pubs and bars, including Slattery’s, The Boar’s Head, The Black Sheep and The Underdog, to pick just a few, with even more like The Beer Temple/The Oak and The Lord Edward just across the river…
Haunted: No obvious lore, but the walls look like they’ve seen things…
Local sites of note: Capel Street, Jervis Centre, National Leprechaun Museum, Henry Street shopping area
Other notes: Two lovely fireplaces
Socials: Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Boh

Bohemian Bar - Phibsboro - John Doyle, Proprietor
Copyright Archiseek

It seems to me that every time I’ve been into The Boh, I’ve been assigned an elderly gentleman as a discussion partner.

Indeed, it was no different on my most recent visit, when I stopped in for a pint to get a break from Storm Isha, which was not-quite-raging, but on its way in that direction. Given the abundance of wonderful pubs in this part of Dublin, I don’t come in as often as I might, but when I do stop by, I’m always struck by how well-restored the interior is, especially the ceiling – very much High Victorian, with its dark wood and etched-glass dividers around the bar. It doesn’t have quite the level of mosaic and mirrors as The Hut, just across the street, but the two pubs are very similar in date, décor, beer and clientele – this is officially an Old Man Pub.

Taps at The BohAnd there’s much to be said for an Old Man Pub; there are plenty of friendly regulars (largely, though not entirely, from that specific demographic), quite often a more affordable pint and a some generally comfortable spots to sit and relax. There may not be any craft beer – the closest The Boh gets is with a few broadly-interchangeable Franciscan Well and Open Gate IPAs – but as the vast majority of their patrons are here for the Guinness and Beamish, it’s hardly surprising. First, though, a bit of context.

Inside The BohMore properly known as McGeough’s – The Bohemian, and situated on one side of Doyle’s Corner (opposite, er, Doyle’s Corner), it was previously under the same ownership; it was rebuilt in 1906-1907 (having originally gone up in the 1880s, most likely – the pub website may say 1807, but I would need a bit more convincing on that) by architect George L. O’Connor for John Doyle during his ownership. But as mentioned in our entry on Doyle’s Corner, this intersection was previously known as Dunphy’s Corner, with the inescapable Ulysses name-check, and its earlier context is well-explained over at Dublin by Pub. And it’s been known as The Bohemian for the better part of 120 years, if not more, so it comes by its association with Bohs (Bohemians FC to the uninitiated – as a season ticket holder for the women’s and men’s teams, and the parent of a youth player, I am very much initiated) honestly. Dalymount Park is mere steps away; it became the Bohs home ground in 1901, and people have been stopping off for pre- or post-game pints ever since – there’s a nice Bohs flag hanging in one corner of the pub, and the beer garden is often hopping after games. In fact, it was in the beer garden I was first assigned an elderly gentleman for a chat, a few years back.

We’d stopped in after a game for a quick pint, and while League of Ireland crowds are nothing like Premiere League ones (having lived near West Ham in the 1990s, I saw more of the bad of those than the good), it was still quite busy, so we were directed to a tall table outside; shortly thereafter, an older solo drinker was added to our table, and we had a long chat about how life had changed in this part of Dublin since the 1960s; although we never exchanged names, it was a fascinating conversation.

And on every occasion I’ve been back since, whether on my own or in company, I’ve had another one of those conversations – sometimes with older men who were born-and-bred in Phibsborough, but with more than a few blow-ins like us – some from other parts of Ireland, some from the UK, but always someone making The Boh live up to its Old Man Pub reputation, in the nicest possible way.

So, if you’re keen to have a chat with a local, The Boh is your spot – there’s probably an amazing oral history project that could be done here.

Where: The Bohemian, 66 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 P592
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Indian restaurant upstairs in the evenings
Sport: Horse racing, GAA, snooker, football, etc
TVs: Quite a few around both sides of the pub
Music: No background music on my visits, but there are regular jazz and trad sessions upstairs
Family-friendliness: While I’ve had a smaller kid in the beer garden, it’s an older crowd, all around
Pub-crawl-ability: High – all the Phibsborough/Phibsboro pubs are within a short walk: Doyle’s Corner and The Hut are across the street, The Bald Eagle and The Back Page further along in opposite directions, with The Botanic and The Gravediggers a further stroll along toward Glasnevin
Haunted: Perhaps the poltergeist from Doyle’s Corner makes visits?
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, Mater Hospital
Other notes: Check the windows for local event posters
Socials: Instagram, Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Porterhouse Temple Bar

Upstairs bar at The PorterhouseThey don’t have German beer on tap any more.

While The Porterhouse has been serving its own beer in Temple Bar since 1996, it used to highlight more overseas craft and traditional beers as well; or, at least, that is how it seems to stick in everyone’s memory – ‘everyone’ here being the group I most recently visited with – we all had pre-Covid memories of finding a range of interesting German, Belgian, British and American craft beers on tap, alongside The Porterhouse’s own well-known porters and stouts.

Bottles from around the worldThe bottles of beer from all over the world – a good portion of them from now-defunct breweries – still line the walls, there are sessions happening in multiple parts of the building, but there does seem to be a sense that things have changed – and perhaps it’s more because the local craft beer scene can now fill more of those taps, even in a huge venue like The Porterhouse. Indeed, the downstairs bar was nearly all local options like Lineman, The White Hag, Kinnegar and Whiplash, which was delightful to see – and the prices were not terrible, despite the Temple Bar location.

When The Porterhouse first opened here, Temple Bar itself was not the combination tourist trap/stag-and-hen destination it has become in the past decade or so, though it is worth noting that while the immediate area is a nightmare for a nice pint at a normal cost (without a bit of effort), there are still interesting places to go for tourists and locals alike – the Project Arts Centre and Smock Alley Theatre are great for performances of all sorts, and the National Photographic Archive has all manner of excellent exhibits. You may well have to avoid or step over certain kinds of revellers, and there are pubs to simply skip because they will charge you something like €‎14 for a Guinness, but having a spot like The Porterhouse that is a known quantity does provide a bit of a refuge from that aspect of the area.

A session breaks outThere is probably some sort of thesis possible in terms of determining whether Temple Bar and its flagship modern businesses, including The Porterhouse, ever had a specific ‘heyday’ in between the overall regeneration of the area to pinpointing when the tourist trap tipping point happened – and I’m far from being best-placed to determine when that happened. And while the recent-ish news that Conor McGregor would be buying the brewing arm of The Porterhouse did not thrill most local beer nerds, it can’t be said that this turn of events is in any way reflected in the pub – yet. There was no sign of his stout, already brewed by the same team, and no obvious change in the overall ‘feel,’ though as the pubs are not part of the deal, we may not expect that to happen any time soon (or it may have already ‘happened’ to the old Porterhouse Central, now ‘Tapped‘ – a makeover about which I Have Opinions).

So, on balance, the absence of German beers nowadays may be a sign of the growth of the local industry – though I wouldn’t mind a nice radler in this hot weather. Mind yourself on the cobblestones.

Where: Porterhouse Temple Bar, 16-18 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 VR94
Access from the city centre: 6-ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pasta, cheese boards, desserts
Sport: It’s on when it’s on
TVs: Scattered around, just keep an eye out
Music: GenX and elder Millennials are aggressively targeted by the playlist before the sessions – this is fine
Family-friendliness: While it can get crowded, its size usually makes it fine during the day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Stag’s Head, The Long Hall, The Lord Edward, The Beer Temple/The Oak…or walk across the river to hit The Black Sheep and Underdog. Oh, and there’s all of Temple Bar, if that is your thing
Local sites of note: Dublin Castle, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia, Olympia Theatre
Haunted: Big old building like this? Surely…
Other notes: Don’t get me started on Tapped

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Piper’s Corner

Piper's Corner signPiper’s Corner is very much a trad bar, and while I end up there not so infrequently, I’ve oddly never been in when a session is on, despite being something of a folk music nerd. And while at some point I will have to remedy that, I enjoy the pub for a variety of other reasons.

First, though, some more background: Piper’s Corner opened in 2017, replacing the former Sean O’Casey’s Bar, which was less of a music experience and more of a dive one. And yet Piper’s Corner seems to have been embraced from the start, possibly because it offered a more ‘authentic’ trad experience, vs the more tourist-forward ‘trad evenings’ on offer in some places. I’m aware I’m on slightly dangerous ground here, as there’s absolutely a place for the shows aimed at tourists (if they are willing to pay for a specific kind of experience that’s keeping musicians working, why not?), and also because folk music is never static – it’s always evolving, so there’s no one ‘right’ way to play or enjoy trad tunes. Now, this doesn’t mean visitors are not welcome – not at all – just that it seems to be a more organic experience (for lack of a better word – and this is largely based on word of mouth, since you know I’m asleep by then most of the time). But even having missed out on the music, I have a special fondness for Piper’s Corner for another reason, too – one beyond its extremely handy proximity to the Abbey Theatre, making it an ideal pre- or post-play spot.

Piper's Corner - other barBack in 2019 – so, think 1-2 ‘normal’ years and a few extra-long ‘Covid years’ here – I went to a fateful meetup at Piper’s Corner. I was briefly in town for some meetings, waiting for everything to come through for our big move from the US, and it happily coincided with a Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland event – I would finally get the chance to meet some of my Twitter Friends (as people were back then) in person, and get some great tips for local beer (of course), neighbourhoods, schools, commutes (still a thing) and so on. Fast-forward four years, and some of the friends I made that night are now some of my firmest – and I’m still a huge fan of Kinnegar Scraggy Bay, which was very much a feature of that evening.

Handy badgesI was back with a few of them the other evening for a Beer Ladies Podcast planning session that turned into more of a session (still not a music one, though), and it was lovely to have some of the same group back in a spot with such warm memories. There were a few little features that made our beer nerdy hearts collectively happy too – the first, of course, being that Piper’s Corner still very much supports smaller Irish breweries, with a whole series of craft beer taps on one side of the bar. Given that a not-insignificant number of pubs that used to have a craft tap or two abandoned them post-lockdowns, it’s a much-appreciated effort, though of course you can get a well-poured Guinness or any of the other usual suspects as well. But the other nice touch is that instead of having to wander over to the other bar to see what’s on, they’ve popped the badges onto the main bar, underneath the other taps – a small but helpful touch that makes ordering that little bit faster.

At some point, I’ll need to actually stay up past my bedtime and catch a trad session or two…

Where: Piper’s Corner, 105-106 Marlborough St, North City, Dublin, D01 FD28
Access from the city centre: 7-ish minute walk across the river, LUAS Green Line
Food: Possibly some crisps, but it’s otherwise a traditional ‘wet pub’ of the sort we heard so much about during lockdowns
Sport: Very much a pre-game spot for GAA, and big games are shown
TVs: Mostly, no, but screens for the abovementioned ‘event’ GAA games
Music: So much trad!
Family-friendliness: I tend to find non-food pubs more adults-only, but I’m sure you could get a Coke on your way to a game at Croke Park
Pub-crawl-ability: High – a short walk to Kimchi Hophouse, The Flowing Tide, The Confession Box, Cassidys, The Palace Bar and many more; there’s a ‘Spoons around the corner as well
Local sites of note: GPO, The Custom House, Busarus, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: Perhaps someone brings a haunted instrument?
Other notes: Also a good whiskey selection; covered upstairs ‘outdoor’ patio for your smoking/vaping friends

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Flowing Tide

Outside The Flowing TideWe’re sticking near the city centre in the series this week, though on the Correct Side of the river, with The Flowing Tide. While likely best known as a theatrical pub – it’s right across from the Abbey Theatre, and has been associated with actors, writers and other ne’er-do-wells since the early 20th century – there’s a lot of other history to this spot, too. It’s been a pub since the 1820s, and, as reported by the Irish Times, was even hit by an artillery shell meant for the nearby GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916. And back in 1907, it was one of the scenes of the Playboy of the Western World Riots, as angry crowds spilled out of the Abbey Theatre; give the Three Castles Burning episode on the topic a listen, it’s fascinating stuff. So, for a theatre nerd like me, this is an ideal spot to stop pre-show, but it’s also pleasant to simply wander in on a Sunday afternoon for a quiet pint. Indeed, the last time I did just that, I ran into an older gentleman from my neighbourhood who does it on a weekly basis – it’s his standing trip away from his/my usual haunts, and we had a lovely chat about it, and about which of our closer-to-home locals we most enjoy for different occasions.

One of the snugs at The Flowing TideAlthough the pub closed last summer, it re-opened, now under the same ownership as The King’s Inn, another Northside pub, after only a few months of well-considered renovation – it was, to be fair, looking a little rough beforehand. Now, as in the nearby Palace Bar, the stained glass is very much a focus, the theatrical posters are thoughtfully distributed around the walls – and the snugs are especially inviting.

As mentioned, I do love a good theatrical pub; The Harp in Covent Garden fills a somewhat similar niche, albeit on a larger scale, catering to theatre-goers, performers, tourists and locals alike (but with good cask options as well – you knew I’d have to bring that up). And while there’s no cask in The Flowing Tide, there is a broader-than-you-might-expect tap list, with Irish craft stalwarts Scraggy Bay and Ambush, as well as Beamish for the Corkonian stout enthusiast. You’re more likely to run into That Person who insists that Beamish is better than Guinness, versus the Guinness Enthusiast, but both are well catered for, as are whiskey fans.

Inside The Flowing TideAnd as for the pub’s name, I’m partial to both the Shirley Collins and Eliza Carthy versions of Just As The Tide Was Flowing (Roud 1105), although the probably-correct local lore says it’s simply down to its proximity to the Liffey rather than being named after the song. And while the music here isn’t always trad, but it does tend to (understandably) be more Irish than English folk, but every time I walk by (or stop in), the song gets stuck in my head. Normal folk music nerd problems…

Where: The Flowing Tide, 9 Lower Middle Abbey St, North City, Dublin
Access from the city centre: You are just north of it; the Luas Red Line is directly outside (Abbey Street stop)
Food: Toasties
Sport: While it’s a theatrical pub, it does draw pre- and post-GAA crowds on match days and there are screens
TVs: More downstairs, though there’s a big screen on big GAA/rugby days
Music: Lots of different acts downstairs, quiet enough to talk upstairs
Family-friendliness: Everyone seems welcome, but there isn’t a huge amount for non-theatrical kids to do
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar if you are a masochist, but other, better options within a short walk include The Palace Bar, Piper’s Corner, Bowes, Mulligan’s and The Confession Box; also near The Silver Penny if you need a ‘Spoons
Local sites of note: Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, The Spire, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, GPO, Ha’Penny Bridge, Trinity College
Haunted: Surely, there’s an imprint of the Playboy Riots? Synge would be a fun ghost, but there’s so much scope for other theatrical ghosts (the best kind, obvs)
Other notes: The Neptune Lounge in the basement is also re-opened and has many screens for sports events and there is live music

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Palace Bar

The exterior of The Palace BarI know it’s been a minute, but between offspring, work, Eurovision and work travel, I had a lot on, so going out anywhere in Dublin wasn’t happening over the past few weeks, though going out in London for delicious cask mild and bitter was a nice bonus of the work travel.

On a side note that, back when I worked for dot-coms in the 1990s would have been a pop-up (this is before pop-up blockers were invented, children), I did very much enjoy a quick pint of ‘modern’ beer at The Kernel, but it’s always cask I seek out when on the Neighbouring Island, though I am happy to continue to report on the small-but-something cask resurgence happening here at places like The Black Sheep and the soon-to-be-reborn-again Underdog. Up North, homebrew stalwarts Get ‘Er Brewed have had a lovely series on cask by Matthew Curtis, and it was a nice coincidence to read the third part this week, especially the note on the cask line at Bullhouse East in Belfast, since I’m headed in that direction this weekend to celebrate a certain beer historian’s birthday. I was fortunate to live in places in the US with easily available cask – indeed, regular cask festivals – in both Philadelphia and Seattle, so I do hope that an increased focus on how great cask can be will encourage more of it on the island of Ireland – and this, dear reader, is where you would have closed your pop-up window, likely with an actual button, possibly animated, at the bottom of your window.

The stained glass inside The Palace BarAnd so back to regular service, and this week’s Dublin pub – which does contain unused (or possibly entirely prop) hand pulls, as it happens – but we’ll give it a pass. We’re heading back into more touristy realms and crossing the river to the south side, but only just; The Palace Bar sits in between visitor hotspots like Temple Bar and Trinity College (plus, uh, the National Wax Museum), but I’ve always found it a pleasant place to stop in, even with a crowd, as you can still get beers from Rye River or The White Hag in addition to your Guinness, plus a top-notch whiskey selection. And it has a proper history to it – the Victorian interior is genuine, not the sort of ersatz mix you find in IrIsH pUbS elsewhere (and, regrettably, even in Dublin, sometimes – anyone who spends much time in my neighbourhood knows exactly which recently-renovated pub I’m likely being wildly unfair about; honestly, all would be forgiven if they would just put in one local craft line – sorry, yet another digression). But from its beautiful exterior which regularly features on the sort of ‘pubs of Dublin’ posters tourists buy at Carrolls to the dark-wood interior, it would be well worth a look-in, even without the welcome variety of beers, though I’m partial to the (often less crowded) back room with its glorious stained glass. Indeed, Publin has an entire feature on stained glass in Dublin pubs that is also well worth your time.

And there are the literary associations as well – of course, Brendan Behan, since few pubs, like the previously-featured Cat & Cage and Doyles Corner,  do not claim him as a former regular, but also the likes of Patrick Kavanagh (currently the subject of much anger in our household, at least for a few more weeks, since the Leaving Cert requires much memorization of his works), Flann O'Brien (whose typewriter is here), Con Houlihan. Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, per The Inquirer. As it’s been here since 1823, per the bar, or 1828 after conversion from a corset factory, according to Whisky Magazine, it’s quite an old pub by Dublin standards; we simply don’t have much in the way of really old pubs in the city, regardless of what some might say, but this certainly works.

Inside The Palace BarGiven its location and atmosphere, it gets more than its share of tourists; I don’t think I’ve ever been in and not heard a North American accent declare that yes, it’s true, the Guinness really is just better here – it’s a modern-day ritual. And it’s not one I mind, either, though I suspect the ‘better’ has much more to do with ambience and the fact that Diageo makes sure the tap lines in the city are clean, but that’s fine. It’s the same reason I’m always seeking out cask when I head to England, or traditional lagers in Germany…we all have our fair share of broadly similar craft beers – and I absolutely adore our local Irish ones, and they are my usual go-tos – but if I’m travelling, I want the local speciality.

I have great respect for a pub like The Palace Bar that lets you experience both options – your ‘classic’ Irish pub with a pint of Guinness, plus the opportunity to support your smaller, local independent breweries. And for the whiskey nerd or novice, there’s plenty to try, and lots of expert guidance, too – don’t be too shy to ask.

Where: The Palace Bar, 21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 H950
Access from the city centre: You are in it
Food: Crisps?
Sport: GAA: hurling is especially big here
TVs: I’ve only ever seen the GAA on, though it’s possible there’s other sport
Music: Keep an eye out for evening trad sessions
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen kids in with crisps, but they are probably bored
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar if that is your thing, but other, better options within a short walk include Bowes, The Flowing Tide, Mulligan’s, The Stag’s Head,
Local sites of note: Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Ha’Penny Bridge, GPO, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: Perhaps haunted by its former Irish Times regulars?
Other notes: In the same family since the 1940s; now (edited 20/08/2023) also stocking Ballykilcavan bottles – huzzah!

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: JR Mahon’s

Inside the newly-renovated JR Mahon'sI tend to do most of my pub-going on the north side of the Liffey because it’s, well, just better over here, and it means I usually avoid most of the more touristy areas of Dublin. However, the city centre is so called for a reason, and it cannot be denied that the south side of the river is an incredibly convenient spot, especially for out-of-town guests, or when one is trying to get people from other parts of the city to find a location that suits most, transit-wise.

Spooky cask pintAnd so, even though it’s not one of my more usual haunts, I’ve certainly spent a fair bit of time in the former JW Sweetmans, now reborn as JR Mahon’s (it should be noted that local punctuation is consistently inconsistent when it comes to pub names – I try my best to roll with it). We apparently all dodged the proverbial bullet when the pub changed hands late last year, with the Mahon family, who own a number of what I think of as rugby-with-light-Irish-branding bars in NYC, outbidding Professional Main Character Conor McGregor for the spot.

By local standards, the renovation was quite swift, especially considering the winter holidays, and it reopened a few weeks ago with the new name, plus three house beers and – most importantly for me – the return of the beer engines that had been dormant post-lockdown. With the return of cask last weekend – and with a pre-planned event there anyway – it was a perfect opportunity to check out the changes. The pub occupies the same enormous spot on the Liffey, with multiple floors and masses of dark wood, but it has been beautifully renovated and considerably brightened up – the stained glass on the ground floor gives some much-needed colour, and while the warmth of the wood remains, things certainly seem lighter and much more airy than in the previous incarnation. There are still many – possibly more – little snugs, nooks and crannies, but the flow is much better overall, with all four floors of space having a bit of their own character.

Another snugThe beer is once again brewed by Barrelhead/Hopburgh/Hopkins & Hopkins, who also make a lovely (usually) bottled helles and schwarzbier, with the current offerings being a stout, pale ale and a red ale. It was the stout on cask for our visit, and this dry-hopped version was very much to my tastes – if you want to hear me drone on at length about my love for hoppy dark beers, we will shortly have a Beer Ladies Podcast episode for you, but I digress. Fresh cask beer doesn’t come cheap here, though – this was a €7.30 pint, with the kegged beers only slightly cheaper at €7 for the same size. Now, it’s not *much* cheaper at The Black Sheep, where cask options have also recently returned (huzzah!) for €6.75, but at least it is the same price for cask or keg there. It remains to be seen what cask prices will be when they return to The Underdog in (hopefully) a very short time when they make their move to Capel Street, but I suspect it won’t be hovering quite as close to €8. I quite enjoyed the pale ale, too, I have to say, possibly because it was simply a solid, old-school pale ale – no hazebois here!

Lights at JR Mahon'sIn the before-times, I had a series of disappointing-to-actively-bad food experiences under the old name, and as I’ve only had the chips so far, so I don’t feel fully qualified to speak to the food options at JR Mahon’s, at least, not yet. Back to the beer side, though, I do hope that Ambush appears on the tap lineup soon, to give another local option; it was listed on the printed menu, but not visible anywhere on this visit. Early days, though.

In short, this will never be your cheapest pint in Dublin, but the cask is good and the surroundings are lovely – and hey, it still beats Temple Bar!

Where: JR Mahon’s, 1-2 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, D02
Access from the city centre: You’re essentially there; 5 min walk from many sites
Food: General pub grub
Sport: Horse racing, Premiere League, rugby, GAA, etc.
TVs: In the various bars, though not always visible from every snug
Music: Live music Thurs-Sun evenings; general background tunes otherwise
Family-friendliness: Children welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Temple Bar is a quick walk if you wish to continue parting with your money (though the Porterhouse there may help some), or O’Neill’s, Bowes, The Palace Bar, The Oval, Mulligans, The Flowing Tide & Piper’s Corner are all within a short stroll
Local sites of note: National Wax Museum, Trinity College, Abbey Theatre, Irish Whiskey Museum, O’Connell Street
Haunted: I should hope so, but have heard nothing
Other notes: There’s a ‘Spoons across the river if you have nearly bankrupted yourself, but need to carry on a pub crawl

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Hut

Outside The HutIn contrast to last week’s visit to The Big Romance, this time, for the week that’s in it, as they say here, it seemed appropriate to share a pub that doesn’t serve any real craft beer, and isn’t much on the tourist trail, but does tick all the boxes for what people from elsewhere – as well as the local neighbourhood – (should) think of when they conjure up ‘Dublin pub’ in their heads, Guinness included, of course.

And so to The Hut: while The Long Hall rightly lands on many a must-visit list, with its beautiful Victorian interior, The Hut gives it more than a run for its money, with its tiled floor, dark wood bar, converted gaslights and mirrors galore, and that perfectly-poured pint of Guinness won’t set you back quite as much here in Phibsborough (€‎5.80 at last check) as it will in the city centre, even though it’s only a relatively short distance out. The fact that it’s a spot I need to walk by several times a day makes it all the more convenient for me personally, and on a chilly, wet day, sometimes that’s just what you need. I stopped in this week to catch a bit of the action from Cheltenham (for those not in the know, I had a horse racing blog for a decade – yes, I should probably fix it up a bit, even if I don’t write anything nowadays) over a quiet pint, and it’s the ideal spot for it – this is when Old Man Pubs come into their own, especially if you’re keeping an ear out for tips.

Inside The HutBut The Hut has its surprises as well – the small upstairs bar hosts music events, and sometimes, there are quite big names there on the down-low; it’s tough to beat seeing your favourite father-daughter folk duo a short walk from your home on a school night, even (especially?) if it wasn’t an official gig. It’s a wonderful space for a small, intimate show, and it’s well worth keeping an eye out for other folk- and trad-themed evenings.

Shh, don't tell!Interior notwithstanding, there’s nothing fancy nor downtrodden about The Hut – this is neither gastropub nor dive bar, just an authentic, old-school pub. Indeed, if it were magically transported to North America or continental Europe and deposited in a city centre (or worse, in a strip mall) as an ‘IRISH PUB,’ it would probably be dinged for not having any rural signage (something that would be wildly out of place here, of course) or random old photos around the place. But that’s what gives it its character; it’s a true urban pub, and it just gets on with it as it has done since the 19th century.

And as for the name – well, it seems it’s a bit of an open question

Where: The Hut, 159 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 HA21
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Irish beef stew, as per the sign outside, plus some old-school pub classics
Sport: All of them. Horse racing, football, GAA, rugby…
TVs: In both sides of the downstairs bar(s)
Music: Live sessions upstairs
Family-friendliness: Not much for the kids to do
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Doyle’s Corner is right next door, The Boh across the street, The Bald Eagle and The Back Page just a few short blocks away in opposite directions, with a few more in the immediate area
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, Mater Hospital
Haunted: Well, if Doyle’s Corner is, perhaps their ghost wanders through the shared wall
Other notes: You’re probably not really coming here for a meal, but perfect for a relaxed pint