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Once a staple of this here blog, our “monthly” pub crawls have become somewhat sporadic of late. We only managed to fit in five last year, the last taking place all the way back in June, making it 114 pubs that we’ve visited on the crawls alone. Add in another 30 pubs or so that we’ve done on “Random Drop Inns,” I make it that (including the five pubs here) we’ve visited and reviewed 149 pubs in the city.

The back story… for anyone that doesn’t know the story by this stage, once a month or so the three writers behind this blog, joined by a small group of friends, visit five Dublin pubs and then write about our experiences. A different person each month picks the five pubs and makes sure not to give away any details beforehand. This month was my turn, and for the first pub crawl of 2013, I decided to drag people out to Ringsend, from where we could make our way back into town, stopping in a couple of spots along the way.  I’ve always loved Ringsend; standing on Bridge Street, you’re a fifteen minute walk to Grafton Street and less than that to Sandymount Strand. Perfect.

The Oarsman, from their official Facebook.

The Oarsman, from their official Facebook

Meeting the other two and KBranno in town at five, a Leo Burdocks and a taxi in the lashing rain later, we headed over the canal and into The Oarsman. A very busy spot this and my first impression was that… Christ, this place is a relic; but in a good way! The pub doesn’t appear to have changed too much inside or out for donkey’s years. There has been a business on this spot since 1882, and a pub here since the sixties. The original grocers shop became the snug area inside the door (where we were lucky to nab seats, kudos to Paul R for that,) and the pub was extended out the back. A long narrow layout means ordering a pint from the beautiful old wooden bar is awkward enough. The stairs down to the jacks is halfway along it on the right, meaning if the seats at the bar are taken and you’re ordering, chances are you’re blocking someone’s way. Nonetheless, we weren’t left waiting and ended up staying for a couple of pints apiece, at €4.45 a pop. The most expensive pint of the crawl but still, relatively cheap compared to pints closer towards town.  A lovely pub this and a place I’ll be back to, if just to try out the food they’ve recently started to serve.

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I reckon I should open this piece with a bit of an apology.

Up until this point, whether on pub crawls or Random Drop Inns,  we’ve stuck with pints of plain. We have, article by article, gone some way towards drinking a pint of it in every pub in the city. But we just could not touch a drop of the stuff the day of the crawl, which turned out to be the hottest day of the year in Dublin City Centre; what else could make that day any better only an ice cold pint of cider and a nice perch outside.

This turned out to be the deciding factor in us hitting eight rather than the regular five pubs- not that any of us minded of course, it turned out to be a great day, with a couple of minor irks rather than anything majorly wrong with any of the places we visited. It does leave us with the problem though; How can you judge how good or bad a pint of cider is? Is it cold? Check. Wet? Check. Taste like apples? Check. Every pint is a winner.

The Bull and Castle. By Nathan A, from Flickr

So… Waiting for an exam-laden DFallon to turn up at Christchurch, we ventured into The Bull & Castle on Lord Edward Street. I’ve often passed this place by in favour of its lesser frequented neighbour, The Lord Edward as I’d assumed this Gastro-Pub effort would scorn on people like ourselves looking only for a cold drink and solace from the sun. Thankfully not as the barman dispensed with ciders and beers without a qualm. I’ll be honest and say I was a bit dazzled at first- the pub is quite dark inside, and with a cloudless sky outside, it made it difficult to work out what was what behind the bar. They have a wide range of beers, only to be matched by the Porterhouse I reckon, but none of us was brave enough to venture a try. Nice pub inside, a bit of an olde-worldy feel to it. Very clean also, a must obviously with the place doing a fine trade in grub. But the best thing about the place was the bench outside. I’ve remarked a couple of times this week, and I don’t think I’m off the mark. Dublin in the sun has to be one of the best places on the planet. So perched on a bench, not far away from where the vikings made their mark on this city, with a pint of (relatively expensive at €4.80) cider in hand and the world passing by, I’d have happily stayed there for the evening.

The Legal Eagle. By Infomatique, from Flickr.

But with the arrival of DFallon, we reluctantly gave up our spot and headed across the Liffey to The Legal Eagle, on Chancery Place. Now this pub was a pleasure for a reason- Half Price Sundays! From when doors open at 12:30 on Sunday morning to when they close at an unusual 10pm, everything in the pub sells at half price. This meant an unbeatable €2.20 for a pint, and should we have wanted it, a carvery dinner for €5.50. DFallon tried the Guinness here and said it wasn’t to be faulted but would be following suit in joining us on beer or cider at the next stop such was the heat. The bar was busy enough, I reckon the cheap booze the draw for many. For while it was a nice place, it didn’t set the heart racing and you couldn’t imagine getting comfortable on the hard benches and seats, provided for a quick turnover of diners rather than a slow swell of drinkers- problematic of a lot of pubs selling lunches.

O'Sheas Merchant. By Gianluca 61, from Flickr.

So with that, we upped and out the door, we had miles to go before we slept tonight. Back across the Liffey and into O’Sheas Merchant, on Lower Bridge Street. Cracking pub this. DFallon had been here on a session before, said the doors were closed pretty early and getting out them was prohibited unless you sang a song. Now thats the kind of place I like. It’s a bit of a schizophrenic pub, falling somewhere in between an “old man” spot and a tourist joint. Pint bottles here rather than pints, and a reeling out of the “and its still a pint” line. Images of one of dFallons heroes, Seamus Ennis, adorned the wall, and a member of an Garda Siochana propped up the bar. Off duty of course. A nice pub indeed, one to think about if we’re down this neck of the woods again. We didn’t stick around long here, for while it was nice, the formica tables and blaring telly with the Simpsons on didn’t exactly add to the charisma of the place. Maybe they turn the telly off for the sing- song at seven o’clock or something…

Pifko, from their official site.

So with a few nudges and giggles we made our way to the next spot, Pifko on Ushers’ Quay. This is an odd one. We’ve never been in a pub in Dublin where we were the only Irish people in the place but this was the case with PiFko. Primarily a Czech bar, the place was full of Slovakians watching the Ice Hockey World Cup. We weren’t mad on their “all tables must be reserved” rule; even though there were a number of empty tables, we were forced to stand under the telly. I actually liked the place apart from that, it was a bit of a laugh cheering when Slovakia scored, the whole place went mad. Nice cold pints of Paulaner, cheap at €4. Lovely. Funny looks from everyone else in the pub when we started singing Olé Olé Olé, not so. Was mad to try out the “Beaked Pork Lion” on the menu though. Being made stand while tables sat empty did nothing to entice us to stay so we made our way up to The Liberties and into a pub I’ve passed a million times, The Clock, Thomas Street.

The Clock. By dmckenna, from Flickr.

Not imposing looking from the outside, the place is pretty huge when you walk in, nicely decorated and well laid out. The punters were glued to the box, with “Reeling in the Years” on. As we reached the bar, Packie Bonners save against Romania in Italia 90 (Brilliantly portrayed in this clip from the Van) was on. myself and DFallon were only too delighted, I’ll never get sick of seeing it; The nerves, the save, and those stupid jumps he does afterwards. Pity about his Fianna Fáil connections, he used to be a hero to me! Anyways, we headed out the back to the most unusual smoking area I’ve ever been in. Well it wasn’t the smoking area itself, rather than what inhabited the smoking area- a huge cage containing around fifty twittering and cheeping birds of all shapes and sizes- canaries, budgies, cockateels, even a guinea fowl legging it around in the bottom. Mad stuff. Nice boozer, €4.60 a pint, not to be faulted.

1850's (?) Thomas Street. From Archiseek.

Nows around where it starts to get hazy. Lucky we didn’t have far to go,  only to Bakers of Thomas Street, just across the road. The three pubs we hit around the Liberties all came across as being very much locals spots. It doesn’t help that when we come to these places, more often than not, its only for one or two pints and because of that, its hard to get a proper feel, and a proper welcome from the locals. I liked this place, though Britains Got Talent made it feel less authentic than it might. Again, €4.60 a pint (cold, wet- check) what more could you ask for. A nice pub inside, with low seating, and aging memorabilia adorning the walls. Whilst most of it had seen better times, it kept us interested and deep in discussion.  Onwards drunken soldiers.

Tom Kennedys. Again from the excellent Archiseek.

Tom Kennedys of Thomas Street, right across the road from the Thomas House. What can you say about this place only it was truly terrifying. The walk to the jacks was a scary one, not because the punters were in any way threatening but because Sunday night in Kennedys is Karaoke night. And the MC took a liking to one of our crew, and kept demanding that she come up and sing! Not tonight mate… Again, a locals joint in every sense of the word, the woman behind the bar had the pints on before the locals got to the bar, that sort of place.  The place you might get looks of beleagured astonishment for sitting in “Shielas seat.” Lucky enough, we were well mannered, drank our fill and headed off. I think the pints were €4.50 here, I really need to write them down as I’m doing them. This was JFloods pubcrawl though, so I wasn’t expecting to be doing the write up!

My home away from home... Brogans Bar. By Ester Moliné, from Flickr.

The night could have ended here, but no- We had one more stop to make; Brogans on Dame Street. I really don’t want to write too much about this place because for personal reasons, its my favourite pub in Dublin. Its as close to a local as I’ll get, and is oft frequented by a large crew of my mates. Theres no particular reason its my favourite pub in Dublin, apart from some stories I could tell that you wouldn’t believe. One of the only pubs I can walk into on my own, sit at the bar on my own, order a pint and not feel like a loner/ escaped mental patient/ alcoholic/ all three combined on my own. It really is a scrap between here and Mulligans for the best pint in Dublin, and when I’m drinking it, the Guinness rings in at €4.30. I can’t describe it, just go for a drink here on a sunny afternoon and you’ll see its allure. I’ll stop now!

Right. The hardest write up I’ve ever done, what with a million things coming up between the event itself and me getting a chance to write it up. But it was a great day, amongst the best of the pub crawls we’ve done. Major kudos goes to JFlood for the choices, and to Hammy and Bookie for coming along. Next pints are on me, Sunday fortnight. Give us a shout!

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