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A Celebration and a Resource
for the Irish Pub Community

Vallhalla on the Liffey

By David McBride

The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland

Like many of my fellow Irish-Americans, as well as pub lovers of all nationalities, I have always dreamed of traveling to Ireland.  In my mind, it has always been the mythical home of my heritage, the birthplace of my favorite music and literature, and what I have been told is a collection of some of the greatest taverns found anywhere in the world.  This past March, I finally fulfilled this lifelong dream and crossed the pond to the Emerald Isle.

We were on a guided coach tour of the country, and due to the time restrictions associated with these types of things, I knew we wouldn’t have much time in Dublin.  Being that our arrival was scheduled for mid-afternoon on a Sunday, I concluded that seeing much of the city’s historic sites or museums would be too difficult since many would be closed early in the day.  Therefore, I decided to make the most of the evening hours and came up with a plan to see as many of Dublin’s most famous and historic pubs as I possibly could.

Our tour guide for the trip was a terrific man named Donal from Killarney in County Kerry.  He is a proud Kerryman through and through, but, being great at what he does, he certainly knows his way around Dublin and its many watering holes.  I told him of my hope to see as many pubs as I could possibly squeeze into one night.  We discussed my list and he made some expert suggestions.  Then he wished us good luck on our quest and off we went.

The River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Dublin on the River Liffey Photograph by Ashley Banks

The Brazen Head pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The Brazen Head Photograph by Podge

First on my list was The Brazen Head, just across the River Liffey from the beautiful Four Courts building in the ancient Viking area of Dublin.  I knew from my limited research that this was perhaps Ireland’s oldest pub, if not the oldest in all of Europe, laying claim to being an operating tavern since 1198.  As soon as you get a glimpse of The Brazen Head itself, it certainly is difficult to dispute such a claim.  The building is unlike anything else in Dublin and almost appears to be a miniature stronghold defending Ireland’s pub goers from invading forces.  Like so many of Ireland’s medieval castles, there is a wonderful courtyard that acts as a gathering place, while doors and passages lead to unique areas of the pub’s interior.
To be honest, The Brazen Head was everything I could have asked for and more, and everything any pub in the United States calling itself an “Irish” pub could ever hope to be.  Sure, history flows out of here like the Guinness flowing into pint glasses, but it is much more than just history that grabs your attention.  The “craic”, as they call it in Ireland, seeps through the wood and stone in this place and raises your spirits to the heavens.  Each pint is expertly poured and each traveler is made to feel welcome and wanted. 

Interior of The Brazen head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The "craic" seeps through the interior walls

Courtyard at The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The Courtyard

The courtyard at The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The Courtyard
 Photograph by Ashley Banks

The courtyard at The Brazen Head in Dublin, Ireland from above as seen in PartingGlassMedia .com by Podge as seen
From above
Photograph by Podge

Crowd outside at The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland by Podge as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Outside Crowd
Photograph by Podge

In Ireland, the Public House is always the center of the community, especially within the tiny rural villages that so beautifully define the Irish landscape.  In Dublin, perhaps the only thing that’s different is that the community is a bit larger and can regularly encompass folks from all over the world, but the warmth and welcome stays the same.  While experiencing The Brazen Head we laughed at the antics of Noel and Podge, who rule over this Camelot from behind the bar.  We met the self-proclaimed future Mayor of Dublin in his black leather jacket and armed with a healthy arsenal of political discontent.  (He asked that his identity remain a secret, as he has not yet announced his candidacy.)  We also spoke to tourists from across the globe, musicians, Americans studying at Trinity College and many a Dubliner, all of who came to the Brazen Head to raise a pint, sing a song, and laugh the night away.

As a proud Irishman, and one whose pride grew with each day I spent on the island, it was certainly not lost on me that many of this nation’s greatest heroes once also fell in love with the Brazen Head.  James Joyce mentions it in Ulysses and Revolutionary heroes such as Michael Collins, Daniel O’Connell and Wolfe Tone all drank here.  The writing desk of the legendary Robert Emmet remains and it is said that he occupied a room in the inn where he could watch who was approaching.  It’s easy to imagine the discussion that might have taken place and the strategies that may have originated from the quiet corners of these hallowed walls.

Noel at The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Noel  serves up A perfectly poured Guinness

At the risk of sounding like I am pontificating, I truly can not express in words and pictures how great a pub the Brazen Head is.  We have always heard of how Ireland is the home to the world’s greatest taverns, and the inspiration for so many in this country and around the globe, but I have never been to any tavern anywhere that compares to TheBrazen Head It truly is the greatest pub I have ever set foot in.  It is no wonder that so many of Ireland’s most inspirational and important people from centuries past have lavished it with praises.  It deserves them all.

Before we knew it, the night was gone.  My plan to see Dublin’s great pubs, researched, discussed and agonized over for months, had disappeared like all those pints poured at the Brazen Head that night.   But there was not a regret to be found among any of us.  There simply was no good reason anyone could conceive of to leave such a place.

The next morning, as we prepared to say goodbye to Ireland, I bumped into Donal at breakfast.  He asked me how our tour of the pubs of Dublin went.

“To be honest, we didn’t get too far”, I explained. “I found a bar stool at The Brazen Head and never left.  We had such a great time there we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.”

“Well”, he said grinning, “there’s not a thing wrong with that.  You never leave church before the mass is over, now do you?”

Donal was correct, except this wasn’t church we were talking about.  This was heaven!

Podge, Ashley Banks and Noel at The Brazen Head in Dublin, Ireland as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Podge, Ashley Banks and Noel

Banner at The Brazen Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland as seen in American Public House Review
Brazen Head

The Brazen Head Pub

20 Bridge Street Lower

Dublin 8

+353 (0) 1 677 9549



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