The seven signs you’re in a good Irish pub, according to Signs from Ireland


What makes a great Irish pub?

A great Irish pub, Doheny & Nesbitt, Dublin

Irish staff

Admit it – you’re just a little bit disappointed if you are served in an Irish bar abroad by a person who is not Irish. Admittedly, there are many nationalities that are well capable of partaking in what we would call ‘the craic’ but a real, live Irish employee or owner is a sign of a good Irish pub. Why? Irish customers know their barman (or woman) will share their sense of humour, understand the sacrosanct nature of Guinness and possess an ability to discourse on matters of great Irish concern; sport, who’s dead and the weather!

Good Guinness served!

It is not always a given that the Guinness will be good, but it is very important to Irish people or people who have spent any length of time in Ireland, that the Guinness tastes right and the pint is well poured. You know what they say – something that takes that long to pour has got to be worth waiting for!

Good selection of Irish whiskeys

There is a revolution going on in whiskey-distilling in Ireland. There were three major distilleries in Ireland up until two years ago but a host of microbreweries has sprouted in recent times including Teelings in Dublin, Connacht Whiskey in Ballina, Co Mayo and Dingle Distillery, Co Kerry (which also makes gin and vodka). Among the classics Bushmills, Paddy and Jameson, you should see names like Redbreast, Writers Tears and Glendalough in a good Irish pub. If you don’t, ask why not.

Genuine Irish memorabilia and bric-a-brac

It’s a great thing for Irish pub décor that Guinness has been such a prolific and clever advertiser over the years. From the classic ‘Guinness is good for you’ series by John Gilroy starring the sea-lion and other animals, to the famous surfer and white horses ad from the late 1990s, there is plenty of source material from which publicans can draw. Old photos of Irish scenes, postcards, letters, passage tickets, tins, bottles and boxes, articles remembering great Irish people and events, especially Irish sport are also signs of care taken to make the décor as much like a pub at home as possible.

Irish music – background and live

With such a rich musical tradition to draw from, publicans have no excuse for not playing Irish music of some description in the place. Whether it’s traditional, a ballad group like The Dubliners, a folky soundtrack from Christy Moore et al or something from the embarrassment of more recent Irish singers and bands making a name for themselves in Ireland and abroad, or indeed a mixture of everything, there’s enough music for there never to be a silent moment from one end of the week to the next. A really good Irish pub will have live traditional music and maybe a band or singer playing a repertoire of popular Irish songs. We do love a good singalong.

Irish food served (including Tayto crisps!)

We’ve noticed that food can be an important part of the offering of an Irish pub abroad. And that’s a good thing. It’s comforting for ex-pats to be able to find staples of Irish cuisine like curry and lasagne when they are away from home! I am only half joking! Besides fresh salmon, bacon and cabbage and the delicious Irish stew (must be made with lamb, not beef!), we do like to see food that reminds us of home on the Irish pub menu, like burgers and the aforementioned classics – not originating in Ireland but commonly eaten there. Bonus points if they do hearty soup with good home-made brown bread, and triple bonus points for a toasted sandwich.

A Signs from Ireland signpost picture on the wall – the sign of an authentic Irish pub!

Pub owners often like to show where they are from. In big cities with large Irish populations such as Boston, New York or Syndey, Irish pubs can be associated with a particular county – a ‘Cavan pub’ for example, or a ‘Cork pub’ – because that’s where the owner’s roots were and people from those parts of Ireland tend to flock there.

The Signs from Ireland sign is a great way for the owner to show where he or she is from – indeed they can show all the important places in their lives in one, attractive picture.

So that’s our checklist for sizing up your local Irish pub. How did yours do? What’s your favourite Irish pub?