Two years ago I wrote my first blog post that announced, in my opinion, where one could find the best pint of Guinness in Limerick, Ireland. At the time, and over the last 2 years, this post, not surprisingly, caused a bit of controversy in the Limerick community. Since that first post, we’ve been to Limerick a few more times. We tried more pints and tested out more pubs. I thought it about time I update my original post. Now, for 2017, here is where to find the best Guinness in Limerick.
2015 Results For The Best Guinness in Limerick
Before sharing some of the new pubs we’ve discovered over the last 2 years, here’s a look back at our findings from 2015. As I noted back then, I love my Guinness. I’ve been told what makes a good Guinness. It has to do with the length of the draw, or the length of the tube that moves the Guinness from the keg to the tap. It also has to do with how clean the draw is. Occasionally, I do taste a Guinness that is a little strange (particularly outside of Ireland). But, I’m no expert. Although with the number of pints I’ve drank over the last 15+ years you would think I would be an expert.
What makes the best Guinness in Limerick, then, if I am a self proclaimed non-expert? The atmosphere of the pub, the story of the pub, and the people we are with. Because, as much as pouring a good pint of Guinness is important, many people head to the pub for the craic, or the conversation.
Here was our original list of the best Guinness in Limerick:
Flannery’s Bar on Wickham is exactly what you imagine a Limerick pub to be. Proudly displaying a sign stating that it was established in 1898, it’s forest green store front is accented with a bright red door, and hanging flower pots. It’s a small pub, with red upholstered benches along the walls, and a traditional, mosaic styled fireplace to one side.
Do you know how many bars are called Flannery’s in Limerick? Neither do I, but let’s just say it’s a lot. They are all related too. Jerry Flannery’s on Catherine Street towers over everything else on the block with a giant rugby ball coming out of the front. On it’s face it is the complete opposite of Patsy Flannery’s, the other Flannery’s, on Wickham.
The sign out front is made out of Scrabble letters, and there’s a giant pig suspended over the alley way. Mickey Martin’s is just off the pedestrian shopping lane, down a narrow alley, in the middle of the city center. We find ourselves in Mickey’s mostly for the lunch specials, but also because we have fond memories of Mickey ourselves. He also runs Scott’s Bar down in Kilkee, where we spent much of our two week beach holiday in 2012.
Tom Collins on Cecil is one of the first pubs we ever went to in Ireland, over fifteen years ago, with Eric’s Uncle Jack. It was just when Guinness came out with its marketing campaign for Guinness Extra Cold. Before that, Guinness was always served at or just above room temperature.
The White House Bar
Just when I thought Patsy Flannery’s was the oldest pub in town, we were told about the White House Bar. The White House was established in 1812, the year the American White House was burned down…some irony indeed. It was also one of the friendliest places in Limerick. During our first visit, the bartender and several locals came up to speak with us. In the last two years there was local Limerick news that The White House Bar was closing. And, it did. But, then, someone else purchased it and gave it a good modernization. It’s a lot more shiny than before, but they still pour a good pint.
Another bar with fond memories, it’s the closest pub to Aunt Theresa and Uncle Jack. It means it’s an easy walk for a pint. The Ardhu became an unofficial office for us during one of our winter trips to Limerick. We would hang at the Ardhu in the afternoon, with a couple of pints and our laptops.
The Curragower lies along the River Shannon, opposite the city center and King John’s Castle. It’s a lovely pub, with an outdoor patio offering amazing views. It definitely would win for the best Guinness in Limerick with a view, but really, it’s all about the seafood chowder. The Curragower, hands down, has the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had, ever. Period. We continued to try chowders elsewhere, but the Curragower’s is so creamy, with large chunks of fish, shrimp, and mussels. It’s served with fresh Irish brown bread and soft creamy Irish butter. My ideal afternoon is a cup of chowder and a pint of Guinness in Limerick, at the Curragower.
For people who know Limerick, there is no way any of them would include Nancy Blake’s on a list of the best Guinness in Limerick. Nancy’s is a late night bar. When most bars in Limerick close around midnight, Nancy’s offers the late night alternative. In fact, I’ve never had a pint of Guinness at Nancy’s. Usually by the time we get there, I’ve switched to beer or something else. I include Nancy Blake’s on this list for one important reason – if you want a pint of Guinness in Limerick after midnight, chances are, you will find yourself at Nancy’s for a last chance pint.
Our 2017 Additions for the Best Guinness in Limerick
In our last few trips to Limerick, we’ve done a lot of research to bring you some additional options for the best Guinness in Limerick. Here are the results.
Dara runs Fennessy’s, over on the far side of town where our family lives in Limerick, so we had never visited before. But, after our first Guinness list came out, they courted us pretty hard to come for a visit. And, I am so glad we did. We’ve made the 40 minute walk over to Fennessy’s, sometimes in the rain, several times, and it is totally worth it. Dara is a fourth generation pub owner. Yes, Fennessy’s has been in the family since 1904! It’s a friendly neighborhood pub. And, they poor a great pint!
Listen to our interview with Dara of Fennessy’s on our podcast!
JJ Bowles Pub
Another Limerick pub that courted us hard after our 2015 list, and I am so glad they did! JJ Bowles is a hidden gem in Limerick. Despite being oh so close to the family home in Mayorstone, and very close to the Curragower, we’d never been. Not only do they pour a good pint, offer some great craic, and some live music on Sundays, but they have a view over the river. It is seriously a hidden gem, and the owner, Angus, is so excited to welcome tourists and locals alike to the pub. The hidden gem in Limerick! It also seems to hold the record for the oldest pub in Limerick!
Just around the corner from Pat Flannery’s is Patsy Nicholas. More of a locals’ pub than the others, we sat down for a pint on a cold and wet day. It’s so much of a local joint they don’t have a website or a Facebook Page. But, Patsy greeted us at the tap with a smile and made us feel welcome. Worth a visit!
The Spotted Dog
The Spotted Dog was a Long family pilgrimage. Let me tell you the story. During our first visit to Ireland, back in 1999, Aunt Theresa dropped us off at The Spotted Dog, near Daly Avenue in Janesboro in search of Uncle Billy. Eric’s Mom, once known as May Long, grew up on Daly Avenue, along with her siblings. Before Uncle Billy passed away, he practically lived at The Spotted Dog, and was part of the Janesboro Social Club, housed at The Dog. When we walked in the front door of The Spotted Dog back in 1999, Eric walked up to the bar and asked for Billy Long. A man turned to Eric and say “You’re May’s boy.” And, that was Billy.
We haven’t been back to The Spotted Dog since 1999. It’s a bit on the far side of town, and all the cousins have moved out. But, during this last visit, we made the trip along with Eric’s cousin, Joe. And, it was so different from what I remembered. The place was huge! I’m definitely glad we made it up there. And, we were able to talk to some people who knew Billy, so it was grand.
While visiting Fennessy’s, we crowdsourced for some tips on other pubs in Limerick. In part, I feel like we’ve been to ALL the pubs in Limerick. Some folks at Fennessy’s, along with the bartender at The White House, recommended Charlie Malones. Charlie Malones is like a combination of an Irish pub, a general store, and a basement frat house, really because of the low ceilings and live music. But, it’s all set inside a small row house in a quiet part of town. It’s also been called a hidden gem, and is well worth a visit.
Another crowdsourced option was South’s Pub. We hit South’s Pub after an evening with Dara at Fennessy’s, and a pint at Charlie Malones. In all honesty, I never should have ordered another pint. But, like many nights in Limerick, there we were at another pub. South’s is an older crowd, and is reminiscent of the golden age. The entire bar exudes gold, and even feathers. And, to confirm the older clientele, we met a woman who grew up on Daly Avenue, and knew Eric’s mother!
The Verdict on the Best Guinness in Limerick?
I don’t know that I can be diplomatic and come out with the verdict for the best Guinness in Limerick. I mentioned above that, for me, the best pint is not just about the actual pour. It’s about the atmosphere. And, we’ve done a good job of getting to know the owners of some of the best pubs in Limerick. I’m truly happy that we’ve managed to meet Dara of Fennessy’s, and Angus of JJ Bowles. And, Pat of Patsy Flannery’s, grew up with Eric’s cousin Ed. We’ve known him for a few years now, but really got to know him during this last visit. We met his dad, the original Patsy, who still works the bar during the day.
And, that’s really what it’s all about. In Limerick, there are no “corporate pubs” like there are in the U.S., but there are a handful of pubs that have a great feeling about them because the owner is still pouring pints, for locals who’ve been coming for years. If you head to Limerick and are looking for the true Irish pub experience, be sure to check out Patsy Flannery’s, Fennessy’s, and JJ Bowles. Not necessarily in that order . . . When it comes to these three Limerick pubs, I can’t play favorites.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.