Cork is a great city to enjoy a pint or two. When in Cork, you’re best advised to not to order a Guinness. Corkonians are an independent bunch (thus the nickname “Rebel City”) and tend to reject anything from Dublin, including their famous stout. Instead, enjoy a pint of Beamish or Murphy’s. Both were founded in Cork many, many years ago and are still brewed here, even though both are now owned by Heineken.
Here are my top picks when drinking in Cork:
Abbot’s Ale House
As you enter Abbot’s Ale House you’re met with a sign telling you to turn off your cell phone. Then, you’ll see another sign saying no talk about religion, politics, or football.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered my beer and said “I’ll have it in a Catholic glass with a side of Sinn Féin chips and put the Liverpool match on the TV.” Abbot’s owner, Anton, has a great sense of humor and luckily he found my remarks funny as he’s built like a linebacker for the New England Patriots.
Anton and his staff are hilarious, but be aware that the conversation is often non-PC and judging by some online comments, some folks find this atmosphere offensive.
Abbot’s has several craft beers on tap and bottled (including local brews). It might be the largest and most diverse selection in Cork. That, paired with the lively atmosphere of Anton, his employees, and customers makes Abbot’s Ale House my top pick in Cork.
Sine e is a legendary 1889 pub with lots of cool concert posters and photos decorating the interior. There’s traditional Irish music here every night. That’s the time to come, after the music starts. During the day, Sin e is rather quiet and, dare I say, dull.
Interesting note: Sin e translates from Gaelic to “That’s it” in English, a reference to the funeral home next door to the bar.
Mutton Lane Inn
A cozy and shabby little pub right behind the English Market, the Mutton Lane Inn is one of the oldest bars in Cork. Legend has it that during the War of Irish Independence, a line was drawn down the center of the bar. Republicans (Irish Nationalists) sat on one side and Loyalists (sided with the British) sat on the other. Today, the line is long gone and no one can really remember who sat on which side. Seems sadly appropriate.
Mutton Lane Inn is known for their whiskey selection and they make a fine Irish coffee. Live music keeps things hopping.
Be sure not to miss the mural outside the Mutton Lane Inn. It depicts traditional life in Cork. You might even want to stay outside and drink your pint there. They’ve outfitted the alley with barrels that double as tables.
Arthur Mayne’s used to be a pharmacy and they still have some old timey ephemera on display. If you’ve had enough beer on your Irish adventure, Arthur Mayne’s might be the spot for you. They have a good wine menu and can help you pair a glass with their selection of sharable plates. The candlelit interior adds to the place’s charm.
The Poor Relation
The Poor Relation is a classic dive bar in Cork. What I like best about this place is the tiny rooms (called “snugs”) all over the pub. They’re just big enough for a single table or booth. A great spot to get cozy with your date or plot the overthrow of the British in 1916 (just kidding). The Poor Relation has live music several nights each week. A real locals’ spot.
Rising Sons Brewery
Probably the most popular craft brewery in Cork, Rising Sons Brewery has a taproom on site. Try a flight of their offerings (the stout is my personal favorite).
Rising Sons is also available at many of the top pubs in Cork. I was told that’s because the owner of Rising Sons bought up several of the best known pubs in Cork and, of course, they serve their own beer there. I don’t know if that’s true, but it didn’t change my opinion of the quality of their beer.