Why Does Everyone Love an Irish Pub?

By Carey Jones |

We’ve all had a pint at an O’Reilly Tavern or McCarthy’s Pub or Paddy McGuire’s. But have you ever stopped to think about why Irish pubs are just so omnipresent? Countries all over the planet have Irish pubs — I’ve had a Guinness in Peru, in Iceland, in Sri Lanka. And every state in this union has its fair share of be-shamrocked pubs, too, even if the usual local drink of choice is bourbon or red wine or tequila.

According to Tullamore D.E.W. brand ambassador, Tim Herlihy, who has also spent his fair share of time in bars, it’s down to the spirit and camaraderie of a good pub. “The friendliness of Irish people and their spirit of drinking is mirrored in the Irish pub,” he says. It’s hard to resist a good drink and good cheer. Moreover, the Irish diaspora sent folks of Irish descent across the planet.

“Today we’re a nation of 5 million, but there are 80 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry, so we’ve always brought our pub culture with us.” And that pub culture is central to daily life in Ireland.

“We’ve had a pub culture since day one – we’ve always had the beer and the spirits made right at home, and our society was built with Irish pubs at the center. In Ireland, pubs supported their neighborhoods by serving as local grocers and even undertakers, and later doubled as restaurants.”

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To celebrate the Irish pub, Herlihy embarked on a 30-day, 50-state pub crawl to discover the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in all 50 states; he’ll conclude on today, March 17 at The Dead Rabbit in Manhattan. Some days proved particularly grueling; “My record was 5 states and a district,” Herlihy says.

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“I started off in West Virginia, had an Irish breakfast at The Dubliner in DC, stopped by Samuel Beckett’s in Virginia, met the owner of the oldest Irish pub in the U.S. – Patrick’s of Pratt – in Baltimore, MD, toasted the bar at Catherine Rooney’s in Delaware, and then finished the evening with a whiskey tasting at McGillin’s, Philly’s oldest Irish pub. I’m exhausted just recapping that day. Don’t worry, I had a driver.” 

We asked Herlihy for some pub recommendations. Here are his unexpected favorites from all across the country. Sláinte!

McBride’s in Providence, RI was an unexpected favorite, one of the most authentically Irish bars I’ve been to in the states. The name was inspired by a visit the owner took to Ireland where he stumbled upon McBride’s Pub and Funeral home in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. When he returned from his trip, he converted part of his funeral home into an Irish pub, and McBride’s was born. Each night at 10pm, the entire bar toasts to a friend or relative that has passed away, and the bar book is signed paying tribute – it’s a lovely tradition that I’m glad I got to witness.

Riley’s in Anchorage, AK, a bar I hadn’t even planned on stopping by originally, served me the best Irish coffee of the trip. It’s a great, log cabin bar that some bartender friends recommended.

Nancy Whiskey in Detroit was a huge discovery for me and an absolute gem. They have a tradition of offering a complimentary shot of Tullamore D.E.W. to any new patron that steps into the bar, and have been doing that forever. Tully was Nancy’s favorite whiskey, and she even brought it over from Ireland during a period of time when Tullamore D.E.W. was unavailable in the U.S.

Town of O’Neill, NE: I knew it was the Irish capital of Nebraska, but I didn’t expect there to be so much Irish pride there – it’s a core part of their identity and they gave me an exceedingly warm welcome. O’Neill is proudly home to the world’s largest shamrock, and on St. Patrick’s Day their population triples in size, from 4,000 to 12,000 people!