It’s finally Spring, and as Canberra cautiously relaxes after its stressful year, it’s time for a well-deserved pint.
I visited, and ranked, the inner-north’s ten biggest pubs. For your convenience and my pleasure.
King O’Malley’s (Civic)
Quality: 2.5 Atmosphere: 3 Price: 3 Overall: 2.83/5
Taking the tenth spot on this list is one of Civic’s two Irish pubs.
Earlier this year, on St Patrick’s Day, the vibe at this pub was great. Mostly, however, there is not a lot about King O’Malley’s which is particularly remarkable. While this pub delivers the Irish staples (Guinness and Kilkenny on tap) and classic pub meals, its beer range is limited and its food is on the dearer end. By way of example, a beef burger costs $25— more than Grease Monkey’s most expensive burger.
This is a place to consider if the occasion calls for it.
Civic Pub (Braddon)
Quality: 3.5 Atmosphere: 2.5 Price: 3.5 Overall: 3.16/5
The Civic Pub sports a pretty standard range of tap beers, though that range notably includes Balter XPA, a decent alcoholic ginger beer, and a tapped espresso martini.
Although its price bracket is pretty standard, sadly this pub does not offer a Happy Hour. What is most confusing about it, however, is the atmosphere. On a sunny day, the pub feels unusually dark and gloomy. Walls lined with books and a ‘yak’ (actually a buffalo) from Fat Yak apparently strive for a refined atmosphere. However, Civic Pub feels like it’s occupying an uncomfortable middle space between classy and conventional.
Brew Nation (Civic)
Quality: 5 Atmosphere: 3 Price: 2.5 Overall: 3.5/5
With an incredible range of canned beers (which can also be taken home) and a great range of beers on tap, beer snobs – and those wanting to learn a bit more about their drink – will love Brew Nation. As a reasonably minimalist, one-room pub, the atmosphere at this place is not particularly special. However, good background music, a volume at which to talk comfortably, and notably friendly staff all add to this space’s value.
One gets higher-end brews here, and it’s reflected in the prices.
Badger & Co. (Acton)
Quality: 3 Atmosphere: 3.5 Price: 4 Overall: 3.5/5
The ANU’s primary bar/pub does its job reasonably well. Its beer range is not enormous, but it pleases a wide crowd, including brewery-fresh Carlton and a couple of Canberra brews in its range. The atmosphere can be good, but – to flog a dead horse – it does not hold a torch to the late ANU Bar. Arguably the best thing about this establishment (after its location) is its daily deals, whether it’s $10 schnitzels or $5 Happy Hour.
Not a bad place for a pint.
Braddon Brews (Braddon)
Quality: 4 Atmosphere: 3.5 Price: 3.5 Overall: 3.6/5
Being a daytime café / coffee roaster and a night-time beer bar, Braddon Brews wins some points for uniqueness.
What’s more, for an establishment that is only sometimes a beer bar, this space offers ten pretty diverse and delicious range of tap beers. The atmosphere is good if you don’t mind drinking in an alleyway. The prices are in the middle-to-upper range.
The Duxton (O’Connor)
Quality: 3.5 Atmosphere: 3.5 Price: 4 Overall: 3.66/5
The Duxton is a good middle-upper pub, plain and simple. Happy Hour is here from 3-5pm on weekdays, during which they offer $5 selected tap beers and $5 house wine. Outside these hours, prices are reasonably standard. They also host trivia every Wednesday.
This pub is in O’Connor, so it’s a little bit of a trip from the ANU area.
PJ O’Reilly’s (Civic)
Quality: 3.5 Atmosphere: 4 Price: 3.5 Overall: 3.66
This is a good Irish pub, although it suffers from the opposite fate of its counterpart in King O’Malley’s: a good range of craft beers, but an absence of the staples (Guinness and Kilkenny) needed in any self-respecting Irish pub.
Significantly, the prices here are better than at King O’Malley’s. There’s also a decent spread of events at PJ’s, including trivia every Monday night and regular live music. This is also the stomping-ground of the Canberra Democrats Abroad. Having been here to watch the 2016 Presidential election, I’d recommend popping in for a pint over the upcoming 2020 election.
The RUC (Turner)
Quality: 3 Atmosphere: 3.5 Price: 5 Overall: 3.83/5
The Canberra North Bowling and ACT Rugby Union Club, or RUC, knows what it is.
Although the Club only offers big-name commercial beers on tap, the range of these is broader than usual, and probably sufficient for every beer-drinker. The RUC’s atmosphere is good, with live music every Friday and relaxed vibes always. Above all, the RUC’s prices stand out. In addition to cheap meal deals from Monday to Wednesday (including $12 rump steak on Mondays), the Club boasts $5 select wines, basic spirits and standard draughts during Happy Hour; $4 Coopers Pale Ale schooners on Fridays; and $3.90 basic spirits from 8-9pm every week.
This is the place to go if you like your beers cheap and simple.
Quality: 5 Atmosphere: 4 Price: 3 Overall: 4/5
With a range of about 30 tapped beers and ciders, Bentspoke is – beyond all question – Canberra’s tap beer leader. If you’re willing to shell out a bit of money, you can even take some of its delicious brews home.
Adding to Bentspoke’s aesthetic is its Lonsdale Street location, as well as its back wall of large metal kegs. In fact, all that can be detracted from this venue is its higher-price range (especially granted its new $40 minimum spend due to COVID-19). Bentspoke also lacks live music / events.
Nevertheless, the fact remains: Bentspoke offers Canberra’s best home-made beers.
The Old Canberra Inn (Lyneham)
Quality: 4 Atmosphere: 5 Price: 3.5 Overall: 4.16/5
Claiming the top spot on this list is a pub which barely makes it into our ‘inner-north’ scope. However, if one is prepared to venture out to this Lyneham location, good times surely await.
The Old Canberra Inn sports an excellent range of rotating beers, as well as a huge range of packaged beers. Its prices are at the upper-middle end, though these are made better by a 4-6pm Happy Hour every weekday.
What makes this pub truly special, however, is its atmosphere. In addition to hosting regular events, the Inn is one of very few pubs in the ACT which can truthfully boast of providing an authentic, European-style pub vibe. In the winter, roaring fires in its main room keep patrons warm. In the spring and summer, its beer garden delights. The pub’s largest room imitates German beer halls.
If one is looking for an excellent inner-north pint, whatever the weather, then look no further.
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