Brazen Head

Brazen Head Irish Pub (website, Twitter)
165 East Liberty Street, Toronto ON M6K 3K4 (on the south side, between Hanna Avenue and Pirandello Street, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street West and Dufferin Street) 416-535-8787
Google Maps

A decent pub in the heart of Liberty Village.

I have gone by the Brazen Head pub a number of times on the bus, but as it was on the way to work, I had to note its location and wait for a quiet afternoon. It’s a lovely pub with a fireplace in the Grand Dining Room, which also features benches, movable tables, and a very high ceiling. The area near the bar is a bit more intimate. Apparently there is a room upstairs that can be reserved for parties, but it wasn’t open for my covert reviewing. There are pictures on the website, but they don’t say much or how many people can fit into the room. (My favourite drinking companion, who didn’t accompany me to the pub, noted that the photograph looks like it was taken from the alley exit. It wasn’t.)

According to Jacqueline Simpson in her book Green Men & White Swans: The Folklore of British Pub Names, the brazen head is from a legend involving the 13th-century Franciscan friar and early scientist Roger Bacon. Bacon, with his friend Friar Bungay, produced this brass or bronze head that would tell prophesies or other fantastic things, but it would only work once. Bacon waited hours and hours for the head to work, and when he would no longer stay awake, he got his assistant to take over. The head suddenly said “Time is,” the assistant thought this wasn’t worth waking the exhausted Bacon, so he let him sleep on. The head then spoke again “Time was,” then a while later, “Time is passed” and burst into flames. Apparently, other medieval people made brazen heads, but Bacon’s story is the most well known. The Brazen Head pub in Dublin is the oldest pub in Ireland, dating from 1198, which means it was founded a century before Bacon’s adventures.

The Brazen Head is a sister pub to Murphy’s LawPogue Mahone, and the Foggy Dew so if you like them, you’ll like this one.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, not my last, on a weekday afternoon in December 2011
TTC information: a 15-minute ride westbound from King Station, then a four-minute walk, or take the bus south from Dufferin Station, which will drop you after a 10-minute ride at Dufferin and Liberty
Booze selection: 20 beers, including Magners and Strongbow ciders, and lots of malts (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: the fancy end of pub grub. The menu is online
Service staff: good
Prices: expensive
Toilets: wheelchair accessible on the ground floor, but lots and lots of stalls upstairs
Patio: north and east of the building and on the roof
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: three in the Grand Dining Room and all mercifully turned off
Live music: Thursday and Saturday nights
Piped-in music: rock and/or roll with an Irish twist

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

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