When it comes to the devil’s tonic, we live in an enlightened age. Alcohol is sold freely (and responsibly) in public from myriad vendors in all kinds of glorious forms: beer, wine, cider, wine, spirits, wine, mead…
No longer must we duck and dive around back streets and seedy taverns, searching like parched cactuses for a few meager drops of buzzing nectar. Prohibition is over! The soggy-butts failed to snuff out the sauce, and our off-balance, inebriated parade continues sunny.
But don’t despair, dive culture is far from over and Brisbane’s bar scene is helping to keep the spirit of revolt alive.
Save your airs and graces for the races, this comprehensive guide to Brisbane’s best dive bars is one for the straight-talking sluggers who like their tipples with a healthy serving of grunge.
Padre | Woolloongabba
Woolloongabba is home to some of our favourite wine lists, but Padre lets you skip the dining and cut straight to the wining. Cabernet sauvignon, Claret, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Riesling, Pinot, Sangiovese, grape juice, Verdelho, Chablis; Padre’s got everything you need to cultivate your palate and satisfy your wine habit.
John Mills Himself | CBD
We are so thrilled to have this wee hovel to retreat to every time we find ourselves stranded and sober in the city. John Mills Himself is a broom-cupboard bar you literally have to dive down a driveway to reach.
The Bowery | Fortitude Valley
If dark and shady revs your engine, The Bowery might just be the place for you. With perfect drinks, live music and bartenders in sleeve garters, The Bowery is like a dive pulled straight from a film noir. Make sure you try a Mesha, their signature cocktail, while you mellow out in one of their cosy booths.
Greaser | Fortitude Valley
The kind of foul, sprawling ectoplasm you’d scrape off your bathroom tiles flourishes in abundance down Greaser’s laneway. Every kind of bad night, stomach flu, or regrettable of the last 3 months began at Greaser. If you make the ill-fated decision to tumble down to this appalling excuse for real estate, keep in mind that a Hazmat suit will not protect you. Plus, they do crinkle fries.
Black Bear Lodge | Fortitude Valley
Wandering through Brunswick Street mall, I wouldn’t blame you for completely passing by Black Bear Lodge. It’s got the kind of semi-secretive frontage you’d never notice unless you were looking for it, and it’s well worth a look in. The bartenders know their stuff so the drinks are smashing. Venture upstairs where a dimly lit crowd awaits, and with Black Bear lodge featuring regular live music acts you’ll have a hip-shakin’ good time, every time.
The Scratch | Milton
Gloomy as a pint of stout, and with a similar stench, The Scratch is a beer cave if ever there was one, where bearded men will pour you frothies, and no one will judge you for wearing a flannie. The staff are so liberal and cool here they even let you bring your own food.
The Milk Factory | West End
Milkies is a new addition to Brisbane’s dive bar cohort, and a fine one at that. A nautical-themed bar, with a ‘sailing’ bar menu that moves from port to port like a drunk sea dog, and live music every dang night of the week, this new West End dive bar is a friendly favourite.
Cobbler | West End
Exposed brick and whiskies galore are the order of the day at Cobbler, where the sexy mood lighting is the perfect accompaniment to the sauce selection, and, boy, is it a doozy. While whisky is the main event, the cocktail list is tempting, and they let you bring your own food in. Kudos. Things will get raucous.
The Bearded Lady | West End
Duck in from the main strip in West End and find yourself in riot house, The Bearded Lady—a knee-slappin’, fun-times music venue and dive bar that brings the wayward out of the woodwork.
Brunswick Hotel | Fortitude Valley
Hipsters and vagrants have been onto the good thing that is The Bruno’s main bar for a while now. Practically a Valley institution, the karaoke nights are a melting pot of talent, VB schooies, and raw human emotion.
Click here for more of the best bars in Brisbane!
Image credit: Daniel Maddock