Originally a hive of contraband and the refuge of shady characters, dive bars are the original bad boy boozers. Even though alcohol has been legalised and regulated to the point of , dive culture is still alive and well in Brisbane’s bar scene.
Hang chicness, this is one for the straight shooters:
John Mills Himself
John Mills Himself is a broom-cupboard bar you literally have to dive down a driveway to reach. A cafe by day, this bolthole thrums with the spirit of a speakeasy and stocks a hefty range of craft beers and spirits from small batch makers in Australia - perfect for knock offs with a sheen of class.
For somewhere dark and smoky, The Bowery is the perfect place. Packed with character, this cocktail lounge mixes perfect drinks, and features plenty of live music like a dive pulled straight from a film noir. Make sure you try their signature cocktail the Mesha.
The Greaser bunker is all about providing rowdy refuge for bar flies everywhere, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. They feature live music acts every Wednesday through Sunday night, and come with a menu of American-style diner food and fully-stocked bar.
Black Bear Lodge
Tucked upstairs from Brunswick Street Mall, Black Bear Lodge is a semi-secretive dive that’s well worth a look in. The bartenders know their stuff so the drinks are smashing, and they host live music acts and DJs most nights so it’s always good for a boogie.
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.
Cobbler’s contribution to dive culture is a little fancier that you’d expect. Decked out in lounge-style leather armchairs and manned by a team of career whisky enthusiasts with access to over 500 whiskies in their cellar, their singular focus is on the creation of really really beautiful cocktails. BYO food, it’s all about the drinks.
The Bearded Lady
Positioned on West End’s heaving main strip, The Bearded Lady thumps with live music most nights of the week. Behind the bar they offer a decent selection of cocktails, and a tidy list of wines, tap beers and spirits, and they’ve recently started up a kitchen operation that’ll feed you late.
King Lear’s Throne
Presumably referring to the end of the play, King Lear’s Throne is exactly the dank punk haunt of a fallen king who got lost in a storm. Their micro digs mean they don’t fuss with the extras, and specialise in craft tinnies, straight spirits, and low lighting.
Milton’s favourite booze cave, The Scratch, has been a hangout for bearded men and copious flannel since before it was cool. They feature a broad rotating selection of beers on tap as well as ciders, alcoholic ginger beers, a couple of wines, and a bunch of whiskies. The staff are so liberal and cool they'll even let you bring your own food and make a real night of it on the pinball machine.
Image credit: Daniel Maddock