The Bramhall Pub
769 Congress St., Portland
When the editor of The Bollard couldn’t make it to the weekly happy hour review, the art directors stepped up to the plate. Or bellied up to the bar. Our choice for the night was The Bramhall Pub — close to headquarters and rumored to have good happy hour specials and free food.
Nestled below the white linen Roma Café and marked with a green awning reading “PUB” over a brick staircase, the entrance to The Bramhall Pub felt very Cheers-like, and the interior was no less welcoming. Behind the tall wooden doors, we were greeted by an almost too perfect pub. The cast of regulars sat around the highly varnished oak bar, served by a pleasantly sassy and sweet bartender. The lights were dimmed and flames flickered in the fireplace set inside a brick wall that half-separates the bar room from the pool-table room. Classic rock music played in the background, but it was easily bested by the loud peals of laughter and bar banter. It looks like the kind of bar you might find in a theme park (think Disney creates an “Irish Pub” for their Epcot Center), but The Bramhall is a genuine, down-to-earth, damn good bar.
We ordered beers (all domestics are on special for happy hour, including local brews) and sat at one of the tables next to the bar. There are no discounts on the menu during happy hour, but for the early comers there is a spread of free food laid out in front of the fireplace. From what we hear, it’s always different, generally tasty, and it goes fast. There were only crumbs left when we got there at 5:30.
Looking for some entertainment, we decided to play darts. The Bramhall has two dartboards and free darts for all, and by the look of their trophy table, the leagues that play there are pretty good. A couple of beers and one very long game of Cricket later, we decided to move on to the pool table, where I discovered that Mich is no longer the worst pool player in the bunch. (Apparently, that distinction is now mine).
After the game of pool, we switched over to the cheaper 16-ounce cans of PBR ($1.75) and checked out the Star Wars pinball machine. As Jar Jar’s voice said “Player Two, you-sa up!” I realized that we had been at the Bramhall for almost two hours, had not spent a fortune on beers, and had bounced around to every bar game in the place. A great happy hour like this one can convince you to stay longer than you had planned; it makes you oblivious to the passage of time.
The Bramhall certainly did that. More members joined our party. We sat and talked comfortably at a corner table, then remembered that Thursday is Jerks of Grass night at the Bramhall. We drank more beers, watched the place go from near empty to standing-on-top-of-each-other full, and listened to the Jerks of Grass show everyone just how close bluegrass can come to full-on metal shredding.
Leaving at close to closing time, we all expressed our satisfaction with the bar and there was much talk of making The Bramhall Pub a regular happy hour destination. Free food, good (and cheap) beer, darts, pool, pinball and atmosphere that Disney could never fake — The Bramhall Pub has all this and more. For example, we accidentally discovered that there is wireless Internet access in the bar (the signal was a little weak, probably just someone’s nearby personal connection, but still usable). So next time you’re in the neighborhood or in the mood, pop into this pub for happy hour and read The Bollard. Chances are good we’ll be there too.
— Sean Wilkinson