Family and friends gather in memory of Oliver Hughes

Great Hall at Royal Hospital Kilmainham packed to overflowing for memorial service

Oliver Hughes did not just see the glass as half-full, "he was going to the bar to get another glass", according to the late publican's wife, Helen. Her words were read by the couple's son, Elliot, at a memorial service in the Great Hall at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.

The hall was packed to overflowing for the service, devised by family and friends to remember Hughes, who died at the age of 57 last Saturday following a heart attack at his home in Dublin.

One of Ireland's leading publicans, and a pioneer in the craft beer revolution, he owned a number of restaurants and bars across Ireland, the UK and US, as well as Lillie's Bordello nightclub and the Dingle Whiskery Distillery.

Friends, family and colleagues affectionately recalled a larger-than-life character who was always full of new ideas, and who moved from the legal world into becoming a publican, brewer, restaurateur and distiller.


“Success didn’t dim his enthusiasm or dull his dreams,” said Maurice Collins, whose friendship with Hughes dated back to their student days together at King’s Inns.

He said Hughes had been proud to follow in the footsteps of his barrister father, Brian. “But it always seemed inevitable he’d be lured away from the Four Courts and into the world of barley and hops.”

Work colleagues described a man who combined perseverance with a willingness to see things through, combined with a great sense of humour, and how he taught young brewers in the early days how to “be rebellious”.

First brewery

Hughes’s cousin and longtime business partner Liam LaHart recalled how the two had opened their first brewery in Blessington, Co Wicklow, in the early 1980s before setting up a pub in Bray specialising in Belgian beers and weissbiers. “It was a tough business to be in then,” he said.

LaHart also recalled that, when launching their first Dublin brewpub, Porterhouse on Parliament Street, bets were being taken about how long the venture would last without having Guinness and Heineken taps.

The pub originally had only two beers, called “Weiserbuddy” and “Probably”, which prompted a flurry of legal letters on behalf of another brewery.

Hughes managed to get a two-week reprieve before the names had to be changed, and used it to run a radio competition for new names, during which the words “Weiserbuddy” and “Probably” were heard repeatedly across the airwaves. The story was picked up by international media, including The New York Times. “That’s when he ditched the wig and gown and said he’d get an honest job, selling and marketing beer,” said LaHart.

Music selected by Hughes’s daughter, Holly, included songs by Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Prince and The Beatles, while lifelong friend Mark Keating remembered a shared love of music from teenage years spent at 1970s punk gigs to recent trips to the Body & Soul and Other Voices festivals.

The service concluded with singer Brian Kennedy performing the Frank Sinatra classic, My Way.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast