One of the many odd things about Canberra is that it was initially developed at a time when Australia half-heartedly flirted with the prohibition which was all the rage at the time in the United States. Unsurprisingly, given Australia's foundation as a British colony, pubs had been part of the story of settlement and development since 1788. But in most un-Australian fashion, Canberra initially developed without pubs. King O'Malley, the teetotal probably American-born Home Affairs Minister in Andrew Fisher's Labor government in 1910, brought in legislation decreeing the new Federal Capital Territory alcohol-free (a more recent pub in Canberra's centre is named the O'Malley, presumably ironically). This measure remained law until it was repealed by Stanley Bruce's conservative government in 1928.
So Canberra's early inhabitants had to nip across the border to neighbouring Queanbeyan, in NSW, to get access to booze. A few pubs finally arrived in the 1930s - the Civic, the Wellington and the Kingston. Only the last survives.
Nothing much else that has arrived since can properly be described as a 'pub' in the traditional sense, although, as noted above, the O'Malley isn't a bad pastiche. Canberra has plenty of bars and there's the 19th century Old Canberra Inn but it's really only the Kingo that can be described as an original Canberra pub.
Part of the Kingo's charm is that despite being in the middle of Canberra's smart and well-heeled Manuka-Kingston area it has barely changed in decades. It now boasts a bistro, Maddie's, but for most its defining characteristics remain the dingy, pokie-infested bar, the 'cook your own steak' area and the drive-in bottlo. But the jewel in the crown is the two pool rooms and their six tables. This area oddly seems to bring together two very different Canberra tribes - on the one hand often tattooed and uncouth blue collar types with their ankle-braceleted companions and on the other, especially during parliamentary sitting weeks, the very different world of Coalition Members, Senators and staffers. It's usually pretty clear who's who. This was where a number of the latter tribe witnessed the events of 24 June 2010, on the large televisions above the pool tables. The pool and the beer at the Kingo are good, but if you also want a feed, consider wandering the five minutes or so to the offerings of Kingston e.g. Portia's Place or Hoang Hau (where the anti-Rudd forces plotted).
The Kingo also offers 'dormitory style accommodation' upstairs. Invitingly, the website says 'you’ll have more privacy with only two beds to a room. Linen is provided. There’s a communal kitchen and showers at the end of the hall. Some dormitory rooms have their own television and fridge.' All for $40-$50 a night. Again, thrillingly non-Canberra.