Anton makes a habit of bringing novelty beers on the session. Banana-bread beer, seaweed ale, once even pizza beer (‘I love pizza!’): his experience of craft beer is, largely, confined to spaces in the market in which there is no direct competition from major brewing houses, perhaps for good reason. It is with a measure of reluctance that he is convinced to come along and try some non-novelty micro-brewery beer and ale at J.W. Sweetman on Burgh Quay.
It’s hard to tell where we are on the craft beer cycle: micro-brewery produce and alienatingly-titled longnecks (viz. everything by Brew Dog) have a ubiquity that extends into the everyday pub experience, and it all seems to be here to stay. J.W. Sweetman is emblematic of this tendency. Formerly Messrs Maguire’s, it’s a multi-storey city centre pub with its own micro-brewery and, when we visit on an autumn’s mild Friday evening, it’s absolutely packed. Some stag-night attendees are still defiantly drinking Carlsberg but, by and large, everyone’s partaking of the home brews, of which there are weissbier, red ale, golden ale, pale ale and porter. Of the porter, it’s head and shoulders above its nearest Dublin equivalent at the Porterhouse (their dreary pint of Plain), managing to be lively and chocolatey and, most importantly, only €4 a pint (like all of Sweetman’s home brews). Having come in set on drinking one of each of their own-brand stock, I’ve quickly been convinced to repeat my first order indefinitely. The pale ale, I’m assured by my companion, is delicious also. Given the reluctance most people (including myself) will have to risk paying for something unfamiliar, having their draught priced below its Diageo/big-brand equivalent is a shrewd move, and one which, given the quality of the produce, is entirely welcome.
It’s not a particularly comfortable place to drink, however. Messrs was never a place for a quiet pint, really, and JW Sweetman is no different. Waiting staff carry massive platters at shoulder height while stetson-hatted stag-nighters cheer at the occasional smashing of a pint glass. ‘Taxi!’, it seems, is alive and well in 2013. Is it a good or bad thing that craft beer culture is intersecting with post-Soccer A.M. laddishness? Will a candid snap of Daniele De Rossi sipping on an IPA precipitate an inter-market perfect storm, and will Dublin’s craft beer entrepreneurs be there to capitalise on it? When the stout is this good, I’ll drink with Gareth Southgate. On the television behind us, Ireland have just gone 1-0 up against Sweden. Hints of cocoa percolate in my skull as I mouth: ‘Keano!’
‘Another shite performance,’ declaims Anton as we step outside, looking up at the floodlit Heineken building. He’s wearing a green stetson hat, which he was given after ingratiating himself with a group of stag-nighters, leading a chorus of ‘Easy! Easy!’ from the top of the bar while lounge staff mopped up my spilled porter.
1-2 Burgh Quay
Words: Oisín Murphy-Hall