The Guinnesses had a charming habit of salting the earth and calling it civic-mindedness. When they bought Sweetman's brewery on Francis Street, Lord Iveagh had the site turned into a market (named after himself, of course) and presented it to the City. The extensive Anchor Brewery premises was also given over, to be turned into council flats, when it fell under the Guinness axe. Sweeping down from the old Dublin Liberties towards Usher's Quay on the south bank of the Liffey, Oliver Bond Flats (The 'Bond, in local parlance) have gained no small amount of noteriety over the years. There aren't a whole lot of businesses running in the immediate curtilege of the complex, but it's not surprising that one of the few is an off licence: a garishly-coloured outlet in the Booze-2-Go chain, operating throughout inner city Dublin in those places where the market demands cider and lager on a budget and served through a perspex hatch.
But this particular branch has a secret that it's trying hard not to keep hidden. Next door to the actual off licence, there's a pub. While the outside branding is still that of a downmarket intoxicant peddlar, a bit of money appears to have been spent on the inside, turning it into a central-European-style hostelry under the name Pifko. There's an extensive Slovakian winelist and a menu of Czech and Slovak specialties. Unsurprisingly, of course, the mainstream beers of the Czech Republic are represented on tap -- Staropramen, Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Kozel Dark -- plus Gambrinus and the pale Kozel by the bottle. In general it's quite similar to the Czech Inn just a few hundred yards down river in Temple Bar. But it wasn't the selection of mainstream imports that drew me in.
Pifko has a house beer, called Pifko Premium. Before you ask, I don't know who makes it or where. The pub claims it's brewed exclusively for them, and at least one source has it that it's made in Ireland. But until I get some corroboration (let me know if you have any) I won't make any statements of provenance [edit: brewed at White Gypsy].
It's an amber beer, of the granát style, I guess, served very very cold. Bitterness is the driving force here. I thought initially that the sharpness was a yeast thing, as it reminded me most of the more severe sort of Belgian wit. But on the end, and especially on burping, it's clear that lots of bittering hops have played a role here too. There's no character I'd describe as malty per se, no caramel or graininess. Instead there's an intense sugary sweetness which is just about detectable and which, when combined with the hops, creates an amusing sort of perfume flavour, one which comes through in the aroma as well as the taste. It's an interesting beer, without doubt, and there's a lot to be said for having a bitter quaffer available for warm-day drinking. I wish Pifko every success.
I've been writing a lot about Dublin pubs recently, which is most unlike me. And I still haven't got around to Tramco, the intriguing new pseudo-brewery which recently opened in Rathmines. The Irish beer revolution trundles on...
In the meantime, I'm fleeing the country tomorrow to hit the Great British Beer Festival. I'll be in my navy IrishCraftBrewer.com t-shirt, most likely loitering at the BSF bar. Say hello if you see me.