Irish froth as pint-sized brewery tries to put Guinness over a barrel

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The Independent Online
A half-pint-sized David is challenging the Goliath of Irish brewing with the launch of what will be Dublin's only Irish-owned brewery, provocatively located within sight of Guinness's headquarters.

Now that Guinness, along with Cork's Beamish and Murphy's breweries, are in foreign ownership, the newly formed Dublin Brewing Company, set up by Roscommon-man Kieran Finnerty, 34, is reviving a dormant tradition. In 1780 there were 33 local brewers operating in the city, a total that fell gradually to one by the 1990s. Apart from a mini-brewery in a central Dublin pub, the republic's only other Irish-owned breweries now are small- scale producers in Kildare and Meath.

The first consignment of Mr Finnerty's challenger to Guinness, a light ale called "Beckett's" (to be abbreviated inevitably to "a pint of Sam") was brewed last month.

It received an enthusiastic reception in local pubs and from 70 neighbours invited to a tasting at the new Smithfield brewery, just across the River Liffey from its larger rival.

Mr Finnerty said: "There was a middle-aged woman there who assured me 'I'm not a drinker meself. But I'm after having eight pints of that and it went down grand'."

Previously a music magazine publisher in the United States and former head of a London brass company, Mr Finnerty plans to produce other ales, lager and stout.

First-year output will see three 130 keg-brews a week supplying a target of one in 10 Dublin pubs, with export plans thereafter. Current capacity allows up to seven brews, or 910 kegs, weekly. "Even by UK regional standards this is quite a big operation," he says.

Beckett's will be introduced gradually into selected Dublin pubs in coming weeks with a full launch in the spring. Beckett's fills a gap in the market for a type of light ale Guinness stopped making in 1799.

Without chemicals or additives, the new unpasteurised beer is made from roasted, mainly Irish malt, water drawn from the Wicklow mountains, and hops. It is similar to a British real ale, but filtered to remove cloudiness.

Scots-Irish brewer Liam McKenna, whose family emigrated to Canada when he was four, was involved in several US brewery start-ups, and has moved to Dublin for an initial three years to work with Mr Finnerty. "I'm used to American micro-breweries. Here, everyone is incredibly defensive about one or two products, and believe they haven't changed much in years. In fact there has been a gradual change to a taste that doesn't offend any palate."

Brewing newcomers must contend with a religious reverence for drink in Dublin, captured by the writer Daniel Corkery in his 1940s essay, "Pintmanship". He maintained: "A true pintman is never boisterous in the presence of his pint; when he condescends to laugh at all, it is with a deep, slow, ruminative, rumbling sound, counterpointed by satisfied internal gurgling noises."

He advised: "It behoves the pintman then, whenever he enters a strange house, to adopt a critical attitude, and to let everybody concerned see that they are in the presence of a critic. One should approach the counter with an inquisitorial air, trying to look like an inspector of something or other.

"When the pint is served to you, it should be allowed to rest for a minute on the counter. Then it should be embraced firmly with the fist, raised gently to the lips, and tested. If there is any taint of sourness the barman should be assaulted forthwith."