27 March 2008

Lights by name

It's bilingual puns again today, I'm afraid. Sorry.

Solas is a bar on Wexford Street in central Dublin. It's a very up-market modern sort of place, big into its cocktails and achingly hip soundtrack. In short, it's the sort of fashion-victim lounge I generally avoid like the proverbial. Oddly, however, it has a very slightly better-than-average beer selection, though leaning towards the wit-and-weiss school of daring, with just a couple of Chimays representing decent ale. Bizarrely there's a Bass tap, something normally only found in slightly ropy suburban drinking dens and those frequented by even ropier Taoisigh. But I digress.

The first tap in the row dispenses a house beer called Solas Lite. "Solas" is Irish for "light" in the illumination sense, so somebody probably thought this was hilarious. Anyway, I have no idea who makes it or what it's doing there. The staff were as bemused by the whole thing as I was. What they could tell me is that it's a yellow lager, it's very low strength (3.6% ABV) and it's dirt cheap: €3.60 a pint. Cheap unbranded beer is not something one readily associates with this sort of bar. In fact none of those three words really fit in with the stoli-and-prada brigade. Nevertheless, the proprietors are proud enough of this to have had custom glassware made -- the engraving just visible against a black background (right).

Unsurprisingly, the intrigue around Solas Lite is far more interesting than the beer. It's bog-standard pale and gassy as hell. The flavour, such as it is, is dry and there's a touch of diacetyl which suggests to me that it may actually have been made by a human rather than a machine.

Being upmarket, Solas doesn't have a Bud tap, but this is pretty close. The colour and strength are wrong for it to be a simple rebadge, however. And yet an owner who has specially commissioned a beer and accessories is seemingly not enough of a beer enthusiast to have ordered something interesting. And yet it's been around too long for it simply to be a disguised batch of something else that didn't turn out as expected. None of it adds up, and I doubt I'll ever get to the bottom of it unless someone out there knows.

Anyway, here presenting Solas Lite: probably the dullest enigma in the beeriverse.


  1. From the photos, that place looks about as hip as my arse... are you sure its upmarket, or just a very low rent take on a 1980s cocktail bar, of a type that litter provincial high streets in this country?

  2. Well I'm sorry it's not up to your standards, Bolli-keks, but that probably has more to do with my lack of skill as a photographer than anything else.

    It's populated by braying overmoneyed tiger cubs. That's what "upmarket" means in this town.

  3. Even the ticker in me feels all right about abstaining from this one.
    Well. If it was available in Oslo, I'd try. Once.
    But why do you frequent bars populated by tiger cubs? All in the name of research?

  4. I work on the same principle, Knut: this is me trying it once.

    I can assure you I don't frequent this place. However, it's the only bar in the area with any decent beer on tap -- namely Hoegaarden -- so, when I'm in this part of town and want to stop in for a drink on the way somewhere else, I choose it to avoid being forced to drink Guinness/Smithwick's/Heineken/Carlsberg. It's definitely not somewhere I'd set out to visit.

    I was far more interested in finding out the story behind Solas Lite than in tasting the beer. And I was more disappointed by not getting it than I was with the beer.

  5. Very interesting. I've heard of the place, but avoided it for the various reasons you outlined. It is indeed strange that this one unremarkable beer would turn up in a pub like that. Perhaps it is like the German helles on tap in Luigi Malone's of Temple Bar, which is fairly tasty, but completely unavailable elsewhere in bottle of draught. I think it is piggy backed in with on the Erdinger crate.

  6. I'd say so, and I reckon they have contracted the distributor not to sell Fischer Stiftungsbräu Helles to anyone else.

  7. I knew you'd know the name of it...

  8. Bailey10:24 pm

    A pub near us used to sell its "own" lager, which turned out to be Coors, if I recall. Their brand was so bad at that time they could sell more by letting people rebadge than by pushing it with their own label. Is that libel? If so, are you legally responsible given that it's a comment on your blog? Hope so. Er, hope not, I mean.

  9. This isn't a rebadge. Perhaps unlike in the UK, no mainstream brewer here would bring a lager to the market at 3.6% ABV. It's why, for example, our Becks Vier is .2% stronger than yours. Lucky us. There are no other beers of this strength on the Irish market. It has to be a special commission.

    Google are publishing this on their domain, so I'll just forward the solicitor's letters. Anyway, you didn't name the brewery in question. Dublin Brewing Company used to send its experiments and wonky batches to the pub across the street from the brewery to be sold under hastily-invented badges.

  10. I was there yesterday, and apparently it's made by the owner in his back garden. Perfectly inoffensive drink.