08 November 2012

Get me a stepladder and I will

"Shibboleth" is the most appropriate word for it, I think: a phrase or pronunciation that distinguishes people from a particular place. The question "Do you know the Five Lamps?", and the response which an affirmation elicits is only funny to people from Dublin. I certainly don't get it, but it cracks up every Dub I know, every time. If you're smiling while you're reading this, it's because you're from Dublin.

So it makes the ideal name for the latest Dublin-themed beer on the market: named for a genuine landmark, but with a nod-wink in-joke for the locals included. The culchie in the group wants to know why the Dubs are all laughing when the round is brought in, and further hilarity ensues. Shibboleths make good branding.

The visual aspects of the Five Lamps branding is unimpeachable too, invoking Victorian wrought-iron and really feeling like part of the fabric of classic Dublin boozer McDaid's where I was drinking it. It's a very clear pale lager, showing that whichever brewery is producing it under contract knows what they're doing with the style.

The first thing I notice on taking the first sip, however, is the carbonation: massive amounts of mouth-stripping fizz giving it an immediate dryness which makes it hard to find anything else going on. When it comes, the next hit is an astringent bitterness, as found in the sterner sort of German pils. This is contrasted with, rather than complemented by, a sweet biscuit and golden syrup finish, the sort you find in many a decent pale Czech lager. So, all the elements of good pils are in here but for me they just didn't quite gel together.

Lager is a tough sell, and even more so now that three independent Irish brands are fighting it out in the pubs against the big locally-brewed international brands and the fashionable imports. That said, all three are big on their sense of place -- Dingle for Crean's and Carrick-on-Shannon for Carrig -- and this is the only Dublin-centric one among them. Pale lager, if you will. Perhaps that will be enough to carry it.

I suspect they may need to do something a bit more elaborate with the tap font, though. How many familiar brands do you see before you spot the Five Lamps badge on the bar in McDaid's?


  1. Hard to say how many lagers I see because I don't see the 5 lamps one. I'm going to assume by process of elimination that it's to the left of Smithwicks.

    I had never heard of that "Do you know the Five Lamps?" saying before but it's funny all the same. Probably because I grew up in D20 and not inner city.

    1. Yep: if you squint you can make out the big black 5 on the white background.

  2. The Bloody Tan7:56 pm

    I stood at that very spot a few weeks ago when I came up to show around some Exeter pals over for the rugby.
    I was really glad to see McDaids is still a decent boozer.
    It was a long night on the piss and I drank a variety of beers but funnily enough the only one I can really remember is the plain Porter in the Porterhouse and even the Guinness-hounds in our group really took to it.
    I don't suppose you have any news on Benny McCabe's proposed craft brewery do you ?