Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: A thirst-making quest…
I'm in an off-licence with one of my sons.
Lovely, says you. It's a day out with one of the children, kind of an adult version of a trip to the zoo. And it is lovely - any excuse to be with the kids, especially since they've grown up and left. Except it's dragging on a bit.
I said an off-licence, not the off-licence. The off-licence is only up the road, tucked in between the Spar and the Hickey's, and it has anything I'd ever be interested in drinking. But, so far, myself and the son have been in four different off-licences and I'm beginning to wonder if I should have brought a change of clothes and my passport.
The son is into the craft beer.
And fair enough - we all need a hobby. But he's taking it a bit far, I think. He has a book about it.
A book about beer! As far as I'm concerned, that's about as useful as a book about inhaling and exhaling - Breathing for Dummies. But I say nothing. I'm just glad to be with him. He asked me to come along, so I'm both delighted and bored out of my tree, at the exact same time.
Anyway. There's a beer he's fond of called Handsome Jack, and it's made in Kilbarrack. There's a brewery in Kilbarrack!
- Jaysis, son, I haven't had an education like this since I was thrown out of school.
I wasn't expelled from school, or anywhere else. But I like to pretend I was. It makes me more interesting, somehow; a bit wild and hard. And I just like making up stories. I once told the daughter I was in charge of Patrick Pearse's rifle in the GPO, in 1916. She seemed impressed - 'Really, like?' Then she asked me if I'd slipped down to Supermac's during a lull in the bombardment. It took me a while to cop on that she knew I was acting the maggot. She was 10.
Anyway, the brewery is in the Howth Junction industrial estate, in behind the GAA club there. So, our first stop is McHugh's on Kilbarrack Road, because - it says in the son's book - some beers don't travel well, so it might be 'a fun idea to try a glass in close proximity to the point of manufacture'. McHugh's is a stone's throw - a bottle's throw - from Howth Junction, so in we go.
And he buys a bottle.
There's two of us in the bloody car.
- Should we drink it now, son? I ask him.
We're back in the car with the bottle.
- Why? he asks.
- Well, I say. - We're in close proximity to the point of manufacture.
- Ah, no, he says. - The house is only a mile away.
- That's still in close enough proximity, is it?
- Ah, yeah.
- Fair enough.
- It's a long day. There's a new beer, an IPA-
- What's that? I ask him.
- Indian pale ale.
I think I remember Ena Sharples from Coronation Street liking a half of pale ale, back in the days when the telly was black and white. But I say nothing.
Anyway, this new beer is called Howling Wreckage. It's from some mad brewery in the north of England, somewhere, and we spend the afternoon looking for it.
I don't really get it, all the craft beer. Guinness is crafty enough for me. When I was a kid - a teenager - me and my pals just wanted to become the men who drank Guinness. I remember my first pint, and being proud and slightly terrified. I wouldn't be able for it. I'd pass out or vomit, or I'd hate it - I'd look like a kid among the men. But, luckily, I liked it - or, I persuaded myself that I liked it - and it's been my poison ever since.
The beer you choose is like a marriage. Like your football team or your wife, you've stuck with it for life. Through triumphs and childbirth, relegation and the menopause, your team is your team, your wife is your wife, and your pint is your pint. Call me old-fashioned, I don't give a b****x.
We're in off-licence number six. It's in Castleknock; we had to drive right through the Phoenix Park to get here. I've brought my reading glasses because I can't make out half the stuff that's on the labels. I'm actually looking at the variety of crisps when I hear a shout.
It's the son.
- Found it!
He's holding a bottle of Howling Wreckage. It hits me: it's his face. It's the exact same expression he had when he found the Buzz Lightyear that Santy had left for him at the end of the bed. It's my son there with the bottle; it's my little boy.
I know: there's a big difference between craft beer and Toy Story but, actually, it's the same buzz.