The continued growth of the craft drinks scene appears to be accompanied by a surprising paradox: the gradual demise of the specialist off-license. One such imperiled establishment was the ever-trusty off-license attached to the front of the legendary Whelan’s bar on Wexford Street.
Having fallen victim to the ever-changing times, a comfort to those who mourn its loss is its replacement, a small bar that strives to promote Irish product. Stocking an exclusively independent Irish range, this culture extends to their choice of mixers, with a nostalgic blast from the past: Cadet cola favoured over the Coke-Cola or any other global brand.
Staying true to independent brands, Bourke’s selection of spirits has the noticeable absence of some main stays such as Jameson whisky. But where we may miss some familiar names, we gain a number of the smaller batch Irish craft spirits from around the land. This is no more noticeable than in the Irish gin market, with dozens of Irish distillers appearing to spring up almost over night.
With just the 6 draught taps available, their minimalist beer selection includes Guinness, the one only exception to their 50% Irish rule. The remainder of the taps rotate on a regular basis, exhibiting the wide range that is the Irish craft beer scene. Further embracing the craft scene, their rotation includes a cask tap.
One of the first noticeable aspects of the bar is its quiet atmosphere. Far enough from the Whelan’s bustle and without music over the stereo, the bar serves as a small oasis of calm on an otherwise chaotic street.
Having visited the bar on a Friday night, the notable absence of background music only served as a catalyst for the cross-conversing of the different groups of customers and bar man.
However, as this bar is part of the greater Whelan’s establishment, famous for it’s musical heritage, there are a number of regular acoustic performances held in the back of the bar.
All this considered, Bourke’s certainly makes for a welcome arrival to what can often be a street of over crowded bars. This is certainly a place I will be visiting again when looking to escape the thrall of the Camden street crowds.
Having previously devoted every ounce of his spare time to music, Tony is more commonly found these days in a kitchen than on a stage. With experience in writing on festivals and shows around the country he has recently turned his pen to more culinary exposés. With a particular penchant for craft beer he can often be spotted travelling from one bar to another in search of the latest brew to hit the market.