Strictly speaking Offbeat isn’t a bar. Well it is, but that’s not it’s main purpose. The guys who own it created it as a venue to promote live music, including their own. They regularly play as part of their weekly Jeudi Jazz events.
I popped down to have a look one Thursday and I was mightily impressed. Okay, the venue may be small but it’s very intimate and cooly decorated, in a grey minimalist sort of way, even the space under the banquette seats is used for storage.
Most people will fail to realise just how much money has been invested into Offbeat, probably more than they will ever recoup, meaning this is a real vision, a labour of love. If you look at the ceiling and walls you’ll see the various acoustic engineering solutions that have sound proofed and improved the sound quality of the square cave.
Offbeat is on Merchants Street in Valetta, one of the two main East to West streets running from the city gates to Fort St Elmo. Just keep walking out of the busy part, then keep walking a bit more, down the slope towards the quiet end.
As you walk in off the street, the small bar sits in the left corner, the performance area to the right. There’s no draught beers, you wouldn’t expect there to be in a place that only opens Wednesday to Saturday, 8pm – 1am.
There are plenty of bottled beers to go at though. I was taken by the Alveira range. I’d never heard of this Sicilian brewery who are based at Canicattini Bagni, near Syracuse. They are well worth getting to know.
The Imperial IPA was a bit like Brewdog’s Jackhammer, just better; hoppier (seriously), slightly more bitter (seriously) and mouth puckeringly drier. Very balanced for 8%.
Mrs C tried the 5.2% Centobocche Saison. Probably not a truly authentic saison, but a very palatable, easy drinking, slightly sour beer. I loaded up with a couple before the band kicked off and the head foaming out of the bottle neck, as it sat on the table, was noticeable.
I’m not brilliant at Italian but a quick look at both bottles revealed the words ‘Birra Viva’. Literally ‘Live beer’, unfined, unfiltered, conditioning in the bottle. Worth watching out for with Italian beers, although from my limited experience, I’ve found all the small Birifficos to be producing un-messed with, real ale, in their own Italian, cum pan European, USA influenced style.
I guess many traditional UK pub goers would have baulked at the €5 per 330ml bottle prices. All I’d say to them is, ‘Get used to it’. That’s what it costs in Malta, that’s what you have to pay. If you don’t like it then stay at home or go somewhere cheap and cheerful.
Thankfully Offbeat, and many other decent bars, don’t have the John’s Smooth, Guiness, Magners options of the more touristy places, or the people who drink them. You can of course get a bottle of Cisk or similar, which runs out a bit cheaper.
Toilets are like the place itself. Small intimate, well presented and very clean. In fact everything about the place is just spot on. We’d only been there two minutes before we were engaged in conversation with a local sculptor. Fascinating chap who turns out bronze effigies in a workshop up near Luqa Airport. Two minutes later in walks Dominic’s (of 67 Kapitali fame) step dad and then it’s all like being in a proper pub.
The music stopped all the conversation. I wished it would have gone on for ever. I wished I didn’t have to walk back up the long street for the last bus to Sliema. I wished I was still there.
Old standards with a modern take. A moody singer, a sort of Chet Baker influenced female voice, softy dusky notes, heavenly. I think she’s called Marielle Zammit. Apologies if I got your name wrong pet.