Under the #influence

Despite being a terrible writer and Ireland’s worst blogger, I recently managed to get invited to a couple of events. This means I now belong to that vanguard of heroes, The #Influencers. These digital Veruca Salts have redefined what it means to be a spoiled nobody, and I am delighted to finally be able to take my place among them with my paid-for Twitter followers, click-heavy, zero-engagement blog and ego the size of one of Saturn’s more portly moons. So come with me now as I take you on a guided tour of my fabulous fucking social life via the serpentine route of #coverage.

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Is there any Irish person who doesn’t love cans? There is virtually nothing in this life that a big bag of cans cannot fix, with the exception of cirrhosis of the liver. I hadn’t been to the Franciscan Well in years, the last time being when an ex-girlfriend worked there and I used to go and mope at the bar and recite Smiths lyrics at her, whilst trying to give myself cirrhosis of the liver. Since then it became one of the first brew pubs in Ireland, before ultimately fulfilling the dream of all craft brewers by selling out to a massive multinational, in this case Molson Coors.

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The Well is located a stone’s throw from the gates of the old IDL site on the North Mall (and across the river from the home of George Boole, father of GamerGate). The IDL site was once home to the Wyse family distillery, and the area to the back of it is still known as Distillery Field. If you go in and walk around you can see traces of its distilling past all round you. Fitting then that one of the biggest success stories for the Well has been their alignment with IDL to create both their whiskey-barrel aged stout and the runaway success that is Caskmates, a whiskey finished in stout barrels – although one wag once suggested to me that not even stout is improved by ageing in stout barrels, not to mind whiskey.  

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And so it was that I found myself at the launch of the Well’s latest experiment in liquid containment – cans. Specifically 330ml cans, the classy ones. The Well still brews some beers on-site, but the bulk of the work goes on down the docks, not far from the iconic dockers pub The Idle Hour. Cork trivia alert: The hot mess that is the nearby Elysian high-rise apartment block is known locally as The Idle Tower because of its sparse occupancy.

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I will freely admit that I know even less about craft beer than I do about whiskey, which places me at a solid knowledge level of zero, alongside much of the rest of society. But it’s a movement I can get behind – small firms producing a local drink that eases your emotional pain whilst also tasting nice. The sheer proliferation of craft brewers here has given us a huge variety, so much so that for a novice like me, it’s hard to know where to begin. So I will begin my voyage into craft beer as I begin every journey; with three cans of beer, graciously provided by the good people at the Fran Well and Notorious PSG.

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The Well is a great pub with some great products, and is well worth a visit – especially for their Easter beer fest and legendary Oktoberfest – but also to try their Shandon Stout, which , ironically, is not available in cans.

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Across the city from the Well, on the south channel of the Lee,  sits The River Lee Hotel. Formerly Jury’s – where Jacko stayed, as every Cork person will tell you….repeatedly – the old low-rise hotel was levelled some years ago to make way for this gleaming cube. The Lee is a beautiful hotel, a five-minute walk from the city centre, Fitzgerald Park, UCC and St Finn Barre’s Cathedral.

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Here I was treated to an event to celebrate their winter dining experience, with a focus on their bar menu and seasonal treats. We were introduced to the evening by Pierce Lowney, Bar Manager at The River Lee. He has worked with the hotel’s owners, the Doyle Collection, for over six years, travelling the world through his work, but is originally Allihies in west Cork, a place as beautiful and remote as one of Saturn’s more inaccessible moons. Not too far away is the waterfall known as the Mare’s Tail, where Gemma ‘Artery’ Arterton took a blood shower in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium.

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Beautiful west Cork there, at its seasonal best.

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As we nibbled (or, in my case, inhaled) canapés, we were introduced to Longueville Cider by Rubert Atkinson. Rubert and I went to the same school, and my best memory is of him catching every single throw in Munster Senior Cup lineouts as he was about 6’ 5” – and has possibly even grown a bit more. Longueville House has a great story and their cider and apple brandy are both fantastic winter warmers.

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Next up was Ciaran from West Cork Distillers. WCD have been in operation since 2008 and have recently expanded with the purchase of the old fish processing plant in Skibbereen – a fitting move as the firm was started by two former fishermen (and a food scientist). WCD have their own stock maturing which will be ready for market next year, but in the meantime they have sourced stock from Cooley. You can read more about their own output on the Irish Whiskey Society’s discussion board, suffice to say that WCD’s earlier experiments in ‘infusions’ didn’t go over well.

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Ciaran was quick to point out that their early output was a revenue generator and simply acted to keep the business alive. In a crowded market, they saw an opening for a lower ABV brown spirit, so they improvised. I would imagine that now their own proper whiskey stock is nearing maturity they are releasing some Cooley to try and establish the brand as one for serious whiskey drinkers. Time will tell. I had the Black Barrel and really liked it.

As we moved from the mezz down to the heated outdoor seating on de banks of de Lee, we were treated to even more treats. At this stage I was starting to feel like Hedonism Bot, adrift in a fog of decadent epicurean delights. In reality, I was a guy with mustard on his tie losing consciousness in a wicker chair. So with a heavy heart (it is clogged with cholesterol) I drifted home, head full of potential ways I could leverage my brand into being more #influency so I could get more and more free stuff that I don’t deserve. I’m sure some quality #content might help, so here are a billion photos from the night taken by an actual photographer, as opposed to the Etch-A-Sketch ones above by moi: 

My thanks to Donna from Edelman and Orna from Notorious PSG for allowing me to crash their respective PR parties, and also for helping me to #pivot my #brand from lowly HSE worker to Large Media Presence. Here’s to #influence.

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