The Future’s Bright If The Future’s Not Orange

Northern Ireland has many problems. Verlede. . . . . . Iraganeko. . . . . . Pagātne. . . . . . Gorffennol Or, in English, “The Past” Much has been made of trying to deal with the past, as if it is a drunken great aunt who drinks too much sherry at family occasions, says something in appropriately racist and comes on to the boyfriend of a younger family member. And much like this metaphorical great aunt, we’re constantly worried about it in the lead up to certain occasions, we panic and we discuss “what do we do, what do we do!! Won’t somebody think of the children!!!!” And then it happens. Exactly how we always knew it would and exactly how we always know it will….and then we say “well, that’s that over with until next time…” Why? Why does nobody ever tell Great Aunt Phyllis that she’s not welcome anymore and to fuck off back to the nursing home where she belongs. Why do we never tell The Past to fuck off back to The Past? We make the right noises at times, but an infinite number of monkeys out in front of an infinite number of keyboards would eventually write the Good Friday agreement. Making noises aren’t enough. Please don’t let the title of this blog suggest I am bias one way or the other, I’m truly not. If anything, I should be bias towards protestant/loyalist communities. After all, I was one of them…sort of. I remember my younger summers spent rolling those big wooden cabling wheels into orangefield park prior to the bonfires....

The fall and rise of Auntie Annies neè The Bar With No Name ©

To begin with….I loved auntie annies. It was precisely my kind of bar. High ceiling and wood panelling to really amplify the banter of the crowd. Big bar with good choices, unpretentious music selection, erring a little towards the alternative. That’s what Auntie Annies was, mainstream erring a little towards the alternative. Not as grungy as Laverys can be, not as preppy as Filthy Mcnastys can be, not as passing-trade as the Garrick can be. It was precisely what it was, unashamedly proud to be Auntie Annies Porterhouse (with no porter available for sale…go figure! The height of irony, but not in a Filthy McNasty kind of ironic irony……) When it closed, I like many, was relatively distraught. I went in every couple of weeks because I live close and I don’t go out often. And there are many people who have raised the same sentiment, and that this somehow helped contribute to its demise. Bollocks. Auntie Annies closed because the administrators and the bank didn’t want to keep it running any longer. Yeah, it probably wasn’t making much money, but that’s the bar trade in most venues these days, I don’t think annies was hurting more or less than anywhere else. Perhaps there was some reticence on behalf of tour promotors to schedule a gig with the future in the balance, but in the last year or so it really seemed to focus on local acts, superb! It is my belief this always was a viable business. I had somewhat of a passing interest in it, from a taking-it-on point of view. Both before it finally closed doors...
Who on earth would be a Bar Manager?

Who on earth would be a Bar Manager?

Recently, I received a message asking how someone would go about becoming a bar manager. I asked some questions and gave some advice and that was that…but recently, I’ve thought more about the initial request. Mainly….why? This person said they were currently a general manager of a large turnover retail store. I have never worked retail, so I can’t begin to discuss the pro’s & con’s of that particular industry…I’m sure January sales, shoplifters, arguments over returns policy….all of these would get to you. What I can discuss however, is managing a bar. This person wants to step into my every day nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, managing a bar is not exactly hell on earth, but when it goes wrong, it goes incredibly wrong. In my opinion, other than the emergency services, when it goes wrong, when you’re really in the weeds….it is as disastrous as a work environment gets. I’ve always been surprised that no sitcom or drama has focused on working in a bar environment. Sure, eastenders, 2 pints of lager etc all feature pubs and working in them, but that is not the focus…there is such a wealth of catastrophe and chaos that it could not fail to be hilarious. All too often I have to mentally step back from situations and internally laugh maniacally at the situation at hand. This is what bar managers deal with. We don’t have lives. We try, and we may even succeed briefly, but we are the beck and call of our staff. Short of leaving the country to visit a country with minimal mobile phone reception, we are...

Northern Ireland – An Alcohol Producers Renaissance

Lots has been said and written regarding the relative health of the Northern Irish brewing industry, and so to regarding the Armagh Cider area, with even some discussion on if it can receive PGI Status, recognizing the uniqueness and importance of this production region. Although I have also heard that Comber spuds are pushing for this too…so maybe it isn’t as significant a move as I initially presumed. But how do we compare to a similarly sized region? I initially did a basic google search for population comparison, and Northern Ireland comes fairly close with Kosovo, and whilst both regions have a history rooted in conflict, Northern Ireland is trying to underline its identity as a brewing hub…Kosovo is still trying to underline its existence as a sovereign nation…so perhaps not a good comparison, also, with over 95% of the population defining themselves as Islamic, alcohol production probably hasn’t got further than Rakia for the tourists. I then thought I would look towards our western neighbours, the USA. Specifically, Nebraska. NI(1.81million) NE (1.86million), we have much in common demographically, and looking specifically again towards religion, NE is 90% Christian, and NI is 82%, so despite the differences, it is a fair assumption that similar values can be compared. The brewers association of America (boo and hiss away….) ranked Nebraska at 14th per Capita in craft breweries in 2011, with roughly one brewery for every 101,000 residents. So how does Northern Ireland compare? Hilden, Whitewater, Clanconnel, Ards Brewing Co., Farmageddon, Pokertree, Clearsky, Hercules, Inishmacsaint, Red Hand, Sheelin, Ards Brewing, Hillstown Brewery, Northbound So that’s 14 breweries for 1.8million inhabitants, at...