An Anti-Wine List I Once Made – Tasting Notes: Hint Of Sarcasm

An Anti-Wine List I Once Made – Tasting Notes: Hint Of Sarcasm

So, I’m not a wine guy. I’ve a sweet tooth, I’ve had some Reislings that I’ve liked and the odd dessert wine, but that’s it. I can’t even go near red… bad experience (haven’t we all??) in my brief uni days. So back when I was managing White’s Tavern, the usual deal was, the company that we signed a deal with to be our wine distributor, would design the wine list. They’d also cover the cost of printing, which for someone like me (no clue about wine and stingy as fuck), was perfect! They get some professional sommelier to write the tasting notes and job’s a good’un. We’d been at this for a few years and I gradually grew sick of the pretentious tasting notes – just guff after guff after guff. I’m sure they genuinely did reflect an accurate description of the wine at hand, but my issue was mainly the following: White’s Tavern is (one of) Belfast’s oldest pubs, it’s a traditional Irish bar – low ceiling, peat fire, great Guinness… for the same reason I never did a cocktail menu, I wasn’t keen on going mad with wines. If you’re a wine aficionado, there’s places you would go to first… This was reflected in the sales too, on the proper wine lists, before my kinda-joke-but-not-really wine list, we sold massively more 1/4 bottles of wine than regular bottles – again, in my experience, wine aficionados aren’t clamouring for a 187.5ml bottle of house plonk. So I thought ‘Fuck It’. I’m going to have fun with this, it’s going to be a bit of light entertainment. Most...
3 Great Crowdfunding Drinks Projects You Can Join

3 Great Crowdfunding Drinks Projects You Can Join

Crowdfunding… you know what it is by now, it’s been one of the biggest changes in the way the world does business in the 21st century. Got a good idea? Could take it to a bank and do the leg work, maybe even have a go at Dragon’s Den… or use a crowdfunding website and get the added benefit of testing if there’s a market for your product at the same time as raising capital. Superb! Locally, the success story of Brewbot, beer and technology wizards who combined to make an automated brewing system that can be controlled via an app and who have since gone on to open their own bar on Belfast’s Ormeau Road, these guys raised over $100,000. Brewbot units are popping up in some of the world’s leading technology companies for staff to use and many, many other places. This makes professional scale and consistency brewing possible for anyone! Here’s a list of some great crowdfunding projects ongoing in the drinks business The Stone Cup Made from metamorphic black marble, each cup is unique – these aren’t made, they’re crafted. Keeping your drink at a more sustained temperature, there’s a practical side to it… also, it looks AWESOME. You can just imagine sitting there with an Old Fashioned in your black marble stone cup, watching some fine documentary about prohibition! Alcohoot Edge A palm-sized bluetooth connected breathalyzer that uses police grade breath sensor technology to accurately track and measure your blood alcohol levels. According to the manufacturer, the Alcohoot Edge allows you to make safer and smarter decisions and also it can improve your health....

Returning Ornaments to Bars

I saw this story on Belfast Live where a drunken reveller stole an ornament from Sweet Afton in Belfast and it reminded me of a tale from my Whites Tavern days. Above the fireplace we had a stuffed animal… honestly, I don’t know if I could accurately say what animal it was… maybe a Stoat? We told people it was a Lagan Rat – the thing was huge. Somebody took it home with themselves after a drunken saturday night. The thing was gone for weeks! To be honest, things get stolen all the time… glassware, cutlery – random things. It just becomes another thing to deal with, but this Stoat was iconic to us. Tourists asked of it all the time, locals too – our wee Stoat. Then one morning I turned up to unlock the building and under the shutters was a thick envelope… no Stoat, but wait… Inside were pictures of the Stoat from locations all around Belfast and the wider area. Someone had taken it to the Castlereagh Hills, to Stormont (the bottom of the hill), Scrabo Tower, Samson & Goliath… even Belfast Zoo (which seemed a bit morbid to me…). How someone took the time and energy to do all this was incredible! It had a note attached that simple said, “We wanted to show him more of the world.” The Stoat never returned home… but we know that he saw more of Belfast than he ever would have from atop a soot covered...
2016 – NI Year of Food & Drink: The NI Cookbook

2016 – NI Year of Food & Drink: The NI Cookbook

Earlier in the year I attended an event at St Georges Market promoting NI producers, both food and drink, I met James McIntosh – a local chap doing fantastically well as an ambassador for Aga cookers and by all accounts, big in China as a TV chef. James spoke at length about his love for what we have here in the province and he quite clearly has a passion for it. 2016 is to be the, “Northern Ireland year of food and drink,” promoting what we have here in NI both to locals and people abroad, we could and should try to become a destination holiday for foodies, why the hell not, look at what we have! James McIntosh is putting together the NI Cookbook where local farmers, artisan producers, brewers, distillers, fishermen, butchers and the rest of the field (so to speak), can share their stories, have a light shone on their creations – both to be marketed at home and abroad. The Year of Food and Drink is something I will hopefully be writing about a lot over the coming year, and I expect I’ll spend a lot of that time reminding people of the ‘Drink’ element of this… Hopefully the local producers will come out of the year a league beyond that which they started in, already local success stories are getting traction elsewhere, Hannon’s Meats, Keen Nut Butter, Finnebrogue Venison, Hilden Brewery, Ruby Blue Liqueur to name but a few – who knows what brand leaders we’ll be talking about next December, but initiatives like McIntosh’s should contribute to that list being longer and longer....
Craft Distiller Profile: Hughes Craft Distillery

Craft Distiller Profile: Hughes Craft Distillery

I’ve known of Hughes Craft Distillery for a few years now, there’s is a slow and steady growth – a growth borne naturally and through constant hard graft. In no way denigrating the NI Craft Beer scene, but there is a certain amount of “scene” about the industry – that is to say that merely by launching a Craft Beer brewery, you are bound to get a reasonable amount of attention and success, such is the en vogue nature of the sector. The Hughes’ have been labouring away at their liqueur business since mid 2010, practically historic in the local alcohol producing industry. I’ve tried their products, the whole range in fact – and they’re delicious (Okay, full disclosure – the Chili Liqueur blew the mouth off me, but I’m a coward when it comes to spice). Quite why they weren’t stocked EVERYWHERE in Northern Ireland has always eluded me. When local food brands are lauded and named on menus across the province, Ruby Blue was still in the process of “making it“. Over time though, Stuart and Barbara Hughes have kept at it and got their company in a position of real strength, as well as their range of real fruit, small batch spirits, they have added Ireland’s first Potato distilled Vodka – which surprised me, because as an Island, we love our spuds and we love our vodka, go figure. The gap was there though and the Hughes’ jumped through it. Now being widely stocked across the province, more and more people are understanding why Barbara and Stuart have continued making what they make, not just because...