Good brews for park

A multi-million euro brewing investment has commenced on Cork city’s Marina Park— ironically, in a 50,000 sq ft unit previously used by Beamish and Crawford as a distribution depot.

Negotiated by James Cogan of ERA Commercial, for Gerry Wycherly’s Marina Commercial Park which has 150 tenant companies and hosts 1,500 jobs, it’s one of the biggest single industrial lettings in Cork in the past several years.

The new brew base, which is expected to have a visitor/tour centre, is in a high-profile quayside setting facing Horgans Quay and Water Street, with scope to directly access Kennedy Quay.

The new 50,000 sq ft Franciscan Well brewery is set to open in 2015, and will produce a range of beers for Irish and UK markets, and already has a trail of international awards and gold medals earned from its existing tiny brew houses.

Behind the move is one of Ireland’s longest established artisan micro- or independent brewers, Franciscan Well, which has been brewing in Cork’s North Mall since 1998. It was acquired by Molson Coors in 2012 in an undisclosed multi-million euro deal, and is still headed up by founder Shane Long who’s now spearheading the expansion into the Marina Commercial Park— the old Ford factory, where there’s now 1,500 employed across a range of tenants and businesses.

At the time of Coors’ buy-out, it was reported the new brewery operation could produce 150,000 kegs a year, and double current employment of six to 12-15.

The step-up in production comes at a time when the market for craft beer is growing exponentially, up from 1% of beer sales in 2012 to as much as 5% by next year, Shane Long reckons.

Back when he started in 1998, there were 11 craft brewers in this sector nationally, of which just three of the originals have survived. But, with new entrants and a massive surge in demand, there’s as many as 60 now, and that will grow to 100 by 2015, with up to 14 in Cork alone, predicts Mr Long.

And, as a historic brewing base, Cork is also still home to Heineken and Beamish and Crawford brewing and brands.

Franciscan Well beers include Chieftain, Rebel Red (an international Gold Medal winner,selling strongly in places like Belfast) and have scooped a number of top international awards, including a Gold at the World Beer awards 2013. Another is a collaboration with Jameson, with pale ale aged in old Jameson whiskey barrels.

While the initial idea to expand production was to meet UK and overseas market demand, the Irish craft beer market alone has grown so rapidly that the bulk of production will stay at home, followed by expansion into the UK, suggested Mr Long.

Franciscan Well already hosts visitor tours and tastings at its North Mall pub/brewery, as well as training courses for potential start-ups and new brewers which are funded by Skillnet. Mr Long said they had looked for other comparable sized space around Cork, but little fitted this 50,000 sq ft size and profile, so close to the city centre. He added that working with Marina Commercial Park’s manager Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Gerry Wycherly “was the best fit for us —they’re progressive landlords and worked tirelessly with us to create the best environment for our brewery.” He added that City Hall had been very progressive and facilitative, both at the North Mall and at the Marina Commercial Park.

Lease terms haven’t been disclosed and ERA’s James Cogan said it was a big statement for the Franciscan Well to open in the city. Close to docklands, the Marina Commercial Park currently had up to 150 occupants and firms, from one-person operators to multi-nationals (including three churches); a data centre; leisure attractions with karting to start shortly; a cafe and 24-hour security.

Meanwhile, also fresh on the brewing front in Cork city centre is the Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House, a nanobrewery and restaurant with 20 covers. It opened last week next to the Market Lane restaurant, headed by Conrad and Judy Howard, with Jerry O’Sullivan. It produces a range of eight beers, ales and lagers, for associated restaurants at Market Lane, Blackrock Castle, and Orso.

Details: ERA Commercial 021-4905000; www.mcp.ie; www.franciscanwellbrewery.com; www.elbowlane.ie


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