Touring: Cork City’s Watering Holes with Caroline Hennessy

2nd January 2018

Interview: Sophie Missing
Photographs: Dan Dennison

Part of an ongoing collaboration with Fáilte Ireland

The Gannet first met Caroline Hennessy at Ballymaloe Litfest in 2015 and was immediately struck by her knowledge of Irish food and drink and enthusiasm to match. Writer, broadcaster, and co-author (with Kristin Jensen) of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider, Caroline is also the marketing mastermind at Eight Degrees, an award-winning independent craft brewery based just outside Mitchelstown, Co Cork. She’s a woman with many strings to her bow and great company to boot: who better, then, to show us the sights and brews – from coffee to craft beer – the city has to offer.

The plan is to meet outside the Japanese restaurant Miyazaki on Evergreen Street. Driving there, we pass the imposing grey turrets of University College Cork where Caroline both studied and worked as a tour guide, a skill that will come into evidence over the course of the evening. It’s late afternoon in mid-September and there’s a mild drizzle going, though our spirits aren’t dampened – and nor are we, thanks to the umbrellas with which Caroline has had the generous foresight to come armed.

Nothing allows you to get a greater sense of a place, especially a city, we all agree, than walking around it, and central Cork lends itself to the activity perfectly. “Cork is kind of on an island with the Lee on both sides – it was once the Venice of Ireland,” Caroline explains – and as we meander from place to place, crossing back and forth over the river, a map of the city begins to build in our minds.

Follow Caroline: Website | Twitter | Instagram

For more info on Eight Degrees, go to their website



Time: 4pm

Coffee is the first order of the day and Caroline has recommended we check out this recent addition to the Cork bean scene, opened in February 2017. Soma is a cosy space with a chic minimal vibe – inky walls, polished concrete floor, pale wooden stools and dim golden filament lightbulbs – and the perfect place to shelter from the brief shower outside.

Caroline says hello to the owner, Alex, who worked in one of Caroline’s other favourite coffee bars in the city – Filter – before branching out to open his own place. We perch near the light of the storefront window and chat through our plans for the evening over our coffees, which come in cheerful turquoise cups.

What we had: Two flat whites and an Americano with milk.

What we talked about: UCC and its Arts and Crafts chapel. The joy of good local restaurants. Cork’s traffic in the rain. Campus radio. Beamish. The transformation of the craft beer scene in Ireland over the past 12 years.

23 Tuckey Street, Cork T12 WD98, Ireland; Facebook


The English Market

Time: 4.45pm

It’s a few minutes’ stroll to the second destination on the agenda, the 19th-century covered food market slap bang in the centre of town. “If you leave Cork and you’ve not been, lads, it’ll be shocking,” Caroline says, guiding us with the skill of a seasoned pro. “I feel like I should have my umbrella up!”

We zigzag through the aisles, checking out traders from On the Pig’s Back (the place for Irish and French cheese plus fresh bread made by Declan Ryan of Arbutus) to Mr Bell’s (a spice and ethnic food emporium where Caroline used to buy cut-price broken basmati as a student), picking up a few bits along the way, and taking note of the Farmgate café upstairs, overlooking the market, which we’ve earmarked for tomorrow’s breakfast.

On the way out, we pause to check out the fermented drinks on offer at My Goodness – a newly permanent addition to the market, having previously occupied its start-up space. Within moments, the woman working there has figured out that Caroline’s mother was her old primary school teacher. “Very small world in Cork,” says Caroline.

What we had: A little taster of “Nitro” (dandelion, raw cacao and vanilla) from My Goodness.

What we bought: Spiced beef, a Cork specialty, from Tom Durcan; Killeen goat’s cheese; local butter; and a bottle of Sriracha (“We ran out of it the other day at the brewery,” says Caroline, “and the lads were nearly crying.”).

What we talked about: Student shopping. Fermented foods. Sightings of albino foxes.

Princes Street, Cork T12 RW26, Ireland;


L’Atitude 51

Time: 5.07pm

The rain has eased up and it’s a pleasant walk down South Mall, “the traditional commercial centre of the city”, to this well-situated corner bar facing out to the Lee. The inside is just as welcoming as the exterior: bright and convivial with a sophisticated local bar-brasserie feel thanks to the chalkboard menus and wine-themed French illustrations on the brick walls.

Caroline explains that this spot used to be the Lobby Bar, a legendary-sounding pub with a venue upstairs (“They’d absolutely ram people in, you’d be hanging off the rafters”). It’s where she was introduced to Tia Maria and milk, apparently a great hangover cure (“just don’t overdo it”). In its new airy guise, wine – particularly sherry – craft beer, and a simple, rustic menu featuring homemade soups and stews is more the order of the day. Sadly, though the spirit is strong, the flesh is weak, and we’re still full from lunch. However, a couple of glasses of sherry and a local cider, all recommended by the owner Beverley, do a fine job of beginning to whet our appetite.

What we had: Two glasses of Goya XL Manzanilla en Rama and a pint of Longueville House cider.

What we talked about: Porridge and what to put on it (Caroline sells porridge-phobic photographer Dan on toasted flaked almonds, a thin sprinkling of dark muscovado sugar, and a dollop of cold yoghurt). Wiston Estate sparkling wine. The ridiculous number of times we each panic we’ve lost our respective phones daily. Why people leave where they’re from.

1 Union Quay, Cork T12 DY75, Ireland; 021 2390219;


Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House

Time: 6.58pm

We’ve timed it so that we arrive at Elbow Lane – a four-story ca 1750-60 building housing a restaurant and nano-brewery where the unfiltered beers on offer are brewed upstairs above the bar – before it gets too busy. They don’t take bookings, and the 25-seat L-shaped room tends to fill up quickly, we’re told. It’s easy to see why: it’s the kind of place where you could easily lose several hours.

We luck out as manager Jerry O’Sullivan, who is as friendly as he is passionate and knowledgeable, gives us a whistle-stop tour of the impressively compact set-up. Once we’re ensconced back in the dangerously plush leather stools at the end of the bar, Caroline gives us her tips on beer tasting, which we put to practise before deciding it’s time for some food. Much of the menu is cooked on the wood-fired grill, with the beers cutting through the smoky fattiness brilliantly, and the seaweed and potato gratin is plate-scrapingly good.

What we had: A taste of five house nano brews (Drawbridge Amber Lager, Elbow Lager, Angel Stout, Arrow Weisse, Wisdom Ale). 1 pint Amber, 1 pint Elbow, 1 pint Wisdom. Pan-seared plaice, mussels, fried green tomatoes, fermented tomato salsa x 2, wood grilled lamb chops, miso honey glaze, grilled fermented leeks, lentil puree x 1, a side of seaweed and potato gratin. And chips.

What we talked about: Picklebacks and the danger thereof. The Savoy cinema in Dublin. Why having worked multiple jobs is the essence of our generation. Aprons. The hazards of mandolining.

4 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork T12 YH24, Ireland; +353 21 239 0479;


The Bierhaus

Time: 8.40pm

It’s time for another beer, and we’re keen to try one from Eight Degrees, Caroline’s brewery, so we make an executive decision to head to the Bierhaus. En route, Caroline takes us over the Shandon Bridge which is illuminated until you start to cross it: the quicker you walk across, the quicker the lights disappear. This proves to be a fun and rather distracting game.

We finally tear ourselves away from the bridge and head to Pope’s Quay on the waterfront. Inside, the Bierhaus is busy in both senses of the word: there are flags hanging from the ceilings, posters covering the walls, a seemingly endless list of international beers and ciders on a massive chalkboard hanging over the bar, and card tables seeing some poker action (it is, we later discover, Tony’s Texas Hold’em Tuesday). The atmosphere is lively and enlivening. There are no free tables, so we perch on the end of someone else’s, and quiz Caroline on the nitty gritty of running your own brewery, while sampling the very delicious results (“obnoxiously good” is the official verdict).

What we had: Pints of Eight Degrees’ Hurricane IPA all round.

What we talked about: How having a personal investment in your work makes a huge difference. Marketing. Full Monty-style photoshoots. Northern Ireland. 17-year-strong bookclubs.

28 Pope’s Quay, Cork, Ireland; +353 (0)21 4551648;


The Hi-B Bar

Time: 10.37pm

When we arrive at our final destination everything takes on a slightly dreamlike quality. Not more than a handful of doors down from Elbow Lane, the Hi-B is the kind of place you’d walk past unless you knew what you were looking for, with a nondescript doorway through which you ascend (and there is something a bit spiritual about the journey) a steep, authentically grotty flight of stairs to the hidden pub above.

Inside, it is old-school – like being in someone’s living room, in the best possible way. There is a pleasure to be had in matching drink to place – a dry martini at a fancy hotel bar, a cold beer at a beach café – and there is no question that Beamish, the local stout, placed on ancient cardboard coasters, is the drink to be drinking at the Hi-B.

This is a place for conversation over a pint and, as if to underline this point, there is a prominent sign on display stating, “No mobiles allowed”. It is apparently quite easy, and something of a badge of honour, to be ejected from the Hi-B; as we settle ourselves at a table, sure enough, a man is being turned away from the bar, while What the World Needs Now Is Love plays peaceably in the background. Suddenly a crowd of people pour in from nowhere: it’s close to 11pm on a Tuesday but at the Hi-B it’s all kicking off.

What we had: Three pints of Beamish – and rehydrating water.

What we talked about: By this point, the recorder had long been turned off, and much of what was said is lost to the night, bar an enigmatic note reading, “Trying to get conversation out of him was like getting blood out of a turnip”, a sentiment that could not be applied to any of the company present on the evening in question.

108 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork, Ireland; Facebook

This is part of an ongoing collaboration with Fáilte Ireland.

Posted 2nd January 2018

In Touring


Interview: Sophie Missing
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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