Franciscan Well celebrates its 20-year journey from a microbrewery into one of the country's biggest beer producers

Franciscan Well celebrates its 20-year journey from a microbrewery into one of the country's biggest beer producers
Noel Finn, general manager of the Franciscan Well Brewery and Shane Long, founder of Franciscan Well Brewery at the 20th anniversary of the Brew Pub on the North Mall. Pic: Gavin Browne

CORK'S famed Franciscan Well brewery has celebrated 20 years in the craft brewing sector.

In that time, it has moved from a small operation to one of the country's biggest beer producers and will brew 90,000 kegs by the end of 2018.

Founder Shane Long and his team have worked hard to carve out an important role at the heart of Ireland's brewing industry and can now be found in almost every bar in Cork, as well as hundreds nationally.

Export trade is growing too, with bars in England and Scotland keen to get their hands on the beers, with plans for further expansions established too.

It is a long way from the 'pots and pans homebrew' that started up on the site of an old Franciscan monastery and well, which dates back to the year 1219.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would still be here," Shane told the Evening Echo.

"The industry has completely transformed in the last 20 years. 'Craft' is a word that only crept into everyday use in the last five years when the hipsters started drinking it."

In 2013, the Franciscan Well struck a deal with Molson Coors, the fifth biggest brewery in the world.

The previous year, Shane and his team brewed 4,500 kegs of beer. It was the most successful year they had ever had in their 14 years. This year, they will brew 90,000 kegs, an increase of 1900% in just six years.

The beers are on sale all over Ireland and in Scotland and England. A planned expansion to the US is temporarily on hold as demand for beer continues to grow locally.

The company's docklands brewing facility, which opened in 2017 in the Marina Commercial Park, was expected to last for more than five years before it hit capacity. It reached that maximum capacity in just six months.

More tanks are on order to continue growth and to meet current demand, Shane said.

It has been a long road for the company, which now has 26 employees in total. This includes brewer Peter Lyall, who has brewed on the North Mall site for 19 years, as well as 14 brewers based full-time in the Marina Commercial Park brewing facility.

"We are an overnight success - a night that took 20 years," Shane joked.

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