Round Ireland with Mac Ivors Cider!
Everyone working in the Irish Craft market knows there’s a budding appetite between producers and brewers to deliver great tasting products to a thirsty nation. The journey of the apple, from blossom, through to picking, pressing, bottling and the delivery into trendy and traditional bars and restaurants the length and breadth of Ireland, adds to the mystery. Taking the bottled products for tastings from Mac Ivors Cider Co’s base in Co Armagh, to over 1,000 outlets in Ireland, is Sarah McNally. Here she talks about how she navigates round a crafty marketplace to get Traditional Dry, Medium and Plum and Ginger ciders into fridges and taps around the country.
Let’s cut to the chase – tell us about Pedro!
Sarah: Well, there’s a lot to tell. Pedro is our cheeky little red fox you can see scampering all over the country now. He brings out the mischief and fun of Mac Ivors. We have loads of stories about him but I can’t give them away unless you ask me in person;-)
Do you ever get time to hang out in the orchards?
Sarah: I’m up to the orchards all the time calling in to make sure Greg is working hard 😉 Greg’s sister Clém has been my best mate since school and we’d always be mucking around in the orchards then with Sammy their dad showing us around and trying to get us interested in the apples. Little did he know I was actually paying attention hahaha! Now I love getting up and seeing the orchards. Blossom has to be my favourite time of the year. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I also like telling people about the apple trees and about Armagh being the Orchard County as many people don’t really know that much about it. Being from Tyrone, we don’t like to recommend Armagh too highly to people but it has to be done 😉
What’s the funniest part of your job?
Sarah: My job is all about having the craic with people. I’ve always loved working in sales and in this job you need to be able to have a bit of banter. People are always trying to wind me up, whether it be about me being from the North, Tyrone football, the price ;-). But I love giving it back to people and I think that’s what it’s all about. I get called “cider girl” sometimes which is hilarious – seven or eight years ago I never drank cider and it was only when I started tasting proper cider that my eyes were opened to the joy. Ha ha ha!
What’s not so funny?
Sarah: Sometimes it can be frustrating when you can’t get someone on board, some people have a misconception of cider being the “loony juice” that is drunk from a plastic flagon in a field by teenagers. Once they try Mac Ivors they can see it’s completely different to what they remember (or thought they remembered) about cider but it can be difficult sometimes to get people to even taste it. Once they do though they’re amazed at how good it tastes! Because I’m such a fan of our cider too and it’s almost like family to me so I take it personally. It’s fantastic when I get the sales and the great reactions from people but on the flipside it can be hard when I can’t get people to ‘see the light’.
Traditional Dry, Medium or Plum and Ginger?
Sarah: Good question! Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ha! Ah it depends. If I’m having a nice dinner it would usually be the Trad Dry but for ‘pinting’ I’d go Medium and P&G any time at all
What’s your average day like working for a cider maker?
Sarah: Hectic! There’s always something to be done. I spend most of my time calling into our customers and potential customers, but then there’s social media, event planning, tastings, staff tastings, sales and marketing. No two days are the same in this job. We can loosely plan where in the country I’ll be but it often changes as things come up. I’ll get a call that kegs need collected in such and such a place, so it’s off there I trot! Thankfully there are customers everywhere so wherever I go there are people to see.
How many miles per week do you travel?
Sarah: Depends where I’m based usually but trying to cover the whole country certainly racks up the miles! Thankfully I have my comfy Cider-mobile!
Describe the Irish craft marketplace in seven words!
Sarah: The best tasting drinks in the world;-)
What’s been the biggest trend in recent years in the Irish craft cider market?
Sarah: It’s just getting people to taste craft cider and to taste the difference. A premium drink made from freshly pressed apple juice! Showing off these wonderful apples and the amazing things they can make. Fruit cider is so trendy now too so finding that flavour that is going to excite people and get them drinking lots of it.
Is there a place in the fridge for everyone?
Sarah: No. Only Mac Ivors;-) Only joking. It depends on where you’re talking about. Some bars can only have room for one brand but others may have the shelf space for a few – fridge space is our real estate! There are lots of fantastic craft ciders and beers out there and we want people to try for themselves and make their own judgement on their fave (obvs it’ll be Mac Ivors 😉
Have you got your own nickname for your job?
Sarah: Cider girl or Sarah Mac (wrong Mac but who’s to know)!
Do your customers have a nickname for you when they see you coming?
Sarah: Cider Girl, or ‘yourwan’!
You must get to loads of festivals and events. What are the key events?
Sarah: Yeah this year we will be hitting a good few festivals which is great. Although they’re hard work and long days it’s really good fun! I love Big Grill festival in Dublin in August as the last two years the weather’s been class and the BBQ food is unreal (with a pint of cider can’t be beaten!) The craft beer festivals are fab too and the Twilight markets in Belfast are special as they’re so festive. (I’m a big fan of fairy lights J)
What’s to love about being a festival goer?
Sarah: Getting to try absolutely everything! I love sampling new products that people have and tasting loads of things I may not have seen before. The craic is always great too as at a lot of these festivals, the brewers and cider makers are there to have a good time too!! Putting a face to a brand I think is always nice too so when you’re meeting the girl or guy behind your favourite cider or beer it makes it so much more personal and local! It’s about having a great time and enjoying it with the best food and drink that is on offer out there!
Does it feel 24/7?
Sarah: This is a way of life hahaha! It sort of is 24/7 but when you enjoy something and really believe in it it’s not work really. I work regular enough hours but there might be someone who needs an order at 8pm on a Friday or people tweeting about us on a Sunday morning (hangovers and Twitter – not fun) – but I always try to be on the ball all the time! On nights out I find myself eyeing up the fridges and checking what’s in stock or trying to wheedle info from bar staff on what’s selling and why. (God I sound like some craic on a night out don’t I!) The thing about it is though that I love Mac Ivors Cider so on nights out when I’m drinking it, people think I’m doing it to represent the cider but I really just love the taste!
What’s your favourite pairing?
Sarah: Traditional Dry with Pork Belly-Apple and pork always a safe bet! I made the most delicious dinner for mum last Mother’s day – apple and onion pork belly with poached pears cooked in Traditional Dry (the recipe in on our blog actually) and I’m still the favourite daughter (well, only daughter) so I’d highly recommend trying it out!
Instagram, Facebook or Twitter – what’s your platform of choice?
Sarah: I love Instagram. It doesn’t take much time and it’s all about the visuals. My friend Clém (Greg’s sis) tries to teach me a bit about getting the best shots and of course- the filtering and I really enjoy it so that would be my fave. Twitter is great for keeping up to date with everything but I can get very easily sucked in and next thing an hour has been lost!
What’s your most used hashtag?
Sarah: Has to be #FollowTheFox J Check us out!!