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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

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...

Craft Beer Profile: Northbound Brewery

Northbound Brewery, based in Eglinton, Co. L’Derry started in 2012 when Martina and David Rogers returned after 9 years living in Australia. Living the Aussie dream in Bondi, David worked for a local brewery and went on to get (very) qualified in the field, one of only 12 people in 2012 globally who qualified as an Institute of Brewing and Distilling Master Brewer… David knows his stuff! When Martina and David relocated back to the shores of Enagh Lough just outside of Northern Ireland’s Second City, they were lucky enough to have Invest NI support them on a small pilot brewery, eventually upscaling to their own purpose build micro brewery in Campsie, which launched their beers to you, I and the rest of the general public in April 2015. Success has followed, just 4 months later and their beers are available across the island or Ireland with 2 distributors in the Republic of Ireland. You can try their brews at: Brewbot, Belfast GAP Wines, Belfast Kiwis Bar, Portrush Salty Dog, Bangor Across all of ROI. I asked David and Martina some questions to get a full understanding of their story, their passion, their brewery and their beers. Who is involved? The two of us at the beginning and the team has grown to include two more part time members of staff to help with increasing local demand and the requests for export. What made you start your own brewing business? Destiny and for the love of beer. We’re passionate about crafting natural beers that are unpasteurised and unfiltered and most importantly, full of flavour. We also had a desire...