This is the first time an IFWG award has gone to an Irish beer – appropriately a stout (being something of a national symbol) which won the Irish Drink Award.
But although White Gypsy’s Russian Imperial Stout is produced in a traditional style, brewer Cuilan Loughnane introduced it to the White Gypsy stable with a non-traditional drinker in mind: to be served in restaurants as a great value local alternative to imported wine.
Aged in new oak barrels built and toasted to order by a French cooper, it’s complex, with big roasted chocolate and burnt malt flavours, light carbonation and an ABV of 7%. It pairs with robust cheeses, rich game and well-marbled beef as well as chocolate desserts.
Cuilan tells me he’s now working on a limited edition sour beer that he hopes to launch soon.
Described as ‘a brewer’s brewer’, the new Chairman of the Independent Craft Brewers Association of Ireland opened Templemore’s White Gypsy brewery in 2009 with 12 years of craft brewing under his belt. He has actively supported newcomers to the sector, has experimented with growing Irish hops for use in occasional brews and has worked closely with Kildare-based maltsters to develop a malt to craft beer specification.
Cuilan takes pride in being the longest-serving hands-on Irish craft brewer.
Another Irish drinks manufacturer Highbank Organic Orchards, who won an IFWG Food Award in 2013 for its Irish Orchard Syrup, this year won the Guild’s Environmental Award.
Highbank Organic Orchards were originally planted by the Calder-Potts family in 1969 to complement the former hop gardens. The orchards and farm were converted to organic production in 1994. This began the process of returning the farm to a more environmentally inclusive husbandry.
Over time, Rod and Julie Calder-Potts have added two small lakes, woodlands and various wildlife habitats. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, while herbicides, chemical fertilisers and manure from animals fed on GM food are strictly avoided.
But in addition to minimising input, the focus at Highbank is on maximising output. A variety of apples are transformed into everything from organic apple juices and ciders – including a non-alcoholic Driver’s Cider – to a range of apple-based spirits (Crystal Apple Gin, Organic Pink Flamingo Gin, Organic Apple Vodka, Organic Orchard Liqueur ‘Brandey’ and a calvados-style Organic Orchard Spirit).
The extremely pleasant Organic Orchard Liqueur was served as a digestif after the lunch. It has a highly distinctive pleasing taste yet uses only apples in its production, according to Julie.
Even the distillery’s waste by-products are put to good use with the acetone going to County Wicklow’s Brooklodge Hotel to be used as organic nail varnish remover!
Six winners were announced altogether at the Awards which recognise the best of the best in food and drink in Ireland and all were representative of the new energy emerging from the midlands for food and drink.
The other IFWG Award winners were Wild Irish Foragers for its full range of products, Silver Darlings for its pickled herrings and Mossfield Organic Farm for its organic milk. Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye Bakehouse and Bread School was presented with a Special Contribution to Irish Food Award.
Real ‘superfoods’ aren’t about fads or trends. The foods worth celebrating are about consistent quality, long-term sustainability, hard work and a massive dollop of passion, stated IFWG Chairperson Aoife Carrigy, speaking at the Awards.
The Guild was launched in 1993 and this year the awards ceremony was hosted at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud for the first time (after being hosted for the last 10 by L’Ecrivain). Here guests gathered for a lunch prepared by Chef and Co-owner Guillaume Lebrun who incorporated the winning produce into a special menu paired with wines provided by Liberty Wines.
The IFWG Food Awards celebrate indigenous food producers and organisations and are considered important as they recognise those who create, make and share great Irish produce and products while helping to maintain Ireland’s outstanding international reputation in food and drink.
“As a nation, our focus should be on the abundance of incredible produce throughout Ireland that’s being made available to consumers by passionate producers who take a sustainable approach to food and food innovation, whether by re-embracing traditional approaches to age-old food sources such as milk, apples or wild berries, or by applying a modern perspective to traditional foods such as Irish fish, stout or bread,” stated Aoife Carrigy.
The IFWG Food Awards are unique in Ireland. No one can enter themselves or their product into the awards and no company knows it has been nominated or shortlisted for an award. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body.
Guillaume Lebrun’s Awards menu:
- Salad of Silver Darlings Irish Herring, Potato, Green Leek Purée and Toasted Buckwheat
- Grilled Irish Hereford Sirloin, Brandy Bay Oyster Cream and White Gypsy Russian Imperial Stout
- Mossfield Organic Farm Milk Pudding, Wild Irish Foragers Spring Nettle Syrup and Caramelised Walnuts
- Riot Rye Bakehouse Borodinsky Sourdough Ice Cream with Malted Chocolate Ganache and Malt Bread Tuile