Hellbent launches unique lager as sausages sizzle in Britain

Food and drink entrepreneurs Louis Ludik and Schalk van der Merwe have diversified into craft brewing to accompany their success in producing South African influenced beef sausages, burgers, meat balls and pork dishes here from mostly local ingredients.

They own and run Hellbent in Belfast, an ambitious and innovation-led food company which has established Boerewors coiled beef sausages in particular on supermarket shelves throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Hellbent, a Food NI member company, heard last week that the unique sausages have been listed by leading German discount grocer Lidl in its network of supermarkets in England, Scotland and Wales. The company, which has longstanding relationships with Lidl in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, gained its biggest deal to date with the supermarket in Britain.

In addition to its range of foods which use local beef and pork with a blend of distinctive spices from the duo’s South African homeland, the company is also marketing quality red and white wines and Homefire brandy, beverage from collaborations with specialist producers in the Cape Town region, now among the world’s leaders in premium wines and brandy.

Their latest innovation is ‘Beneath the Copper Sun’ lager under the Our Brewery by Get ‘Er Brewed identity. Get ‘Er Brewed at Randalstown in Co Antrim is vastly experienced and successful in all aspects of the brewing industry here. The team there helped to develop the recipe with Hellbent for the unique lager and then to produce the collaborative beer in handy cans.

“Our lager is a unique blend of South African flavours and hops. It’s African born, Irish made collaboration,” explains Louis. He says the move into brewing was “a logical development” for Hellbent. “It’s a step that’s been in our business thinking for some time. It made sound sense to develop a lager because our sausages and burgers are frequently grilled on barbecues. Our great beer, Beneath the Copper Sun, is ideal when grilling meats on the barbecue or for any other occasion,” Louis adds.

“We use Rooibos Tea from South Africa to give the lager a light floral and honey-like taste and its distinctive copper hue,” he continues. “It’s a light and refreshing drink that’s perfect for any barbecue or for dinking at any time,” he adds. Louis continues that the goal underpinning the new beer is “to unite cultures”. “South Africa is a mash to cultures – Dutch, French, English, Asian, Zulu, Xhosa to name a few, all mixing in the South African heat.

“The lager is a nod to this. It’s brewed in Northern Ireland from Belgian malts and based on a German lager recipe. This shows that good things can happen when cultures collide. All our products reflect a cultural collision from our focus on building relationships between Northern Ireland and South Africa “The beer really is one of a kind. It’s the first time that a lager has been infused with Rooibos tea, which is a firm favourite in South Africa. Rooibos is a uniquely South African tea made at Cederberg in the Western Cape region,” he says.

Rooibos is a herbal tea that’s seen as a good alternative to black or green tea, especially for people who want to avoid caffeine or tannins. It is also reported to rich in antioxidants, which may have health benefits.

“The brewery experimented with a small batch brew to ensure all the flavours worked together well. Once we were all happy with the quality and taste, the beer was scaled up to full production,” explains Louis. “Our challenge now is to increase awareness of the lager and grow sales here and further afield. It’s now an integral part of our growing portfolio of foods and drinks.

Louis and Schalk came to Northern Ireland to play rugby for Ulster and subsequently launched Hellbent, in 2018, to create “delicious culture collisions” of Irish beef and pork with South African spices. Both have also continued their roles in rugby through coaching local teams. Louis, a marketer from Johannesburg by profession, and Schalk, who hails from a farming background at Tzaneen in South Africa’s fertile agri-food Limpopo region, created the distinctive recipes for all their successful meats.

The Hellbent beef sausages have also won UK Great Taste awards and have been listed by leading supermarkets including Eurospar and Lidl in Northern Ireland, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl in the Republic. Boerewors – the name means ‘farmer’s sausage’ in Africaans – are traditionally made from 90 percent ground beef with spices such as coriander, black pepper and nutmeg.