Derry’s newest craft beer which is literally steeped in the history of the city dating back 300 years, is being launched on the banks of the Foyle this weekend as part of the Slow Food Festival taking place in Guildhall Square on Saturday and Sunday, October 7th and 8th.
Walled City Brewery has developed its ‘1689’ Mumm ale from an extraordinary recipe dating back to the Siege of Derry and it will be officially unveiled during the exciting new festival organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council as part of Slow Food Week.
This year’s festival will be held on October 7th and 8th from 12 noon-6pm and it will incorporate local craft beer demos and tastings as well as showcasing the region’s finest artisan produce and the culinary flair of some of its most talented chefs and brewers who will be joined by renowned eco-chef and food writer, Tom Hunt for the two-day celebrations.
Aeidin McCarter, Head of Culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, congratulated Walled City Brewery on offering an authentic taste of the North West by crafting food and drink products linked to the history of the city.
She added: “’1689’ continues to tell the story of our historic city as an international tourism destination in a very unique and innovative way which also plays a key role in firmly placing this region on the visitor map for our award-winning ‘LegenDerry and local’ food and drink offer.”
James Huey, owner of the Walled City Brewery, will launch the ground-breaking new craft beer at a gala private function on Saturday evening in the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art) overlooking the City Walls. However, festival-goers will also be able to sample the earthy botanics of the historic tipple in the Craft Beer Garden located in Guildhall Square during the day.
The experienced Head Brewer was fascinated to discover the existence of a heady 17th Century beer reportedly found in the home of Governor George Walker during the Siege of Derry, while embarking on research into the city’s brewing and distilling heritage.
The Siege Diaries housed in the city’s archives document a potent tonic infused with around 77 soothing herbs and spices, many of which are either now extinct or declared poisonous by the World Health Organisation.
As James Huey explained, this special brew appears to have been an elixir to treat a range of ailments including ‘lingering distemper’ and toothache and was not intended to be drunk for pleasure. The ancient recipe also bizarrely had 11 uncooked eggs added at the end of the fermentation process but that is definitely not replicated in the well refined new product which does not claim to have any medicinal properties.
The Head Brewer explained that while the modern day aperitif version may still remain potent in terms of its alcohol content, it should go down the hatch – in moderation – a lot more smoothly than the unique concoction which was brewed at the time of the Siege.
Using all local ingredients including water drawn from a well close to the site of the famous breaking of the boom on the River Foyle which ended the blockade, ‘1689’ will be largely aimed at the tourist market and visitors seeking a “taste of Derry”.
The experimental stage posed an interesting challenge for Walled City Brewery and the local Foodovation Centre who worked closely as development partners on the prototype which was several years in the planning.
James Huey and Brian McDermott, manager of the Foodovation Centre, spent 15 months perfecting the first alcohol product to be developed at the state-of-the-art new food technology facility which opened at North West Regional College last year.
James revealed that while the original Siege ale had an alcohol content of around 13% and was preserved in stoneware bottles, the newly created Mumm-style beer will be around 10 or 11%, which is still significantly higher than the average 4% for most beers brewed here.
James said: “Obviously we can’t say there are any health benefits, we are redefining the liquid to a modern palate. People are not going to be having a pint of ‘1689’, it comes from a category of beer called barley wines and is more like an aperitif.
“I am delighted we can deliver a product that the city can be proud of, that is immersed in history and it reflects the fantastic larder of local ingredients that we have in the North West. This is very much a collaborative approach with Brian McDermott though the Foodovation Centre at North West Regional College and the Council, who have helped and supported throughout in launching this new product and getting it to market. It has taken a lot of time and effort and hopefully it will be rewarding.”
Brian McDermott, manager of the Foodovation Centre, said he was also delighted that what had been a very exciting new product development, had finally come to fruition. “It will be very much a real provenance piece in terms of telling a story pivotal to the city’s history. It is a very unique and very innovative product to hit the market and we are extremely proud to be a strong academic partner in showcasing the collaboration between industry and the College which is working so well through the Foodovation Centre.”
The Slow Food Festival is organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council with funding from Tourism NI and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) NI Regional Food Programme, supported by Slow Food NI and sponsored by Supervalu.
For full details on the Slow Food demonstration programme including brewing master-classes, harvest market, street food and free family-friendly activities in Guildhall Square including Kidz Farm and smoothie bike machine, visit www.derrystrabane.com/food
Image: James Huey raises a toast to the Walled City Brewery’s new ‘1689’ beer inspired by a recipe dating back to the Siege of Derry, which is being launched as part of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Slow Food Festival.