By Sam Butler
WHITEWATER Brewery, from Castlewellan, has won the prestigious Northern Ireland Regional Golden Fork at the final stages of this year’s Great Taste Awards in London.
The County Down brewery, a Food NI member, won the top local award for its unique and strong (ABV10.5 per cent) Kreme de la Kremlin Imperial Russian Stout in the annual awards. The stout is produced in 330ml cans at the brewery in Whitewater’s recently opened brewery, located in the foothills of the Mournes.
The unique brew, developed by Bernard Sloan, founder and owner of Whitewater Brewery, also recently won its first business in Sweden on the back of the company’s achievements with other brews in Japan and Singapore.
Welcoming Whitewater’s success at the Great Taste Awards, Michele Shirlow, chief executive of Food NI, said: “Everyone in the Food NI family will be delighted by the success of a brewery which has pioneered craft brewing in Northern Ireland and indeed on the island of Ireland. It’s now an internationally respected brewery which has remained true of craft brewing techniques. It’s also the first craft brewery to win the Regional Golden Fork.
“We look forward to working with the ambitious brewery as it seeks to grow sales, particularly in Britain, still its most important marketplace. We also congratulate the seven other local companies which reached the final stage: Craic Foods, Craigavon; En-Place Foods, Cookstown; Hannan Meats, Moira; Irish Black Butter, Portrush; Little Bakehouse, Dromore; Millbay Oysters, Kilkeel; and Neill’s Flour, Belfast.
“It represented another great year of achievement for our fabulous food and drink in these most important benchmarking awards,” added Mrs Shirlow.
Bernard Sloan continued: “We are absolutely delighted to have won the Regional Fork for Northern Ireland, the first craft brewery, I believe, to achieve this immensely important recognition. It’s a great endorsement of the craft brewing sector in Northern Ireland. The award has been 22 years in the making.
“The award will be extremely important to us as we seek to grow our existing business particularly in Great Britain, a key market for us especially with a scary no-deal Brexit scenario looming. In addition, we see significant opportunities for all our beers in global markets and will benefit substantially from the recognition in such an internationally recognised competition.”
Mr Sloan founded Whitewater Brewery at Attical, near Kilkeel in 1996 and subsequently decided to invest in a new brewery at Castlewellan because of the rapid growth in demand for his range of original beers, ales and stouts in bottles, cans and kegs. He has been assisted by Invest NI.
He describes the winning Imperial Russian Stout as “a strong and richly flavoured dark stout that’s been carefully brewed and then aged for 12 weeks in whiskey casks in the brewery. It packs quite a punch”.
“While we now operate from a purpose-built brewery, among the most modern in Ireland, we remain faithful to craft brewing techniques that ensure premium quality and consistently outstanding taste,” adds Mr Sloan.