‘Say cheese’ was the phrase on the lips of foodie fans as thousands flocked to the Big Cheese & Beer Expo organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) at the weekend. One of the main highlights of NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, the three-day extravaganza in Guildhall Square celebrated some of the finest craft beers and cheeses being produced locally as part of Brewing and Distilling month. The event was supported by the Tourism NI Event Fund and by DARD under the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme.
Among the star attractions was Sean Wilson aka Martin Platt from ‘Coronation Street’ – now a celebrated chef and cheese maker - who impressed fans with his cheese-inspired cookery demos in the festival marquee on Saturday afternoon.
The North West’s own wealth of popular local talent - and produce - was as always to the fore with delicious demos by Brian McDermott (The No Salt Chef) and Emmett McCourt of ‘Feast or Famine’ award-winning world cookery book fame.
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Elisha McCallion, warmly congratulated the Council’s Tourism team, cheese producers and craft brewery companies in the North West and beyond for all their hard work in ensuring the event was a huge success.
“We are absolutely delighted that following the phenomenal success of the LegenDerry Food Festival last month, Derry is again leading the way with another fantastic event showcasing the talent and creativity of our local artisan producers.”
Mary Blake, Council’s Tourism Officer and event organiser, believes Derry’s rising popularity as a food tourism destination is unstoppable and thanked all the producers, suppliers and the funders - Tourism NI and DARD through the NI Agri Food Programme – without whom the event would not have been possible.
“The Big Cheese & Beer Expo has really brought local craft brewers and cheese makers centre stage and we are absolutely delighted that almost 15,000 locals and visitors alike attended the event which is further testimony to Derry’s status as ‘Foodie Town’.”
Local craft breweries which took part in the Big Cheese & Beer Expo included Northbound Brewery and Walled City Brewery, both based in the city; O’Connor Brewing in Faughanvale; Lacada in Portrush; Kinnegar (Rathmullan); Farmageddon Brewing Co-Op (Comber); Knockout Brewing (Belfast); Clearsky Brewing Company (Dungannon); and Mourne Mountains Brewery (Warrenpoint).
The biggest artisan cheese board in the North West was on display by Tamnagh Foods from Park, Co Derry, makers of the Dart Mountain brand including Sperrin Blue Cheese (2015 Irish Food Awards Gold), Dart Mt. Dusk Cheese (World Cheese Awards 2014 – Bronze), Kilcreen Cheese (Great Taste Awards 2015 - Gold Star) and the newly released ale washed Banagher Bold cheese.
Connor Doherty, of Sippy of Culture, said the three-day Expo was yet another success story for the city which is actively supporting its local artisan food producers and craft breweries.
He added: “We have been involved in a number of food and drink events in the city in the past few years and now look forward to similar opportunities to showcase our high quality local produce to an increasingly appreciative audience.”