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Council toasts success of Cheese and Beer Expo

18 April 2016

‘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 at the weekend as one of the main highlights of NI Year of Food and Drink 2016.

Cheese and Beer Expo

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, and 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.

Our 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 City and Strabane District, 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 foodie event was a huge success.

Cllr. McCallion said: “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.

“We now look forward to continued cause for celebration with a number of exciting events to be unveiled by Council for the remainder of the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 calendar.”

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’.

“We were runners-up in the Foodie Towns of Ireland competition last year and will be continuing to celebrate NI Year of Food and Drink 2016 through a regular series of themed events in the coming months showcasing our local producers.”

Local craft breweries who 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.

Indie Fude, representing all of NI's top cheese producers, ensured a steady flow of cheese plates to satisfy discerning palates. Cheesy dishes served in Guildhall Square during the evenings included quisedillas with Kilcreen and poutin, the fried cheese curd.

The event also featured family-friendly activities during the daytime with kids’ crafts and walkabout puppets, juggling chefs, non alcoholic lemonade and local apple juice.

Live music from a number of popular local and visiting artists including The 4 Of Us, Best Boy Grip, the Paul Casey Trio, Balkan Alien Sound, Ports, Paddy Nash Trio, Glen Rosborough, Ryan McMullan and Eilidh Patterson, also added to the festival atmosphere.

Local bars and restaurants also got into the spirit of the event with special beer and cheese themed menus keeping appetites satisfied for the weekend.

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.”