As part of “Legacy & Learn” month of the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council organised a tour of Hilden Brewery. Myself and Mr. Eating Ideas were invited along to discover what happens behind the scenes to make the beer and were delighted to attend. I am no stranger to a factory floor having worked for Coca-Cola for many years and I love to see the various processes involved in the production of a product, especially a local favourite!
On arrival, we were offered a Thyme, apple and lemonade vodka or a beer as we mingled with the other guests before being taken onto the factory floor. Our guide, Seamus talked us through the use of barley, malt and wheat in the production process to affect the taste of the brew.
My understanding is this- the 3 grains are roasted, added to water and boiled. Brewers yeast and sugar are added and fermented naturally over 4-5 days. The mixture is cooled and held for 24-38 hours. The mixture is then moved into a conditioning tank and held there for 7 days before being put through a carbonator. The bottles are labelled, date stamped and sterile washed before being filled and loaded into cases. My education was complete. Ok, so I’m not quite ready to start brewing (I will leave that to the experts at Hilden) but I did get a good insight into the process. My main learning- Hops give the beer flavour and malt gives it strength.
Once our tour was over we were taken back to the restaurant for some live traditional music and led to our tables for a special winter warmer menu, featuring Hilden Ales and introduced to us by local TV personality, Denise Watson.
Our starter was a trio of crab, chilli, lemon creme fraiche on toasted twisted hop bread, Hannans’ Guanciale wrapped local scallop in salsa verde butter and Tempted Cider cured organic salmon on fadge (potato bread to anyone outside the Derry area!). The dish was served with Belfast Blonde.
A soup course of Roast parsnip and white bean soup smoked paprika cream with Hilden’s Molly Chocolate Stout wheaten bread was to follow. By this stage we were quite full but were curious enough about the main course to manfully carry on. Roast rack of Tynedale goat served with a portion of goatherder pie topped with Abernethy buttered mash, rainbow carrots with scallions and a Hilden Ale Jus. I have only eaten goat once before on a trip to Namibia and I can honestly say that the Tynedale goats must lead a much happier and pampered life as the meat was delicious with a bit of a gamey taste. Chef, David McCarthy really worked his magic as we never once thought about the need for seasoning. I never thought I would say it but I may be a new goat convert! This course was accompanied by Nutty Brown ale
Our special meal was rounded of with a dessert of Pear Tarte Tatin with brambleberry jam, sea salted caramel sauce and Drains Farm vanilla ice cream- all served with Barney’s Belfast Bap ale.
What a triumph of an evening, educational, entertaining and with fabulous food and beers. We thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be back for another visit. If you want great food in an alternative setting- you should give it a try.
Sincere thanks to Rumour Mill PR and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for the invitation #EatDrinkLCCC #Belfastplus