What are Ireland's best food and drink companies? The results are in

Brexit concerns voiced as producers and organisations north and south of the border receive awards from Irish Food Writers’ Guild

Concerns about the impact of Brexit on the Irish food and drink sector and possible repercussion for the food tourism industry, were raised at the Irish Food Writers’ Guild’s annual awards in Dublin on Wednesday.

"With the food industry gearing up for the impact of Brexit and with the threat of UK tariffs a real possibility, it is incumbent on us all, Government, industry and consumers, to protect and support our abundance of incredible food producers, who have played a significant role in helping position Ireland as a food tourism destination," said Kristin Jensen, chairwoman of the Guild.

“Each year, the IFWG singles out a number of products and organisations that evoke pride in our national food identity and contribute to our rich and diverse food culture. Many of these are small businesses and, together with everyone in the food industry, they have major concerns over what is coming down the track following Brexit later this month.

“We urge all sectors of society to embrace sourcing, buying and eating local, high-quality produce and ensuring that our wonderful producers survive and continue to thrive as they face into a period of great uncertainty,” Jensen said.

Eight presentations were made to indigenous food producers and organisations, north and south of the border, to mark the 25th anniversary of the IFWG Food Awards. The awards were presented at a lunch in Glovers Alley restaurant in Dublin, where executive chef Andy McFadden created a six-course lunch featuring the winners’ produce.

The food and drink selected for awards by members of the Guild included two farmhouse cheeses, organic spelt berries and a rare apple ice wine, while a coffee supplier, a butcher, a goat farm and a Cork city charity were among the people and organisations honoured.

A lifetime achievement award was presented to Peter Hannan, founder of Hanna Meats in Moira, which specialises in dry-ageing beef and lamb in its four Himalayan salt chambers which were created using 8,00 hand-cut rock salt bricks imported from Pakistan.

Hannan Meats works with almost 150 beef farmers to supply restaurants and retailers in Ireland, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. It is the only company ever to have won two supreme champion titles at the Great Taste Awards, a UK and Ireland industry showcase.

IFWG 2019 award winners
Food Award: Hegarty Cheese for Teampall Gael Cheese (Co Cork)
The Hegarty family make this Comté-style raw milk cheese with milk from their own herd of Friesian cows. It is matured for at least nine months and made in 40kg wheels that are brushed and turned three times a week. The resulting cheese is traceable from field to table, and has a flavour described as being "sweet, delicate and nutty."

Food Award: Mike Thomson for Young Buck Cheese (Co Down)
Mike Thomson raised £80,000 through crowdfunding to start making Young Buck, Northern Ireland's first raw-milk blue cheese. He now produces 27 wheels a week of the Stilton-style cheese, which is served in several Michelin-starred restaurants. It is described as having a "strong, salty flavour and a characteristic knobbly crust."

Food Award: Dunany Flour for Organic Spelt Berries (Co Louth) Dunany Farm is a fourth-generation enterprise run by the Workman family which has been producing organic grains since 2006. It is best known for its flours, however the Workmans recognised a gap in the market and began growing spelt , a grain that is high in fibre and B vitamins and low in gluten.

Drink Award: Killahora Orchards for Rare Apple Ice Wine (Co Cork) Killahora Orchards is a family business growing more than 130 varieties of apple and 40 perry pear varieties that are used to make craft cider, apple port, perry and its standout Rare Apple Ice Wine. This is made by freezing apples and then thawing the pressed apple juice to create a richer must than is obtained from regular pressing. It is then partially fermented to keep the natural sugars intact. It is recommended as a dessert wine, but can also be served with pork and cheeses.

Outstanding Organisation Award: 3fe (Co Dublin)
Colin Harmon supplies coffee to more than 50 businesses and runs three cafés, a restaurant and roastery. His company 3fe received an award for its commitment to sustainability in the areas of purchasing principles, waste and energy use, staff welfare and community.

Environmental Award: Broughgammon Farm (Co Antrim)
Male kid goats are usually put down at birth, with the females going into dairy herds, but Broughgammon Farm rears the males for their meat, alongside free-range rosé veal and seasonal wild game. The farm also has an eco-farmhouse, and on-site butchery and farm shop that use solar thermal heating, low-flow appliances and photovoltaic solar panels.

Community Food Award: Cork Penny Dinners (Co Cork)
Cork Penny Dinners was founded during famine times in the 1840s and is one of Cork's oldest charitable organisations. Its core service is to offer a nourishing hot meal in a safe environment to those in need. It serves up to 2,000 freshly made meals each week and also offers access to education and health services.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Hannan (Co Down)
Peter Hannan grew up on a beef and sheep farm in Co Kildare and founded Hannan Meats in 1991. He works with a network of almost 150 beef farmers in Northern Ireland and the Republic to produce high-quality meat that is dry-aged in Himalayan salt chambers. The Guild's lifetime achievement award was presented to him in recognition of his work as one of Ireland's most dedicated and highly respected food champions.

The awards lunch at Glovers Alley incorporating the winners' produce included Broughgammon Farm goat shoulder Waldorf salad; Dunany organic spelt risotto; Peter Hannan's salt-aged Glenarm beef sirloin, salt-baked celeriac, hazelnuts and truffle; Killahora Orchards Rare Apple Ice Wine granita, sheep's yogurt mousse, honey and lime; 3fe coffee crémeux, Jivara chocolate and citrus. Teampall Gael and Young Buck cheese, rhubarb and apple chutney.