As the Berwick Food and Beer Festival opened its gates for the seventh year running, a record number of visitors from far and wide flooded in to enjoy a weekend in the sun.
Setting up once again in the picturesque surroundings of the Barracks and Palace Green, the beer festival kicked things off on Friday afternoon. Simon Vickers, owner of The Barrels Alehouse was the leader behind the well organised team running the beer tent which featured a wide variety of breweries to choose from. This included Berwick’s own nano brewery Bear Claw who produced a single hopped American IPA especially for the event that went down well with everyone.
Then on Saturday morning the main food festival was officially opened by Salmon Queen, Lauren Dixon, and her attendants alongside a traditional piper.
It initially got off to a slow start but that soon changed with this year being busier than ever with around 6000 people visiting over the weekend and over 40 stalls offering a taste of north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.
On offer this year were the regular faces like Giocopazzi’s ice cream, The Chainbridge Honey Farm and Jimmy ‘The Lamb Man’ to name just a few. However the variety and quality of all the produce on offer was truly staggering. Incredible cheeses, chutney, cakes and pastries, locally caught and reared meat and fish, charcuterie, sloe gin and locally grown fruit and vegetables all from a 30 mile radius.
Kicking things off in the demo kitchen were the slightly unexpected duo, Sophia Clay and Ruth McNeeley baking two variations on apple pie. They had stepped in at the last minute to cover for a chef that couldn’t make it but they were so slick and professional you would never have been able to tell.
More cookery demonstrations followed throughout the weekend including forager Fi Martynoga, Emma Whittingham from the Out Cook School, Rachel Hammond from Hammond Charcuterie, Linda McDonald Brown, presenter of The Food Show on East Coast FM 107.6 and Richard Sim of The Old Boathouse in Amble and the Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance. They were joined by David MacDonald of Geordie Bangers demonstrating a seasonal sausage casserole, Marcus Van Luttmer demonstrating three ways to cook succulent Northumberland lamb and Derek Goggin from Blue House in Barmoor talking on the versatility of goat’s cheese.
The organisers ensured that the children at the festival were not bored with activities on over the whole weekend especially for them. With the choice of pizza making, cake decorating or both, there was something on offer for all ages which is excellent given that it was a free event for all children under 12. There was also an animal farm that went down a storm with the younger visitors with Barnacre Alpacas from Liberty Hill Farm, Raylees; Anglo-Nubian Goats courtesy of Derek Goggin of The Blue Cottage, Lowick and chickens from Robert Ord and Hens of Chatton. The farm also allowed young foodies the chance to try ‘milking’ the life sized cow provided by the National Farmers Union.
On hand to feed the masses over the weekend were old favourites Well Hung and Tender, selling their succulent burgers and Berwick restaurant El Taperio offering paella, lamb kofta, a traditional Canarian stew and Spanish tortilla. There were also crepes available from Monsieur Crepe, a hog roast from Johnsons of Wooler and wood fired pizzas from The Big Blu, not forgetting Bang on Catering who provided a much needed caffeine fix with tea, coffee and tasty traybakes. Brian Martin and his well oiled team at The Music Gallery provided a wide variety of local bands and musicians to give visitors the chance to sit back and relax in the sun and listen to some home grown talent.
On the Saturday, it is estimated that over 75% of the people attending the festival were visiting from out of town, proving that events like this really do attract visitors from far and wide.
Providing entertainment right through Saturday night in the beer tent were the worlds number 1 Led Zeppelin tribute band, Led-Into-Zeppelin which attracted over 1000 fans and was a definite hit with everyone who attended.
Supporting and sponsoring the festival for the first time this year was family business, Silver Tweed Cereals. One of the fundamental aims of the Berwick Food Festival is to support and showcase independent and local businesses so their help was particularly appropriate. Silvery Tweed had a stand at the festival over the weekend, allowing people to see what the business actually does and where their product goes.
The Berwick food festival is organised by a team of volunteer committee members from the Berwick branch of The Slow Food Movement, but none of it would be possible without the help and assistance of all the other sponsors in particular Simpsons Malt whose continued help and support is greatly appreciated by all the team.