An unique appeal has gone out to foraging fruit pickers – bring us your bilberries and we’ll give you a beer.
The beer for berries deal is on offer from craft brewery Hafod from Mold and will help them make an extra large cache of their tasty Bilberry Brew in time for this autumn’s Taste North East Wales celebration of food and drink.
Bilberries grow wild on the heather moorland of the Clwydian Range and Hafod need 10kilos of the small, dark purple fruit to make their planned 15 barrels of beer – just 100 grams of the berries earns the forager a bottle of the fruity 4.5 per cent beer.
It is being brewed at Hafod’s Gas Lane brewery in Mold by Head Brewer Phil Blanchard in preparation for their Oktoberfeast event on the weekend of Saturday, October 12, part of Taste North East Wales, a 40-day festival this autumn to celebrate the fantastic range of produce from this region of Wales.
The programme runs through September, October and into November with over 25 events showcasing ways for visitors and local residents to savour the region’s rich culinary tradition and already organisers are reporting plenty of activity on the Taste North East Wales website and on social media.
The programme is backed by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd along with the Clwydian Range & Dee Valley AONB and the Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham local authorities.
The money is from a pot of almost £8 million of funding administered by Corwen-based Cadwyn Clwyd from the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. It is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government as part of a six-year plan to revitalise rural communities and their economies.
Taste North East Wales is being supported by Cadwyn Clwyd for its first two years but is intended to become an annual and self-sustaining event which includes dining experiences, production tours, demonstrations, tastings, workshops and masterclasses and also incorporate the established food festivals at Llangollen, Mold and Wrexham.
Emma Cornes, Co-ordinator of Taste North East Wales, said: “We have put together a programme of unique food-based experiences right across the region and we want as many people as possible to explore, experience and eat the best of what North East Wales has to offer.
“It is encouraging our wonderful food producers to work differently and work together to create food stories and experiences that capture the imagination and add a new level of interest to the fabulous food and drink they produce.
“The events are now live on the Taste North East Wales website and on Eventbrite so people are able to start booking their experiences and we’re seeing plenty of social media traffic.
“You can dine in style aboard the carriages of the Llangollen Railway as it steams up the Dee Valley, join chef Robert Dowell Brown to forage for your lunch in the Vale of Clwyd or enjoy the tastes of the Ceiriog Valley on a day’s walking. They’re just some of the food experiences on offer this autumn.”
Meanwhile, Martin Godfrey, of Hafod Brewery, has been up on Moel Famau to check the bilberry crop and he said: “We have made Bilberry Brew with bilberries from the Clwydian Range for a number of years but we wanted to brew a bigger batch.
“So we’re asking locals and other foragers to pick bilberries for us so we have enough for 15 barrels and in return we will give them beer.
“We have worked with the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty rangers in the past and they would pick bilberries for us but we want to step up production so we need more and as foraging is all the rage these days we thought we’d enlist the public’s help.”
Hafod have been brewing since 2011 and among their range of beers which are on sale at over 20 pubs, farm and food shops across the region – including at selected Wetherpoons – is the popular dark Moel Famau ale, made with smoked heather from the same moorlands which provide the bilberries.
They now produce 6,600 litres of beer a month which adds up to over 11,000 pints and they plan to brew 2,500 litres of bilberry beer with 1,000 litres being bottled and the rest on draught.
Martin added: “We like the idea of using locally-sourced ingredients. People like a beer that comes with a story and for those that collect the bilberries they’ll know they had a part in the process.”
Cadwyn Clwyd Business Partnerships Officer Donna Hughes said: “The counties of Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham produce some of the UK’s finest food and Taste North East Wales have come up with a series of wonderful events to showcase this in an imaginative way.
“It’s not just the food that stars here but also the landscape and the people who produce and serve it up and they deserve to be better known and we believe this project will do that.”
PHOTO: Martin Godfrey of Mold’s Hafod Brewery has issued a challenge to foragers to supply him with bilberries