Cheese, Chocolate and Spirits. Friday 23rd Oct, Butler House

The first of these 3 special Biabeag Meet the Makers events kicks off with a trio grounded in Kilkenny. The theme is the After Dinner Treat and our producers will be messing with your taste buds a little bit with their tastings. Tickets for all 3 events here.

Each of these evenings has a lead producer – the one whose works with the others to shape the evening and on Friday its Julie Calder Potts from Highbank.

Julie Calder Potts, Highbank Organic Orchard

Julie and Rod (her husband and parter on the farm) have farmed organically for over 20 years and now they have the largest organic orchard in Ireland. Having moved from apple juice to orchard syrup (like maple but nicer!) they then developed a range of ciders before reaching the pinnacle of their range – the Single Estate Gin, Vodka and Brandey which they launched in December 2014.

I’ve known Julie and Rod for over a decade and they have become great friends of mine. I admire their ability to constantly develop and refine and their dedication to organic farming.


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Mary Teehan, Truffle Fairy

For just over a decade Mary has been making a range of award winning chocolates in Kilkenny. Starting at home and selling at farmers markets she make the jump to her own production area and cafe in Thomastown and started to export as well as sell here in Ireland.

For the first couple of years of her business I couldn’t buy from Mary as the limited space she had meant she could not do a vegan range. Since she moved she has always had at least one truffle in the range that is vegan and also produces a constantly evolving range of raw chocolate slices. Happiness for me!

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Helen Finnegan, Knockdrinna

Helen set up a year before Mary (2004) and she slowly expanded with the help of Carlow based cheese maker Elizabeth Bradley. In 2008 she took over the cheeses made by Lavistown in Kilkenny and in the same year she became involved with the Little Cheese Company – an organic cheese collective based in Waterford.

She has won stacks of awards, the most special being the win of Knockdrinna Gold semi-hard goats cheese at the 2013 British Cheese Awards where it was named ‘Best Modern British’.

I know Helen since she worked in Local Rural Development in Kilkenny where the obviously glamorous life of food producers lured her to start up herself. Oops 🙂

Tickets for this event are €10 and you can buy them here



The 4 minute guide to Cacao Bean’s by @BLYSS_choc

As the Biabeag series of talks and sessions develops it is good to move further back and explore the provenance of the raw materials and the early processing that they are subjected to.

In this short video Lyss talks us through the word of cacao beans and helps us to understand how vital they are to the end product. Get them wrong (and we covered this a lot during the Roaster event) and you are guaranteed to fail.

You can meet, listen to and discuss cacao with Lyss, Karen from Bean and Goose and Mary from Truffle Fairy on Saturday November 8th. Click here for more info and to book.


Meet the Brewers – 7th June 2014, 6pm

POSTPONED – 3rd June. Have had to pull the event due to low ticket sales – really sorry 😦


Date: Saturday 7th June 2014
Time: 6pm (sharp’ish) for 2 hours or thereabouts.

Venue: Highbank Orchard – You will also be able to sample and buy from the wonderful range of Highbank Ciders – Proper, Medieval and Drivers.

Map showing entrance to Highbank –

Link to buy tickets (only €8 to join us)


We will have Cuilan Loughnane from White Gypsy, Caroline Hennessy from 8 Degrees and Grainne Walsh, Metalman with us on the night.

Caroline Hennessy from 8 Degrees

Caroline has been to Kilkenny many times as she is a regular at Foodcamp which happens each year during Savour Kilkenny. She is the active external face of 8 Degrees and an advocate of food pairings and the subtle use of beer in cooking (as you can see below!).


Cuilan Loughnane from White Gypsy

I met Cuilan during a Taste Council event in Wicklow a couple of years ago and myself and Rod (from Highbank, our hosts) talked about how he wanted to grow hops locally and use them in his brewing. We will be exploring that some more on the 7th 🙂

Thanks to for the use of their shot of Cuilan above.

Grainne Walsh, Metalman

Again Grainne and Tim (her partner in Metalman) have been to Kilkenny regularly during Savour so you may already have bumped in to them. This Waterford based brewery have strong links to White Gypsy as Cuilan brewed their initial offerings while they were waiting for their brewery to be built. This co-operation and support between emerging competitors is one of the topics we will be exploring on the night.

Link to buy tickets (only €8 to join us)


Updated 18th May to add full speaker details.

Updated 4th April to add Metalman to the lineup.

Updated 30th March to add 8Degrees to the lineup.

Updated 2nd March to change it from Cider and Beer to Meet The Brewers. This is to acknowledge that the making process is completely different in both cases so the empathy across the panel and the sharing of knowledge and passions would not make as much sense as it should. We will have a dedicated cider makers event most likely in 2015



Snippets – US online speciality food and an Irish Organic sector challenge

These have been kicking around my inbox for a month or so now.

They don’t aggregate products and pass fulfilment back to producers. And they have a lovely definition of their core focus:
“Included in the “indie food” category are artisan, small batch, handmade, organic, gluten-free and other packaged specialty foods that are “made by people not corporations, and typically involve a recipe,”

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I am liking that a lot. Funding in place, great design and strong core. Picked up via a piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Hope they succeed 🙂

An Open Letter to the Organic Movement in Ireland

Ollie Moore is someone I like a lot. A journalist and musician he juggles a lot of pies. And hats. At his core is organics and the importance of a healthy sector in Ireland. His post is about stagnancy and what can be done to overcome that.

Much more debate needed around this tbh.



Lyfe Kitchen, Brussels Sprouts based Fast Food @LYFEKitchen

What they do

Sustainable, socially responsible fast food.

Where they do it

LA is the location of their first branch. Top marks if you guessed that 🙂

Who are they

The polar opposite of hippies. Mike Roberts and Sidwell are an ex McDonald’s COO and an investment banker who sat down one day and decided to build an ethical fast food business which would scale.

The management team is chokka full of management capability and VP’s. If anyone can scale this crew can.

The ethical bit?

On the suppliers side this is from their website:

  • Look to serve organic foods whenever commercially viable
  • Monitor how quickly product arrives at LYFE Kitchen to guarantee freshness and flavor
  • Maintain that all meats must be antibiotic and hormone free
  • Ensure that all meats and chicken are Global Animal Partnership approved

My thoughts

It is always hard to compare a business like this with Rapunzel for example. The latter is clearly driven by personal ethics whereas Lyfe could be a positioning exercise chasing a market opportunity. However this Wired article does point to ethical leanings during Mike Roberts time in McDonalds so maybe.

One way or another if there have to be fast food chains then this one is nicely positioned to make the supply chain a lot more ethical than the norm.

Links to more

/ keith

Scaling and mainsteaming – the ethical dilemas

Everyone with an interest or passion for a particular ethic around food (be it organic, fairtrade, vegetarian, whatever) is challenged with the issues that are almost inevitable when a niche business or sector gets bigger and then edges on mainstream.

One of those issues is the purchase of large and profitable independent food businesses by larger and more profitable entities with little or no core ethics.

This is more than a theoretical consideration as this study by Philip H. Howard on the US organic food sector shows.

This is a still from an 18 second animation which shows left to right the gradual absorbing of the key independent players in the sector into larger entities over 12 years 1995 to 2007.

Have a look at more detail here. For me a business absorbed into a larger company with no ethical core drops from my shopping list (Green & Black being a good example, I have no interest in supporting Kraft Foods)
/ keith



Rapunzel Naturkost

What they do

They manufacture a wide range (over 400) organic, vegetarian and fairtraded food products. They also have a food ingredients division in Germany and offer an own label manufacturing service.

Where they do it

Just over half of their products are manufactured in Germany where they also have the widest distribution. Outside of Germany there are 30 countries worldwide where their products are available.

Who are they

Set up by Joseph Wilhelm and Jennifer Vermeulen in 1974 they now employ over 300 people.

The ethical bit?

Clearly defined ethics are deeply routed in the business. They operate their own organic certification scheme (Hand in Hand) together with producer partners in many countries.

They have a clear and fascinating mission statement and goals covering the environment, staff and independence from banks and other financial institutions.

My thoughts

With a turnover of > €100M this business has successfully scaled while maintaining a rigorous set of criteria which guide its operations. The passion and personal ethics of 2 individuals has lead to a powerhouse of organic food production and I am in awe of that.

This is not a sexy brand and they do not “do” social media that I can see. It is a solid and reputable brand.

I am familiar with a number of their products which make their way onto the Irish market and I am going to look out for more now!

Links to more

One World Award (Joseph is on the jury)

/ keith

Highbank Orchard Syrup, Apple Syrup. Ireland


From an organic orchard (Highbank) which was first planted in the 17th century comes this Apple Syrup. Ideal for drizzling on cheeses (for example) it was another artisan food product which saw the light of day at Foodcamp and then on into the Savour Kilkenny weekend.

And in the second photo Julie and Rod Calder-potts show the product to the interested crowd.


Organic Herb Company, Oils and Herbs. Ireland

The Organic Herb Company business is going over 11 years and supply to a range of retailers in England and Ireland. It is not cheap – but extremely tasty as I learned when I worked my way through 5 of the samples in front of me (chickening out when it got to the Chilli’er concoctions).

One of these may well be a Christmas treat. The second photo shows Paul and Michael the co-founders of the business – again at Savour Kilkenny. As a BTW their site does not do the brand justice – be warned!


Iris, Pasta Coop in Italy (where else?!)

This business is featured in a blog post from Suma Foods – a wholesale wholefoods brand in the UK run as a workers co-op. From that post:

Situated in the beautiful ‘Oglio Sud’ National Park of northern Italy, Iris run their business on principles of respect for both people and the natural environment; the produce they grow is completely organic, their farm uses only green energy and Iris’ 40 members are employed under cooperative principles

They were founded in 1984 and also make own brand pasta for others such as Graig Farm. I cannot see a website to link you to for them.

Found it: