Despite the coronavirus restrictions stopping the usual festivities in Dingle this year, Blas na hÉireann, the Irish food awards, announced the winners of the 2020 awards today via a digital ceremony.
This year, the two biggest winners created the perfect pairing of bread and butter, with Dublin's Bretzel Bakery taking home the Supreme Champion award for their Pain de Maison boule and Irish Gourmet Butter awarded Best Artisan Product for their Lightly Salted Butter.
Now in their 13th year, the Blas na hÉireann awards are the largest food awards on the island of Ireland, open to all 32 counties. The judging process is the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country. It’s based on criteria which were developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC and the University of Copenhagen and are now recognised as an industry gold standard worldwide. The judging panel features people from all sorts of backgrounds and includes chefs, restaurateurs, academics, journalists, caterers and home cooks.
Speaking about this year's judging, which was very different to every other year, chairperson Artie Clifford told us that the whole process was held to just as high a standard as always.
"Our Blas judging this year was very different to our usual format, but under the watchful eye of our academic director Professor Joe Kerry of UCC, we relocated the Blas judging to Dingle in July and ensured it was handled with the same care and attention as always," he said.
"We are delighted with how it worked so well this year under challenging circumstances, and are so very pleased to announce our perfect pair of winners - an exceptional bread from one of the country's oldest bakeries and an excellent butter from a relatively new family company. Bread and butter, a celebration of something so central and essential, and a phrase that literally describes too what we all depend on for our livelihoods - our bread and butter."
The Bretzel Bakery, which has been operating for 150 years, is a local favourite in Dublin thanks to its focus on long fermentation and excellent ingredients. In previous years, Bretzel Bakery has taken home awards for its baguette d'Espard and its San Francisco sourdough.
The award-winning Pain de Mason Boule is a naturally fermented large round sourdough loaf which contains both wheat and wholemeal rye flour. This boule was developed through over 15 years of hard work, inspired by the Real Bread Campaign movement.
Speaking about the win, Bretzel Bakery owner William Despard told us how wonderful it was to win such a prestigious award during such an unsettling time.
"We are delighted to be crowned Supreme Champion for our Pain de Maison Boule. It has been a hugely upsetting time for producers up and down the country, and our own experience echoes that of many others," he told us.
"By refocusing our hospitality business towards retail, we have been able to ensure that Bretzel doesn't just survive this crisis, but thrives. A Blas Supreme Champion award is a great acknowledgement of the incredible hard work and laser focus of all of the wonderful staff at the Bretzel Bakery who have helped make our award-winning breads available in more retail outlets than ever before."
Irish Gourmet Butter, winner of the Best Artisan Product award, was founded in 2017 by Billy and Mary Sharpe in County Waterford, inspired by Mary's grandmother, who was and All-Ireland Butter Making champion in the 1930s before she lectured in dairy science in Maynooth. The duo won silver in the flavoured butter category in 2017 for their garlic and herb butter and were also finalists in 2018.
Speaking about the win, Mary Sharpe told us how Blas na hÉireann awards are important to growing businesses.
“Our first award with Blas na hÉireann in 2017, soon after we began the business, was a massive boost at the time. It was a vote of confidence and made a real difference to our business for customers to see the Blas medal logo on our butter," Mary told us.
"It’s such a fantastic achievement to win Best Artisan Product with our Lightly Salted Butter. We have to thank the farmers we work with, who ensure we get the best possible quality milk to work with, and to be chosen too from such an inspiring list of amazing producers — well, we couldn’t be prouder or happier.”
Winners by county
More than 250 products from around the country were awarded 2020 Blas na hÉireann titles. Here, we have them listed by county - look out for the Blas stickers in stores nationwide.
ANTRIM - 10 Antrim winners
Annie's Delights, Causeway Coffee, Dale Farm, Deli Muru, Glenballyeamon Eggs, Glens of Antrim, Mauds Ice Creams, Porterhouse Prime Meats, SeaSugar Handmade Confectionery and Ten Watch Chocolates, with Mauds Ice Creams winning best in county.
ARMAGH - 8 Armagh winners
Armagh Cider, Avondale Foods, Ballylisk Dairies Ltd., Burren Balsamics, CRAIC Foods Limited, Holmes Bakery, Long Meadow Cider and Troughtons, with Holmes Bakery winning best in county.
CARLOW - 4 Carlow winners
Carlow Brewing Company, Seerys Ltd. / Heatherfield, Sunshine Juice Ltd. and The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, with Sunshine Juice Ltd. winning best in county.
CAVAN - 6 Cavan winners
Aine Chocolates Ltd., Fitzpatrick's Gourmet Ketchup infused with Poitin, Ice Cream Treats, Lakeland Dairies, Liffey Meats and Manor Farm, with Lakeland Dairies winning best in county.
CLARE - 2 Clare winners
Bramble Cottage and East Clare Apiaries, with East Clare Apiaries winning best in county.
CORK - 34 Cork winners
Baked 4 U, Bandonvale, Bó Rua Farm, Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd., Centra - Inspired by Centra Made in store Salads, Coolmore Foods, Fitzgerald’s Butchers, Follain, Fresh Fish Deli, Glenilen Farm, Gloun Cross Dairy, Hanleys Puddings Ltd., Irish Yogurts, JDS Foods, Joe's Farm Crisps, Keohane Seafoods, Kepak, Kinsale Mead Co., Longueville House Beverages, Nohoval Drinks Co.Ltd T/as Stonewell Cider, Ó Crualaoi Feoil Teo, O’Keeffe’s Bakery, O'Herlihy’s Bacon Ltd., On The Pigs Back (La Charcuterie Irlandaise Ltd.), Rebel Chilli, Saturday Pizzas, Skeaghanore West Cork Farm, Spice O Life Ltd., The English Market, The Good Fish Company, Trace Of Cakes, Velo Coffee Roasters and West Cork Eggs Ltd. with Kepak winning best in county.
DERRY - 3 Derry winners
Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Genesis Crafty and Taste Joy Company with Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil winning best in county.
DONEGAL - 7 Donegal winners
Aran na Teo, Atlantic Treasures, Donegal Rapeseed Oil, Filligans Handmade Preserves, Green Pastures Donegal, The Shack and Wild Fuschia Bakehouse, with Donegal Rapeseed Oil winning best in county.
DOWN - 5 Down winners
Cookie Jar, Crawford's Rock Seaweed Company, Glastry Farm Icecream, Harnett's Oils and Hellbent with Crawford's Rock Seaweed Company winning best in county.
DUBLIN - 42 Dublin winners
ARYZTA Bakeries, Aveo Foods Ltd., Ballymaguire Foods, Bewleys, Cornude Artisan Popcorn, Cremore, Donnybrook Fair, Dunn's of Dublin, Freshcut Foods, Funky Monkey, Fusco Foods, Gem Pack Foods Ltd., Genovese Foods Limited, Glanbia, Harvest Moon Foods Limited, Higgins Butchers, Ina's Kitchen, Keogh's Farm, Le Patissier, M&M Products Ltd., Mannings Bakery Ltd., McCormick Distilling International Ltd., Mud Bakery, Nicky’s Plaice, Olly's Farm, Pearse Lyons Distillery, Pizza da Piero, Rua Food, SAMA'S Foods Limited, Sushi King, Taylor's of Lusk, Tendermeats Ltd., The Bretzel Bakery, The Cupcake Bloke, The Delicious Food Co., The Porterhouse Brewing Company, Traditional Cheese Company, TrusTEA, Valeo Foods, Veggie Earth, WonderFoods and Wrights of Howth with The Bretzel Bakery winning best in county.
FERMANAGH - 2 Fermanagh winners
Cavanagh Free Range Eggs Ltd. and Crust & Crumb, with Crust & Crumb winning best in county.
GALWAY - 4 Galway winners
Builin Blasta Teo, Galmere Fresh foods, Loughnane's Of Galway and The Lodge Barna Mustards with Loughnane's Of Galway winning best in county.
KERRY - 11 Kerry winners
Kennedy’s Butchers, Kerry Kefir, Knockatee Natural Dairy, Muckross Creamery, Quinlan’s Kerry Fish, Wellness Baking Listowel Ltd., Dingle Distillery, Dingle Goats Cheese, Kerry Cow Farm Ltd. (Kells Bay Cheese), Micilín Muc and O’ Sullivan’s Bakery with Kennedy’s Butchers winning best in county.
KILDARE - 5 Kildare winners
Ballymore Organics Ltd., Coghlan's Bakery, Couverture Desserts Ltd., O'Brien Fine Foods and Rye River Brewing Co., with Coghlan's Bakery winning best in county.
KILKENNY - 2 Kilkenny winners
Natures Oils & Sauces and The Fig Tree Restaurant T&H Clarke Ltd., with The Fig Tree Restaurant T&H Clarke Ltd. winning best in county.
LAOIS - 3 Laois winners
Aghaboe Farm Ltd., Cocoa Couture and The Village Dairy, with Cocoa Couture winning best in county.
LEITRIM - 2 Leitrim winners
Dromod Boxty Ltd. and Elements of Chocolate, with Dromod Boxty Ltd. winning best in county.
LIMERICK - 5 Limerick winners
Glen Aine, Glenstal Foods Ltd., Kearney's Home Baking Ltd., Murphy’s Home Bakery and Old Irish Creamery, with Kearney's Home Baking Ltd. winning best in county.
LONGFORD - One Longford winner
Goodness Grains, which also won best in county.
LOUTH - 6 Louth winners
Carlingford Oyster Company Ltd., Drummond House Garlic, East Coast Bakehouse, McEntee's Tea, Natures Best Ltd. and Oriel Sea Salt Co., with Carlingford Oyster Company Ltd. winning best in county.
MAYO - 8 Mayo winners
Cake my Day, Calveys, Harvest Moon Foods Limited, Jack & Eddie's, Little Cheesecake Shop, Moylurg Honey, O'Hara's Bakery and Wildwood Balsamics, with Little Cheesecake Shop winning best in county.
MEATH - 8 Meath winners
A Bit on the Side, BR Marketing, Clarkes Fresh Fruit, Coole Swan, Hogan’s Turkeys Ltd., McCormack Family Farms, Newgrange Gold Ltd. and Royal County Puddings Ltd., with Royal County Puddings Ltd. winning best in county.
MONAGHAN - 7 Monaghan winners
Arthur Mallons, Connolly Meats, Carleton Cake Co. Ltd., IGWT Poultry Services, Lacpatrick Dairies, McCaughey Foods and Silver Hill Duck, with Silver Hill Duck winning best in county.
OFFALY - 3 Offaly winners
Feighery's Farm, Glenisk and Wild Irish Foragers, with Wild Irish Foragers winning best in county.
ROSCOMMON - 4 Roscommon winners
Castlemine Farm, Oliver Carty, VOA Foods Ltd. Incorporating Do Me A Flavour and Waldron Family, with Oliver Carty winning best in county.
SLIGO - 4 Sligo winners
Aurivo Consumer Foods, Clo's Chocolates, Glasshouse Hotel and Good4U, with Clo's Chocolates winning best in county.
TIPPERARY - 11 Tipperary winners
ABP Foodgroup, Ayle Foods, Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Glenpatrick Spring Water, James Whelan Butchers, Oakpark Foods, O'Donnells Crisps, RibWorld, Stapletons, The Scullery and Tullahay Farm, with The Scullery winning best in county.
TYRONE -5 Tyrone winners
Place Foods Ltd., Honed, Islander Kelp, Ispini Charcuterie and Karro Food Ltd., with Ispini Charcuterie winning best in county.
WATERFORD - 12 Waterford winners
Anchor Spirits Ireland, Beatha Bakery, Dawn Meats, Irish Gourmet Butter, Legacy Irish Cider, Mezze, MFC Foods Ltd T/A DessertFirst, Tastefully Yours T/A Kielys of Dunhill, Irish Gourmet Butter, Blackwater Distillery, Fitzeally Foods and Pipin Pear, with Irish Gourmet Butter winning best in county.
WESTMEATH - 3 Westmeath winners
Durrow Mills, Luna Ventures Ltd. T/A Killua Castle and Mr. Crumb, with Mr. Crumb winning best in county.
WEXFORD - 12 Wexford winners
Fancy Fungi Mushrooms, Irish Country Meats, Isle of Crackers, Killowen, Naturally Cordial Ltd., O'Neills Dry Cure Bacon Co., Scup Gelato, Sean Stafford Bakeries Ltd., Stafford Irish Spirits Co., Wexford Home Preserves, Wild About and Zanna Cookhouse Ltd., with Scup Gelato winning best in county.
WICKLOW - 11 Wicklow winners
Ballyhubbock Farm, Dun Luain Foods Ltd., T/A Wilsons of West Wicklow, Jamshack, Miena's, Rhoda Cocoa, Ridgeway Wagyu, The Butler's Pantry, The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, The Happy Pear, Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese Ltd. and Wicklow Way Wines, with Rhoda Cocoa winning best in county.