Archaic brew from the Siege of Derry goes on sale today

James Huey from the Walled City Brewery who is about to launch the "1689" Siege Beer at the Slow Food Festival in Londonderry in October. The beer which will be served in a brandy glass and brewed in a wooden cask Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.con
James Huey from the Walled City Brewery who is about to launch the "1689" Siege Beer at the Slow Food Festival in Londonderry in October. The beer which will be served in a brandy glass and brewed in a wooden cask Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.con

A potent new beer brewed with an archaic recipe dating back to the Great Siege of Derry goes on sale for the first time today at a food festival in the city.

The 300-year-old concoction was uncovered by James Huey, head brewer at the Walled City Brewery in Londonderry, in a set of historical diaries dating from the Great Siege that are now housed in the city’s archives.

Mr Huey had been researching Londonderry’s brewing and distilling heritage when he was fascinated to discover an account of a 17th century beer that had purportedly been found in the Governor George Walker’s home by an angry mob railing against the harsh conditions of the Siege.

Mr Huey has now resurrected the long-forgotten recipe but has made some changes to suit the modern palette. Gone are the 11 raw eggs used in the 17th century, along with some of the 77 soothing herbs and spices which have since been found to be poisonous.

Due to be launched at the ‘Slow Food Festival’ taking place in Guildhall Square in Londonderry today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday), the ‘1689’ brew was regarded as a tonic or elixir by the indomitable inhabitants of Londonderry. The new version has an alcohol content of around 11%.

James Huey said: “People are not going to be having a pint of ‘1689’. It comes from a category of beer called barley wines and is more like an aperitif.”

CONDITIONS DURING THE SIEGE

The conditions endured by those who defended the city from the Jacobite forces in 1689 were almost unimaginably horrific.

People bought, sold and ate dogs and rats fattened on human flesh while others resorted to eating candle wax. Surviving price lists give us an indication of the scale of the horror. A dog’s head sold for 2s.6d, a mouse for 6d and a rat fed on human flesh for 1s.