Drink Producer of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2023/4
Chosen by our judges:
The top public vote-winners:
The GFC Award for Drink Producer of the Year 2023/24 goes to the monks of Mount St Bernard Abbey, creators of the UK’s only official Trappist Ale, Tynt Meadow.
Facing challenges in traditional farming, they transitioned into brewing, an art rooted in their monastery’s history. Following extensive research and collaboration with fellow Trappist brewers, they crafted Tynt Meadow – a mahogany-coloured ale with a superb, intricate flavour profile featuring notes of dark chocolate, fruit and liquorice, along with a strong 7.4% ABV.
Committed to Trappist ale requirements, the monks oversee the entire brewing process, from inception to bottling. Operating on a small scale, their efforts not only sustain the monastery but contribute to charitable initiatives.
In the vein of Cistercian simplicity, they brew complexity into a product that feels perfectly natural. For their dedication to quality, tradition and the superb flavour of Tynt Meadow, Mount St Bernard Abbey earns this year’s GFC Drinks Producer Award.
The other finalists
The Rutland Vineyard, near Ketton, Rutland
Our judges were captivated by The Rutland Vineyard during their recent visit. Founded in 2021, this vineyard is already making waves in England’s smallest county. The team have selected an idyllic south-facing slope between the rivers Welland and Chater, 70m above sea level with rich Jurassic limestone soil, to plant grape varieties like Pinot Noir Précoce, Cabaret Noir, Bacchus and Ortega.
Though their first bottles won’t be ready until spring 2024, the vineyard offers an irresistible Tasting Barn with stunning views. Here, visitors can tuck into mouthwatering cheeseboards, wines by the glass, homemade cakes from The Rutland Chef, and coffee from Stamford Coffee Company.
Their approach to winemaking and hospitality makes them a standout addition to the local food and drink scene, and a well-worthy GFC Drink Producer of the Year Finalist.
Lazydog Distillery, Coleorton, Leicestershire
Our judges couldn’t help but be impressed once again by Lazydog Rum Distillery, marking its second consecutive year as a GFC Drink Producer of the Year Finalist. Nestled in the Leicestershire countryside, the distillery is helmed by Matt and Lauren Thompson, whose painstaking approach to rum-making sets them apart in the British spirits industry.
Starting from scratch with molasses, their operation is an artisan labour of love, right down to the hand-labelling and sealing. Their range includes the velvety ‘Signature Silver,’ the complex ‘Spiced’ and an award-winning Sloe Rum featuring locally handpicked sloes.
Recent accolades include a Gold Medal at the London Wine Beer Spirits Competition, where judges lauded Lazydog’s rum for its smooth palate and intricate notes.
In a testament to their success, Matt and Lauren have expanded to a larger distillery in Coleorton, making way for increased production and the exciting prospect of rum-tasting events. This powerhouse couple has taken a humble lockdown project and crafted it into a burgeoning rum empire. Their story is a striking example of skill and passion converging to produce exceptional craft spirits.
Kings Cliffe Brewery, Kings Cliffe
Kings Cliffe Brewery is our fourth Finalist for the GFC Drink Producer of the Year. Jez O’Neil, the founder, has artfully resurrected a brewing tradition that had been dormant in King’s Cliffe since 1914. He brews three permanent ales – 5c, No.10, and 66° – and the occasional seasonal offering.
On our visit, we sampled No.10, a delightful session ale that confirmed Jez’s status as a passionate and skilled brewmaster.
Jez’s creation of KCB has been a joyful journey, enabled by a vacant building and a chance to revive an age-old village industry. He crafts beers true to his own recipes and takes immense pleasure in doing so in his home village.
Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or simply someone who appreciates an artisan touch, Kings Cliffe Brewery is a Finalist you’ll want to keep an eye on.