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Speckled Hen have got it ‘well’ sussed

NOW THAT’S FRESH: Martin Caldwell serves up some of the crisp water at The Speckled Hen
NOW THAT’S FRESH: Martin Caldwell serves up some of the crisp water at The Speckled Hen
By Michael Jackson

IN a food market dominated by commercial farming, big drinks brands and uniformity, the authenticity and quality yielded by do-it yourself approach is becoming all the more appealing, and there are few businesses doing it better locally than the Speckled Hen Bar and Dining Rooms.
Having long brewed an exciting range of its own craft beers and ciders, the Lisburn-based establishment has taken the next crucial step towards self-suffiency by bottling its own still and sparkled water. Although a seemingly simple step, tapping into the natural springs below the bar has revealed interesting information about the geography of the area and, as owner Martin Caldwell explains, has created further links to the Speckled Hen’s 359-year history.
“Right under our feet is the Triassic Aquifer, which stretches from the Castlereagh to Black Mountain,” he said.
“There has always been a well under the bar, so given that we’re filtering our own water anyway, it made sense to put in a chiller, a cooler and a carbonator to make fizzy water too.
“There was originally a well there and the previous owner had tapped into it. During the winter time you can actually see little springs coming up out in the carpark. There used to be a well where our beer garden is now where they used to dip the buckets for water. The pub goes back to 1660, so it goes back a fair while. They used to brew their own beers and everything here, so access to spring water was vital.”
He continued: “It’s fantastic that a place of this age is still functioning and providing hospitality and services. This used to be the old post road and was also one of the main roads to Dublin at the time, so coaches used to stop along here. It was actually alleged that Daniel O’Connell stopped here before. It would have had to have been self-sufficient. We’re essentially going back to the notion of our own self-sufficiency in terms of the supply of water as well.”
The Speckled Hen started bottling its water last month, installing a new filtration system that provides fresh four-times-filtered water for its customers. The water is, of course, filtered through the rocks on its journey across the mountains that, according to Queen’s University researchers, began 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. As for the punters, Martin says they see it as a “great novelty”.
“They’re getting their draft beer and now they are getting draft water, he said.
“The kids come in and want cordials or juices, so now well ask them if they want still or fizzy water – they think it’s a great novelty getting the fizzy water in the cordial.”
While making connections with the pub’s past, Martin and his team are also looking to the future with the installation of farming allotments that will provide fruit, veg and more for it’s kitchens in the years to come.

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