The Prince of Wales celebrated the best of Northern Ireland produce by pulling a half-pint of traditional Irish stout – then joked it would spoil his cup of tea.
Charles did not need to be asked twice to pour and try the glass of Belfast Black during an event showcasing artisan food and drink that is becoming a hallmark of Northern Ireland.
WATCH! Prince Charles jolly in Belfast!
His taste test came during a busy day in Belfast that saw the prince and his wife learn about plans to return the city’s fire-ravaged Bank Buildings to their former glory, go on a walkabout, and recognise the contribution of minority groups and charities to the life of the region.
But the timing of his visit was criticised as “insensitive” by some of the families of 10 people killed during the Northern Ireland Troubles in a spate of shootings known as the Ballymurphy massacre and involving the Parachute Regiment – which has Charles as its Colonel-in-Chief.
There is an ongoing inquest into the shootings and the relatives staged a protest before the hearings began and called on the prince to apologise for the actions of “his men”.
But the primate of all-Ireland Eamon Martin who, together with his Church of Ireland counterpart Richard Clarke, hosted Charles when he visited the ecclesiastical capital of Armagh, said the prince’s presence sent a message to dissident Republican’s that society was changing.
He said: “I think today’s visit lets people know that there are many people in the community, there are many people in this society, who want to move on and who want to continue to build bridges for the future.
“There are some people here who would drag us back.”
At the Spirit of Belfast reception staged in a new modern hotel, Charles stepped behind a pump at the Whitewater Brewery stand and began pulling the half-pint – a dark stout popular in Northern Ireland.
He had put his cup of Darjeeling with milk and a spoonful of honey to one side to take on the challenge and, after pouring the glass of beer, smelt it, took a sip and later joked: “It’s not going to go very well with tea.”
Charles kept hold of the drink when he returned to the reception and Bernard Sloan, director and founder of Whitewater Brewery, said: “He thought our stout was very, very nice and he’s continuing to drink it now which is a good endorsement – he said he’s a fan of the darker beers and quite partial to stout.”
Earlier, Charles and Camilla stood in the shadow of the iconic Bank Buildings ravaged by fire in August last year. The blaze left the Primark store close to collapse and it is now encased by girders and shipping containers
The couple were first greeted by Belfast’s new Lord Mayor, Sinn Fein councillor John Finucane, and later met Primark’s chief executive Paul Marchant, restoration experts and first responders who dealt with the aftermath of the blaze.
Speaking about the building, Charles told a group of construction workers: “I hope it comes back to life soon.”
Mr Marchant said it was his company’s intention to restore the building “to its former glory” and said Charles had compared the fire to the recent Notre-Dame Cathedral blaze.
The chief executive said: “He referred to other buildings which had gone through similar tragic incidents and the level of detail you need to go in to, to ensure you protect historic buildings.”
Before leaving the royal couple went on a brief walkabout shaking the hands of shoppers who were surprised to see the prince and his wife in the city centre.
During the day, Charles met 82-year-old Ruth Kohner, who was a toddler when her parents fled Nazi Germany in 1939, when he visited a synagogue with the UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for the installation of the Torn From Home Windows project.
The stained-glass windows featured symbols like a dove and were made by members of the Travelling, Jewish and Chinese communities, people of mixed ethnic backgrounds and various Christian churches as part of a project supported by the European Union.