Category Archives: Ilkley Brewery
It’s hard to believe Ilkley’s Stewart Ross when he tells me it’s almost two years to the week that the idea of Ilkley Brewing Co. was formed to this day; when a spanking new 20 barrel brewery is formally opened.
That just goes to show the incredible leaps Ilkley have made since then. By brewing a strong core range of traditional, yet tasty beers supplemented by popular seasonals, Ilkley have somehow managed to become part of the Yorkshire beer scenery – but in a good way. The new brewery is pretty much like every new brewery around these days; functional and modern, clean and efficient; but based on the conversations I’ve had this morning it’s the vision of the brewers that maketh the beer. As we chewed the fat over a half of Ilkley Best, Black Summit, a Dark IPA in very much the modern style, sits glowering in the end fermenter.
The launch was a successful one; a few speeches by the Mayor and Chris Ives, and then onto the beer, conversation and awesome Pork Pies supplied by that Ilkley institution, Lishman’s Butchers (one was not enough, let me say…). You know, you can’t go much wrong with a pint of Best and a just-warm Pork Pie…
..Anyway, I digress. Looking across the bar, it’s easy to say Ilkley brew straight-ahead drinkers; be it the Cascade-laced, multi-award-winning Mary Jane, or the malt-driven but well-bittered Best. However, that’s to do the term a disservice; fact is, Ilkley’s beers are full of flavour and more often than not, hop-led (although not in the US style). Ilkley Pale is coming on strong; straw-hued, lemony on the nose and dry in the finish; . The sort of Blonde that makes one wish the onset of spring would hurry the hell up. Ilkley Black remains a Dark Mild in the truest sense; rich and moreish without being too heavy on the palate.
I’m sure Ilkley will expand further; their beers have already reached pretty much every part of the land – and given that my conversation with Stewart encompassed drinking in Cask, The Rake, the qualities of Nelson Sauvin and Kernel’s beers, I really don’t think that ‘levelling out’ is in Ilkley’s vocabulary. Regardless of whether you view Ilkley Brewery as a ‘traditional’ brewer or not, I can safely predict you’ll find at least one beer of theirs that you’ll like in 2011.
Ilkley will be holding various ‘Meet The Brewer’ events throughout April in Wetherspoons, Foley’s and Market Town Taverns. Do pop along. And it was also a pleasure to chat with Spike of The Narrow Boat, and The Ilkley Beer Fest chaps. Until next time…
I’ve been watching the progress of Black Sheep’s Wooly Jumper Porter (4.0abv) for a good month or so now; simply due to the fact that they don’t brew seasonals, specials, or one-offs all that often. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter I found out that Veritas in Leeds has snagged some, so I trudged through the snow on Tuesday to sample it. I’m glad I did. It’s a great beer; although I must admit, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I’m pleased to report that Black Sheep have done a really good job. When held up to the light there’s a lovely red hue coming through the black, as all good porters should have (if you ask me).
Through the tan collar there’s not a great deal going on in the nose apart from some lovely woody smokiness; which sort of sets you up for a sweet beer – but it’s not. There’s a little almond-biscuityness in there, the aforementioned hint of woodsmoke, and a nice, dry bite at the end. Kudos to Veritas, too – the pint was in tip-top condition too – very clean, very moreish. All in all, it’s a really good beer, and one that I hope Black Sheep sell enough of to make it a regular; I think it would be a valuable new addition to their tried and tested, familiar range. Give it a try if you see it about.
Another of the ‘bigger’ Yorkshire brewers who are adding a new seasonal offering to their range is Copper Dragon, who have rolled out Three Kings Ale across Yorkshire this week. I’ve not tried it yet, but I hear it’s inspired by German Altbier and Red Ales rather than the usual ‘Christmas Pudding in a Glass’ efforts. It sounds good and certainly worth a try, so if anyone hears of any being spotted around my manor, give me a shout. Finally, staying in Yorkshire, I’ve been told Lishman’s Butchers of Ilkley have cured one of their Christmas Hams in Ilkley’s Stout this year – so if you’re up that way (visiting Booth’s, perhaps?), then drop in and see if they’ve got any left.
Leeds welcomed another set of beer pumps to choose from this week, with the opening of Veritas, situated on Great George Street, just behind the town hall. Market Town Taverns are known for their tasteful and stripped-back treatments of drinking dens, and Veritas follows that blueprint closely.
The paint only just dry, I popped in for a couple of beers. The good thing about MTT pubs is that you sort of know what to expect – no music, some decent bar food, and walls covered in repro vintage beer posters. On my visit, the staff were friendly, the place buzzing along nicely with a lunchtime crowd of suits, and some decent beers to choose from.
Despite being quite Northern-Centric, the range was good – Black Sheep Bitter, Thwaite’s Wainwright, Ilkley’s Black and Mary Jane, Tim Taylor’s Best, Marston’s Oyster Stout and Wharfebank Blond adorned the pumps, and there was the usual bottled range including Kuppers Kolsch, Veltins and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout to name a few. In a pale sort of mood, I opted for two new, but tried-and-tested thirst-quenchers; the citrussy Mary Jane from Ilkley and the maltier, more floral Blond from Wharfebank. Both beers were in good nick , and I settled down for a quiet lunch with my head in the sports pages. Which is all I want, really. I’m a simple man.
Veritas seems like a decent addition to the circuit, and forms a nice little triangle in that part of town now along with comrades Foley’s and The Vic, just down the road. On a related note, Ilkley wil be launching thier new oatmeal stout, Stout Mary, in conjuction with Market Town Taverns in the upcoming month. Keep an eye out.
Since the football season started again, my intake of Pale ales has shot up dramatically. I don’t know why, but when watching the footy I almost always go for a Pale – Stouts, Porters, Wheats, Wits…other styles just don’t cut it. I suspect it’s due to their easy-going nature, but that’s not to underplay Pale ale. It’s my favourite style, as much for the varying interpretations of it out there, as for it’s sessionability. Pale Ale really is a blank canvas. Here’s three that have really hit the spot of late.
First up is Ilkley’s Mary Jane (3.5%abv). MJ’s a beer that I’ve enjoyed on draught a few times now, but it’s a rarity for me in that I think I prefer it’s bottled counterpart. MJ’s orange-grapefruit aroma really comes alive in the glass, and the slight carbonation means that it’s got a softer, more mellow mouthfeel than some bottled pales have. It’s clean, thirst-quenching and exactly the sort of Pale we seem to like these days – hopped with C-hops, and with a decent bitterness. American-influenced, if you will. Ilkley are a relatively new brewery but are filling the trophy cabinet already and becoming a firm favourite on the Yorkshire brewing scene. Keep up the good work, lads.
A brewery that needs no introduction (on TGS, anyway) is Acorn – purveyor of consistently high-quality beers. Blond’s (4%abv) no exception – a grainy, cereal-tinged body gives way to a lemony aroma and surprisingly dry finish. In fact, it’s this dry, crisp finish that makes Blonde a success in my opinion. It’s super-pale, but packs in a lot of aroma. Another one for Acorn completists to have a bash at, I think.
Finally, staying in Yorkshire (thanks lads!), Wentworth‘s WPA (4.%abv) is well worth a try. Straw-coloured, it’s got an amazingly vibrant apple/pear nose; one that you really don’t expect. Well-balanced, with an excellent bitterness at the end of a very long sip, it’s one to drink a lot of, for sure. I’d love to try this on draught and compare the two – I really didn’t expect much out of the ordinary from WPA, but was surprised at its depth of aroma. A pleasure to drink.
Kudos to local boys Ilkley Brewing Co – thier pale thirst-quencher Mary Jane is now a guest ale in the House of Commons, just to top off an award-winning few months. Good work. Other local tidbits – keep an eye out for some excellent sounding one-offs from Rooster’s in the next few weeks, including an UK-hopped IPA & a Whiskey-Barrel aged Stout, amongst others….popular Saltaire are holding a beer festival on September 17th – tickets will be available from Saltaire Brewery directly from 1st July…Great Heck Brewery have bought O’Donaghues in Wakefield, so there will be a regular outlet for their beers there – as well as an upcoming launch for the newly minted Ridgeside Brewery, who are currently brewing their first batch of beer…and finally, moving out of Yorkshire, belated congrats to The Highland Brewing Company, whose wonderfully complex Orkney Blast has won Champion Beer of Scotland at CAMRA’s recent national real ale festival. A fitting award for a wonderful beer.
Well, that’s the sunny weather pretty much done for, it seems. Still, it gave me the opportunity to crack open some of those summer beers that we all know and love – pale, zingy, crisp and refreshing, and perfect for al fresco drinking.
One surprise entry amongst last weekend’s usual suspects – Thornbridge’s Jaipur, Wensleydale’s Coverdale Poacher, Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin and Ilkey’s Mary Jane to name but a few – was Marks & Spencer’s Essex Summer Ale, bought purely on a whim whilst buying food because (in a childish voice) it had a pwetty label.
Closer inspection reveals this little treat to be brewed by Crouch Vale, brewers of such fine beers as Brewer’s Gold and Amarillo. Essex Summer Ale follows much in the same path, although more complex than Brewer’s Gold – straw in colour, but with a real tropical/Juicy fruit aroma, and a real C-Hop hit on the tongue. A slightly grainy body is lifted with an ever-so-slight hint of minty grassiness at the end of the sip. I enjoyed it immensely, and would happily drink it again. So there you go. Moonlighting occasionally works.
Congrats to Ilkley Brewery, whose Mary Jane Golden Ale won Gold in last weeks’ SIBA Northern Beer Competition. They’ll now go through to the finals, which is a tremendous achievement for a company only 6 months old.
You can find Ilkley’s beers at Foleys in Leeds, Bar’t’at in Ilkley, The Corn Dolly in Bradford and, recently, the famed Fat Cat in Sheffield amongst others. We’ll be running a little piece on Ilkley and their history in the new year. In the meantime, check out their wares. Solid, tasty session beers all round.
You can see the full list of Northern winners here.