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The Flying Duck, Ilkley

Flying Duck SmallI’ve always felt that Ilkley needs more pubs. Seriously; considering the amount of tourists and weekenders that the spa town attracts, there seems to be more cafes than pubs – which is probably a nod to the elderly population of the place. It doesn’t really stand up to the pub-life of nearby Skipton or Otley, but perhaps that’s about to change. Last week, after an extended and extensive refurbishment, The Flying Duck took off – and is already proving to be a popular addition to the neighborhood.

The Flying Duck, as has been told, is the new project from Stewart Ross, who finds himself not only brewing house beers under the Wharfedale Brewery banner for the pub, but wearing the GM’s hat, too. Having visited the pub during the refurbishment, I can attest to the transformation that’s taken place within a building that had no shortage of age-related obstacles to overcome. Previously – as the Albert – it was dark, slightly unwelcoming and in need of attention. Now, the sandstone and scrubbed floors radiate light and warmth, and those dark, gummy beams have been blasted to uncover the scratches, marks and notches that over 100 years of living under them have collated.

Pass the wood-crackling stove and through the bar area, upstairs and through the back and you’ll see the brewery; housed in a gleaming glass and stone outhouse replete with viewing windows. Courtesy of Oban Ales, the small plant will pump out Wharfedale Blonde, Black and Best, as well as any seasonals that Stewart can conjure up. Sadly, the one thing I can’t do is tell you how the Blonde – currently brewed offsite by Stewart and Malcolm Bastow at Five Towns Brewery – tastes; it was completely sold out.

photoNot that I was struggling to find a beer – far from it. Saltaire, Dark Horse, Hambleton, Mallinsons, Naylor’s and Goose Eye provided the ales, and the lager’s local too – Copper Dragon’s Radka and a house lager brewed by Tirril Brewery for the pub provided interest on that front. Wines, bottles (US, English and Belgian classics) and warm drinks are all catered for.

It’s all in excellent condition; the Mallinson’s Stadium Bitter in particular being one of the cleanest, well-balanced pints of beer I’ve enjoyed in a while. A little look in the cellar at what’s to come follows the theme – local beers that will appeal to a wide audience with the odd little treat in there for those who like things a little stronger.

As I said earlier, The Flying Duck seems like the sort of pub Ilkley’s been crying out for, and given the success of the opening weekend, I suspect the locals have felt that way too. It’s dog friendly, but there’s no food being offered at present.


I don’t generally do pub reviews, but, like late-coming buses, this is the second of three that’ll be posted this month. If you’re currently reading The Inn at The Top (which I can heartily recommend), then author Neil Hanson will be holding a talk at the Duck on the 28th of November. Contact the pub for further info.

The Flying Duck, Ilkley & Oscars for Ossett

Flying Duck Cover pic3New pub openings are always exciting, and Ilkley is about to get not only a new watering hole, but a new brewpub to boot. A group of local beer enthusiasts – a couple of whom have been involved with Ilkley Beer Festival for a number of years -are currently refurbishing The Albert Inn on Church St. It’ll be reopening as The Flying Duck, a nod to its original title of The Mallard Inn.

The 2.5 barrel brewplant will be housed in the buildings behind the pub, and fermenting vessels from Oban Ales have been shipped down to Yorkshire. The team will be producing a range of beers for the pub under the banner of Wharfedale Brewery.

Hopefully they’ll be able to restore some glory to the pub; the Grade II listed building is one of Ilkley’s oldest properties, having been built in 1709 as a farmhouse and is mentioned in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s “Buildings of England” chronicles for its architectural importance, according to their press release.

Spokesman Jonathan Shepherd outlines the style of The Flying Duck; the emphasis will be on home-made and guest Real Ales and a pub for the community. ‘When looking for a premises, we were advised that the lease on the Albert was available – which with its 300 year history – provides an exact match with our plans to provide a Yorkshire Dales style real ale and fine wine venue in a setting packed with character which we hope the community will be proud of”.

The pub is being renovated as we speak; I’ve seen some of the plans and it looks lovely, to be honest – the Albert has not been particularly worth visiting in recent years. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on this one – brewpubs don’t pop up often – and you can keep up to date with them on their Twitter account. 

pumpclipsBrewDog Leeds opened this week, and yet again proved that being a ‘chain’ doesn’t have to be all bad as long as you stay true to your original vision. Another, less-heralded chain of pubs won a fantastic award this week; and in typical Ossett fashion, to little fanfare.

Winning The Best Microbrewery Pub Company at The Publican awards is massively deserved. Ossett’s pub estate – from the simple ale-focused likes of The Rat (Huddersfield) and The Riverhead (Marsden) to the music-and-beer niche The Hop (Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield), they do things right. Great beer in great settings, and if you’re a fan of live music, then The Hops are a godsend.

It’s great to see Ossett getting recognition like this; underrated somewhat as a brewer, let’s hope that this award throws a bit more of the spotlight their way.

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