I’ve not had much luck recently when tasting a number of bottled beers from an individual brewery. I’ve not had anything really bad, but equally I’ve not had anything that raises its head much above the mundane. The thing that most annoys me is that many brewers produce a range of beers that all taste the same. I mean, what is the point? And so it was with a certain resignation that I bought four bottles from Ilkley Brewery.
All four were middle-of-the-range for alcohol content, ranging from 3.5% to 4.2%. As usual, I’ll review them in increasing ABV. None of the beers is bottle conditioned.
Mary Jane is a 3.5% golden ale, a pale yellow in colour, not quite straw-coloured. This beer is full-flavoured and packs quite a hoppy punch. There is grapefruit pith and floral overtones add a lightness of touch to the flavour. A nice, refreshing pale hoppy beer. There were slight disinfectant hints in there too, though these faded the further down the glass I got. This indicates perhaps a slight problem with the yeast in this particular batch, and it is not something I would expect to recur.
Ilkley Black is a 3.7% dark mild. It pours a lovely deep red colour. Liquorice dominates the smell. For 3.7%, this beer is amazingly smooth, with flavours of malt, chocolate and liquorice. There are bags of flavour in there, and it is very good. Unusually for me during a tasting session, I wished that I had another bottle of this to drink right away.
The third bottle was Ilkley Best, a 4.0% Yorkshire best bitter. The colour is a reddy brown chestnut. Made with 99% Maris Otter and 1% Black malts, this beer is strongly hopped with Galena and Brewer’s Gold hops. The result is a true best bitter. Darkish look, bags of maltiness and a really good, strong, bitter finish.
My final beer from Ilkley was Ilkley Pale, the strongest of the four, weighing in at a still modest 4.2%. Ilkley Pale is hopped with the fantastic New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, which give a wonderful floral hoppy aroma to the beer. It is wonderfully refreshing, a crisp, clear taste with great floral hoppy bitterness which grows at the finish. It’s great to find a beer that is so easy-drinking without any danger of it being bland. Splendid.
I needn’t have worried. Although I’ve been brought down a bit by some dull bottled beers recently, Ilkley has come along and restored my faith. I enjoyed all of these beers and would happily buy them all again. Best of all, they were all very different, and each one was a fine exemplar of its type.
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