Monday, March 03, 2014

A meeting with the Ilkley head brewer at Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds

Pints of Joshua Jane and a half of Five Points at Whitelock's
UPDATED:
After a tough day at the type-face on Thursday I headed off to Leeds for a real ale farewell for an emigrating friend.
A former colleague was about to up-sticks to North America, so we thought we'd go for a jar to mark his imminent departure from these shores.
There were no firm plans other than to start at The Templar Hotel on Vicar Lane and work back towards the railway station.
But things changed when I spotted this twitter:

It's our @Ilkleybrewery Meet the Brewer toniiiiight!! There's gonna be pork pies too! WOOOOO
So after a couple of drinks in The Templar (Bosun's, Slater's and Axholme), three pie fiends headed downtown for an audience with Ilkley managing director and head brewer Chris Ives.
The main bar at Whitelock's, off Briggate, was standing room only, but we soon learnt the actual event was further down Turks Head Yard in the top bar.
I'd never been in this part of the 299-year-old pub before, but was impressed with the setting for the beer talk. The lounge area featured a smaller bar with tables and stools around bench seats.
So after sampling some freshly prepared mini pork pies and some scene-stealing black pudding and hash browns patties we took our seats to listen to Chris's story.
He succinctly explained the origins of Ilkley Brewery and the success of its Mary Jane beer before leading us through the first of three Ilkley brews.
First up was Olicana Pale. It's a 4.4% beer whose moniker is derived for the Roman word for Ilkley.
Chris said its exclusive #1391 hop, from supplier Charles Faram, was linked to an English hop which dated back to the 19th Century. Interestingly our Victorian forebears rejected the hop as being too aromatic, but 150 years on I think it will find-favour with modern-day hopheads.
The Ilkley boss said the single hop beer was brewed with the intention of sustaining the hit throughout the drink, thus avoiding a 'dip' in taste.
In true meet the brewer fashion we were given a free snifter of each drink.
But cannily there were beer/smoke breaks between each tasting, so we each went for a half of the Olicana. The consensus was that we all liked it. 
According to the Ilkley website, the beer has now sold out after a limited release in February. But you can catch it at SIBA Beer X at iceSheffield (March 12-15).
Our next beer was Rye n' Dry, a 5% roggenbier made by Ilkley's American brewer Christa Sandquist. This beer really found favour with my emigrating friend who is a red beer fan. He hopes there will be plenty of this type of beer where he is headed.
Chris Ives also told his audience about the American beer scene and his various visits there. He reckons the Americans grasped the craft beer initiative about a decade before we did. He also spoke about the statesiders' desire to brew complex beers and about the battle to replace wine at the dinner table.  
Our final beer was another one, I think, Christa had a hand-in. A 6.2% black IPA called Pata Negra. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is a beer style that I am gradually coming round to. And it was my beer of the night.
Chris talked about the history of IPA - referencing Pete Brown's Hops and Glory book - before moving on to that contradiction in terms, the black IPA. 
I recall Chris saying that he felt he wasn't quite finished with this beer yet and hoped it to be more 'pale' than dark. But I beg to differ, this had the lovely, lingering aftertaste of a dark beer without the heaviness you associate with a stout or porter.
Having said that it was 6.2% ABV and I fell asleep on the train home, which is always is a good yardstick of a top dark beer!
The next day I thanked Whitelock's via twitter and was invited back for the bar's next meet the brewer event: Five Points Brewing from 6pm on Tuesday, March 11.
You can find more information about the event here:

Sources:
All pump clip images courtesy of Ilkley Brewery.

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