Wednesday, 15 February 2012

And The Winner Is....

It’s award season. Who’s going to get Best Actor, will there be a costume malfunction…? Whilst these are important issues, and at the forefront of all our minds I’m sure, we must not forget that beer is, and must be for all time, the winner. Here at Ilkley Brewery we have embraced the award season with vim, vigour, gusto and guffaws, and all the while making beers. Great beers. Award-winning beers!

January saw another red-carpet launch for Ilkley Brewery, with the eagerly anticipated unveiling of  MJ Fortis, our new Artisan Stout. Calls Landing cancelled Tom Cruise’s dinner booking and gave over the bar to the great and the good of the press world and the stout drinkers of Leeds. And here’s the twist, or should I say “shuck”. We know that drinkers of a particular Irish Stout are a very loyal bunch. They know what they like and they like what they like and they won’t settle for second best. But what if there’s a stout with more clout? We used our food-pairing experience to give our launch-night and oyster theme, so everyone who bought a pint of the black stuff was given an oyster-shucking lesson and a free oyster. Guests were then encouraged to put their shucked shell in a voting bucket, to show support for their new-found tipple of choice, MJ Fortis, or for the t’other one. And the results are in:

A roaring success at Calls Landing, you can now also sup this sumptuous stout in Dock Street Market, Sela and The Reliance in Leeds, with The Roast to follow next week. MJ Fortis will also be making an appearance at The Volunteer Arms in York, and at The Antelope and The Catford Bridge Tavern, both in London. This marks the start of an exciting new chapter in the MJ Artisan Ales range, as they spread their wings and shine their cask keg light across the country. MJ Pale is now available in Trof and Port Street Beer House in Manchester, and will be debuting in Bristol shortly at The Robin Hood. Anyone who fancies trying all three of the range should get themselves to Harrogate during the Harrogate Beer Festival (16th-18th Feb) and pop across the road to The Old Bell Tavern where we will be hosting a pop-up bar showcasing MJ Pale, MJ Summit and MJ Fortis. A selection of our cask ales will be available at the Festival itself.

January also saw the launch of our year-long “Wish You Were Beer” contest. We are inviting all drinkers of Ilkley beers to get in touch with their funniest Ilkley brew-related anecdotes, puns and photos, and each month we’ll choose a winner. Not only does that lucky person get a loverly prize, but also goes into the hat to win a days brewing here at Ilkley Brewery. Wish you were HERE? To get involved simply post on twitter with the hashtag #WishYouWereBeer or Like us and upload to our new Facebook page (The Ilkley Brewery).

Hats off (or on in this case) to January’s winner Ghostdrinker, who floated to the top with this snap of his goulish avatar clutching a bottle of Mary Jane. Congratulations, and a flatcap and bottle of Lotus IPA for your troubles. In acceptance of his award, a humble Ghostdrinker had this to say:
“…that’s how I roll” as well as thanking his parents and everyone who believed in him.

Presenting this next award, please welcome to the stage an organisation that is by the brewers, for the brewers, championing Small Independent Brewers throughout the UK. Yes folks, it’s everyone’s favourite National competition, the SIBA National Beer Festival! Queue rapturous applause… Now, we won a silver medal (for Stout Mary) in this year’s regional finals, and so didn’t have any of our cask competing nationally. However, we did enter into the Craft Beer in Keg part of the competition, alongside 32 other breweries and against over 60 beers from across the country. The judging was held at The Barrels in Hereford on the 3rd February, and a good time was had by all. The calibre of the judges involved, and the involvement of some of the leading lights in the Independent Brewing scene emphasised the growing importance of this category of beer, and we are delighted to announce that MJ Pale won Gold in the Champion Bitters, Pale and Golden Ales. This is the brewery’s first ever National Gold medal, and is for a beer that was only launched less than three month’s previously! It was with great pride that we lined up the MJ Pale on the bar at this weekend’s SIBA Beer Festival at The Canalhouse in Nottingham. 56 Regional cask winners were on show, but there was also a special section on the bar for Champion Beers of the Past, and there can be found our lovely Mary Jane, award-winner from 2009. The brewery’s own Stewart Ross was one of the chief judges this year, and we had a great day in Nottingham with the great and the good in the industry. We wait with bated breathe to see if MJ Pale will be crowned Champion Craft Beer In Keg in Britain at next month’s SIBA Conference. I would genuinely like to thank everyone who made this possible – the team here at the brewery, the many bars who have got behind the product and helped us develop (you know who you are!), the… sob sob… sorry…. Thank you!

The next award this evening, was voted for by the public. Last week the good people of Lancashire converged on Pendle and beer was king. The Pendle Beer Festival was a riotous occasion, full of beers and cheers. More cheers please: Mary Jane was voted Beer of the Festival by the CAMRA members at the festival!! Wild celebration has ensued, and we hope to ride this beery frothy crest of a wave onwards.

We've just had the fantastic Ilkley Beer Festival, with Harrogate Festival this week, and Rotherham after that… does the fun never stop?!

This next month will see plans move forward for no less than three collaboration brews. Our Spring Beer, Mary Hoppins will be born, as will a Saison Noire and a Rhubarb Wheat Bier. Also being born will be a new mini-brewer, in the form of my son who’s due any day (!!) and if people continue drinking our beer at the current pace, we’ll need to expand the brewery itself… again!! 

I’d like to thank you all, for without you, the reader and drinker, none of this would be possible. So let’s raise a glass and salute beer, and all who revel in it: the brewers the thinkers the readers the drinkers. Cheers!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Wish You Were Beer

Do you drink beer?

Do you have a camera?

Do you have a funny turn of phrase?

If the answer’s YES to any of the above (although answering yes to at least the first question would definitely help) then we want to hear from you!

Where are you drinking our beer? Are you in Ilkley or Israel, Yorkshire or Yemen? Perhaps you’ve shared a glass with a celeb? Perhaps it was your reward atop a mountain peak? Do you have a funny story about drinking our beer? Maybe your baby always wears a brewery flatcap? Maybe you just want to share your opinion?

We will be offering a prize each month for the best tweet/facebook-mention regarding Ilkley Brewery Beers; be it a photo, a pun, a story or even a claim to be drinking it in the farthest flung reaches imaginable! Not only that, but each monthly winner will be entered into a draw to win a days brewing here at Ilkley Brewery!

Yes YOU can get involved in making some of our award-winning beer!!

On twitter simply start your tweet with #WishYouWereBeer and be sure to address the tweet to @IlkleyBrewery and on Facebook; just Like us on our new Facebook Page and share your post! Simples!

If you need some inspiration before you begin, we recommend supping on an Ilkley Brewery beverage. Have you tried our new seasonal ales Fireside Porter or American Brown Ale Triple A? Perhaps have a go on our Lotus IPA or Stout Mary, both new to bottle? And if your local doesn’t yet offer the delights of cask-conditioned ale – look out for our MJ Artisan craft-kegged range…

Bottoms up!

(although please don’t include any pictures of bottoms).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Hoppy New Beer: 2012 – The Brewing Revolution Continues

We have grown and consolidated on our successes. We have taken our time and learnt our craft. We have listened to our customers. 2012 is the year of endless possibilities. We will experiment, we will create, we will improve. We will push the boundaries. We will unleash our creativity and innovation to take our beers to the next level. We are proud to be enjoyed in Yorkshire, but now we want to make World Class beers of distinction. This is not merely a New Year’s Resolution, it is a New Year’s REVOLUTION!

From Whence We Came

In 1873, The Ilkley Brewery and Aerated Water Company was formed, utilising the town’s rich heritage as a spa town, dating back to Roman times. Unfortunately, having been gobbled up by a large conglomerate in the 20s, the company disappeared from view. The town’s cry for brewing tradition to be reborn wasn’t heeded until 2009, when The Ilkley Brewery Company brewed its first batch – Olicana (the Roman name for the town of Ilkley). Since the inception of the new company, it has been a somewhat whirlwind ride, and an incredibly steep learning curve. It is generally acknowledged that the first brew was drunk mainly out of solidarity from well-meaning friends and locals. However, the determination of the founders, Chris Ives and Stewart Ross, to produce exceptional beers, and using only the finest ingredients, they soon created a winning recipe. Gold winning in fact: Mary Jane won Gold at the 2009/10 SIBA Northern Beer Competition, and then Bronze nationally. And from this platform, the brewery was able to grow from producing just 4000 pints a week in its first premises to 33,000 pints a week now.

Recipe For Success

Half a ton of the finest malt from England and Germany, 4000 litres of the purest Yorkshire Water, the Ilkley Brewery strain of brewers yeast and a blend of the best hops available, from England and the New World. Combine to a precise timetable and leave to ferment for a week, remembering the old brewer’s adage “every beer should see a Sabbath”.
When the above mixture is prepared by hand, in the traditional artisan fashion, with care, skill and dedication, and the same enthusiasm is channelled towards creating a dynamic business structure, growth is the natural result. 2011 saw growth of over 100% in terms of production, and the profile of the brewery increased with Asda, Booths and Morrisons each stocking a selection of the bottled ale.
Deals with national wholesalers now mean that our cask ales are being enjoyed in London, Bristol and Glasgow, as well as throughout Yorkshire on our direct delivery routes. Supplementing our core venues in Leeds, Bradford and the surrounding areas, we now regularly deliver as far afield as Manchester and Preston to the West, York and Thirsk to the East, and Halifax and Huddersfield to the South. Keep your eye out for our bottles in your local boutique wine-shops and off-licenses. 2011 also saw the development of our first craft-kegged ales, the MJ Artisan range.

Catering for venues not able to dispense cask-conditioned ale, the craft-kegged beers allows discerning drinkers at such venues the opportunity to sample great, local ale as an alternative to bland, tasteless lagers that they are so often confronted with. City centre bars and restaurants have welcomed the opportunity to take ale in a different format, and the MJ Pale is already a permanent fixture in 10 Leeds venues, a number expected to double in January. Here’s what Christian Townsley, of North Bar ( had to say:
"We were absolutely thrilled to host the official launch of Ilkley Brewery’s range of craft-kegged beers at North Bar. The night was a great success and very busy as customers packed out the bar to try the beers for the first time. The beers tasted great, in particular MJ Pale was an absolute triumph. The depth of flavour on the palate was a surprise for such a low ABV beer. It’s been exciting following the rise of this wonderful local brewery and to see them branch out into keg beer is wonderful. Only the most innovative of cask ale brewers are attempting this area of dispense. We’re looking forward to working with Ilkley Brewery again.”

2012 sees MJ Summit and MJ Fortis go on general release, with at least another 30 venues on the waiting list, in Ilkley, Leeds, York and Manchester. 2011 culminated with Mary Christmas; a golden ale infused with festive fruit, spice and rum. What a Christmas Cracker. So good, we sold out by the 5th December and had to brew it again! Seasonal enough to wash the turkey down beautifully, but good enough in its own right to stand up to (nay, put in its shadow!) any “regular” beer on the bar.

Create, Innovate, Inebriate
So what can you expect from the Ilkley stable this year? Naturally, well-balanced, hoppy beers. We will continue producing our core range of beers, with Mary Jane, Ilkley Best and Ilkley Gold part of many Yorkshire-folk’s staple diet. Ilkley Black has shown a surge in popularity and will accompany Ilkley Pale, back by popular demand, on our regular brew-sheet. Stout Mary, fresh from her success at the SIBA Northern Beer Festival, where she picked up a silver medal, shall continue to feature, in both cask and bottle, and our wolf in sheep’s clothing, Lotus IPA will resume duties at the top end of our spectrum.

But fresh out of the blocks in 2012 are two new brews – a signal of our intent to continue the British Ale Revolution. Throughout the colder months, a true winter warmer will be our Fireside Porter, a deep, 4.2% chocolate Porter strongly hopped to add berryfruit with a lasting bitterness and a hint of smoke on the finish. We also welcome some influence from overseas, with an All American Brown Ale currently fermenting away, ready for action next week. It is a 4% ale using heavyweight American hops to deliver bitterness and a huge citrus hit, yet it remains balanced and smooth to drink. Deep amber in colour it is inspired by some of the most popular American Brown Ales currently available in the USA craft beer scene. Best enjoyed with a big hamburger and fries! Our Spring beer, Mary Hoppins is already under development, and other plans for the year include a Saison Noire, a Ruby… but wait, what would you like to see? We are committed to continuing to produce top quality, easy-drinking ales, that you would drink time and time again. So, let’s raise a glass of frothy goodness, toast the success of last year, and look forward to a 2012 brimfull of Ilkley Brewery innovation and evolution.
Hoppy New Beer!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

The British Ale Revolution Continues

The date was the sixteenth of November, 2011, mark it well. For upon this day, in the centre of Leeds, a new chapter was written. Picture the scene; North Bar, for a decade or more the home of beer connoisseurs in Leeds, nay The North. These purveyors of fine beers from around the world have long been regarded as the epicentre of cultured beer drinking, and upon this hallowed ground the MJ Artisan Ales range was born.

Now, the subject of cask and keg is one that gets some people hot under the collar. Beer is meant to make people happy, not sad. We don’t want to offend anyone, we just want to make good beer; Nay great beer! Cask conditioned ale is our bread and butter, our malt and hops – we are proud of our success(es) in such a short space of time. Our abiding principle is to create beers of distinction. We brew with passion, skill and patience. And we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to drink our hand-crafted ales. Anyone who read the 2011 Cask Ale Report (and let’s face it, what better bedtime reading is there?!) will have seen that ale is showing growth in a market heavily depressed. They will have gasped aloud at the section that stated that 10% of ale drinkers are under 24, and many of these don’t even have a beard! Now, in order to facilitate this encouraging growth, we all have a duty (let’s not get started on Beer Duty though) to offer as many people as possible the chance to drink our beers. Whilst the British pub is an institution rightly revered and deserving of protection and support, there are a huge amount of other outlets where people drink beer. Restaurants offer fantastic wine lists, but paltry beer selections, as do hotels (see previous blog: beer & food matching), and the boom of boutique independent city centre bars has been a massive success story during the recent downturn. Should the discerning city centre drinkers be denied the opportunity to drink beers of distinction? No of course not. Should they be happy to see bland, mass-produced beers as their only choice, when they can sample the best wines and spirits? No, of course not. And let’s not forget the immense pride the nation should have in its brewing tradition. Why is it that despite our rich ale history, American and Australian craft-brewers are able to corner a section of the UK beer market? (don't just take my word for it: Don't you think that British Breweries should be championed for bringing remarkable, refreshing and flavoursome beer to the attention of the Great British public? “Proper” beer is becoming popular, and that can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole surely?! The method of dispense is purely a matter of practicality and a tool to be utilised rather than spurned in order to spread the good word. A lot of new beer drinkers are taking their first tentative steps towards drinking flavoursome beers, and realising that you can taste the care artisan brewers put into their brew, the fresh ingredients and lack of chemicals. The big boys (you know who you are!) have had your day in the sun/rain/snow; the day of the British Craft Brewery is dawning!
At night. In North Bar. On the 16th November.
 For those of you that managed to make it down – a big thank you for coming with minds as open as your mouths, as you drank down the delicious drops that we have been making. For those of you who didn’t, it looked roughly like this, but with sound:
It was a great night, and the guys and gals of North were fantastic hosts. Our MJ Pale was as crisp and refreshing as we’d hoped, although between you and me, we might add some extra aroma hops in there in the future. The MJ Summit absolutely flew out and was by far and away the top tipple of the evening. Even our four cask beers on offer went down a storm (naturally – they are rather good don’tcha know!). Unfortunately we experienced some dispense issues with our developmental stout, MJ Fortis, and so we decided not to launch it on the night (I am very pleased to announce that we have rectified the issue, it tastes smashing, and it will be available at our forthcoming Beer Society Evening at the Brewery – 2nd December). Bear in mind that whilst all of our beers remain hand-brewed, using traditional techniques, we have developed this new brand and range specifically for keg dispense – there are a number of different variables that we have to consider that differ from those when serving ale from a cask. We have taken all of our award-winning experience in producing beers, and created a range of beers that we hope will appeal to all manner of drinkers, and hopefully convert a good many more to the wonders and joys of real British ale, whether cask conditioned, bottle conditioned, craft-kegged or simply bottled.
Beer must and always shall be the winner. And I’ll drink to that!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Breaking News - Read All About It!!!!

Happy November Everyone! Sorry it’s been such a long time, but we’ve been so busy making beer, developing new beers, welcoming old friends (not to name drop, but I will…) and winning awards, that I just haven’t been able to find the time to pause for breathe let alone write this blog. Well, I thought that on this day when we all pause for thought, and remember those who have, and who continue to serve their country, now might be a good opportunity to pause and to also look back over the last month here at Ilkley Brewery.

As the evenings darken, and fog descends (particularly heavy down by the Wharfe this year!), this is generally a time for winding down and hibernation preparation. Not on our watch, it’s all about new developments in this brewhous: The Craft-Ale Revolution Continues! And who better to endorse this revolution than the father of the locally-produced crusade himself, everyone’s favourite neighbourly chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Hugh had previously sampled our beers in 2010 when he was the headline act at the Ilkley Literature Festival, and when he returned this year, he was quick to ask for one of our brews, and had an Ilkley Pale by his side throughout his book signing after his fantastic talk. Few people have done as much as the esteemed Mr F-W for championing local produce, and we want to build on that message, and help establish Yorkshire as the foremost producer of quality food and drink in the UK!

To that end, we felt that we should spread the Ilkley Brewery love a little wider, and make a beer for the York folk in Yorkshire! “Pivo” means “Beer” in Czech, and “Pivovar” are fast becoming synonymous with quality beer in this country, after their flyaway success of the Euston Tap and the Sheffield Tap, the York Tap is to open on the 15th November at York Train Station, with no less than 25 handpumps. To honour this welcome addition to the Yorkshire fold, and to build upon our early forays into York through the lovely folk at The Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms, we thought we would invite the chaps from Pivovar over to the brewery to brew a special beer for York Tap. Using some fantastic and aromatic Australian hops that have been making waves Up Over as well as Down Under, namely Galaxy, Summer and Stella, we worked with Jamie Hawksworth and Yan Pilkington to create a fabulously hoppy, straw-coloured golden ale, at 4.2%. Tap 3 Northern Clout was born, and we decided to keep it neighbourly and add some Kiwi hops to the party by dry-hopping a few casks. Having sampled the brew all along the way, and seen it get better and better, I can’t wait until Tuesday and to raising a glass of Tap 3 “pivo” to celebrate the opening.

Time to pause again, take a sip of beer, and continue, for there is more to tell, so much more…

We are now the proud owners of a shiny new 30 Brewers Barrel Moeschle DPV, meaning that not only are we hopefully (!) able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for our beers, but in the future we’ll have the capability to try new and exciting things… watch this space…

I suppose I should tell you about the sip of beer I just had! Ho ho ho, it’s Maaaary Christmas!!! The brewhous has been a veritable assault on the senses, as we’ve been mixing up a spicy fruity storm for our seasonal ale – a golden Christmas Ale (4.7%), Mary Christmas (do you see what we’ve done?!) has wonderful orangey notes and an aromatic nose to whisk you away to a winter wonderland. Well it wouldn’t be the season of cheer without something extra special to “Cheers”!

 There is also a particularly exciting bit of news that I would like to share with you… as the brewery gets ready to launch a whole new brand… piqued your interest? To whet your appetite and your whistle, come and see us at North Bar next Wednesday (16th November) from 7.30pm, where all will be revealed… The Craft Ale Revolution Continues…

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Beer Does the Talking at Ilkley Literature Festival

For those of you lucky enough to have had tickets for last Friday’s Beer and Food Event at The Ilkley Playhouse, thank you for coming, and let me know your thoughts! And for those of you who must have had a really good excuse not to have booked your tickets in time… let me tell you all about it! Part of the increasingly popular and successful Ilkley Literature Festival, we welcomed Melissa Cole to Yorkshire to talk about beer. And as we all know (from reading last week’s blog!), beer goes rather well with food. So add to the already sparkling line-up Stephanie Moon and we had one stellar cast! Melissa Cole has been one of the foremost authorities on beer for some time, and can be found regularly improving the blogosphere (Taking the Beard out of Beer). In particular, Melissa is a champion of expanding people’s beer awareness, and disproving the myth of the “female palate”. She was also celebrating the launch of her first book at the event, Let Me Tell You About Beer (available 24th Oct from Amazon!). Stephanie Moon, former Executive Chef at Rudding Park and North East representative in last year’s “Great British Menu” (BBC2), has been working with us here at Ilkley Brewery to perfectly pair our beers and food (see last week’s blog for our “Pint Chart”).

The evening started for us back at base, where we welcomed some friends of the brewery old and new, including local MP Kris Hopkins and our longtime collaborator and butcher extraordinaire David Lishman. After a couple of warm-up pints of our latest speciality beer, a Green Hopped Ale* we took a leisurely stroll up to the Playhouse, in plenty of time to prepare the beer and do a final sound check. Stephanie and her team were already in place putting the finishing touches on the quite outstanding dishes that had been paired with our beer, and we got to work making ready the first beer for matching, Mary Jane. As Melissa introduced herself, Stephanie and the subject in hand (as if beer needs an introduction!!), 120 glasses of Mary Jane we presented to each member of the audience, along with an immaculately presented mini cone of fish and chips. Melissa talked everyone through the ins and outs of flavour matching (I won’t steal her thunder – go buy her book!) as we readied the next course: Our seasonal IXB, a beautifully coloured dark Yorkshire ale, which Stephanie had exquisitely paired with rare Yorkshire beef, in this instance cupped in a miniature Yorkshire pudding with a generous dollop of horseradish cream. No sooner had Melissa and Stephanie started gushing forth on the joys of beer and beef, at the back we were getting stuck in pulling another 120 glasses, this time of Ilkley Best, best served (did you see what I did there?!) with a Yorkshire blue cheese tartlet and plum compote.
I think we could have all gone home happy at this point, as surely it doesn’t get better than that? Oh yes it does, we haven’t even pulled out the big guns yet – Just in time for winter, our rich and thick oatmeal Stout Mary was next on the scene, beautifully balanced by a twist on Rarebit, using Stout Mary bread and Wensleydale cheese. This winter warmer was just the thing on that blustery evening, and proved almost as popular as the next offering. Ilkley Pale was accompanied by an ingenious take on bangers and mash. Stephanie inverted the norm and put the mash inside one of the aforementioned Mr Lishman’s prize-winning sausages, with a red onion compote to round it off. This perfectly complimented the strong fresh and hoppy flavour that so characterises our 4.2% pale ale. Melissa explained that the use of Nelson Sauvin Hops from New Zealand was akin to matching a grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
An interested audience member asked why so many of the hops being talked about were New World rather than home-grown. Melissa joked that many hops seem to take on the national caricatures of their host nation; American Amarillo, used in our Mary Jane are loud and in-your-face, the Nelson Sauvin from NZ can be laid back and fresh as the famed glaciers of the South Island. British Hops, often the stable basis for holding a beer’s flavour together, are altogether a more refined and subtle kettle of fish. They queue on your tongue, patiently waiting for your tastebuds to appreciate them. And now, the final course was queuing up. Despite conventional “wisdom” that the stronger the drink the more flavour it will have, beer is often contrary, and our Ilkley Black is a perfect example. The label of a “Mild” may put some people off, but when you allow yourself to taste it you would never know it came from that category. For what it lacks in punch (3.7%), it more than makes up for in flavour. We blend 5 different malts to achieve the perfect balance and colour, and then Stephanie came along and brought her amazing Yorkshire parkin to the party! She even added a little piece of liquorice on top to compliment the liquorice tones you get at the end of your sip. All that was left to do was to finish off the rest of the beer, for Melissa to sign copies of her book and for the whole group to regroup at Bar T’at for more beer and debriefing.

What a great night. It was so good to see so many people there, all asking questions and really getting behind the beer and food matching movement. For those of you keen to know more, please feel free to get in touch through our website, and don’t forget there’s another Beer Society Night at the Brewery on the 2nd December where you can come to the brewery, meet us, drink the beer and eat lovely food. It really just doesn’t get any better.
*Green Hops are only available once a year and beers made with them are special in that the hops are not dried before transportation and storage, ahead of flavouring the beers of the world. Rather they are picked fresh and sent straight to us to use immediately. There is a window of 48 hours from vine to brew, to maintain freshness, and the result is an extraordinarily full-of-flavour, zingy beer. We have made an IPA this year, at 5%, and almost the whole batch sold out straight away… look out for it at your local alehouse and sup it while you can, as we won’t be making it again until next year!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Food, meet Beer. Beer, meet Food. I believe we've met before.

Have you ever had a meal and washed it down with a beer? Have you ever had a pint and thought, “Ooh, I’m peckish, I’ll just have a gander at the menu”? Congratulations! You have “Beer and Food Matched”. You see? It’s not such an alien concept. Still not sure? Remember the last time you went out to that great curry house that does the best mango chutney and lamb Bhuna? Remember that you ordered a pint of Indian beer with it, even though they served Carlsberg?Carling/other standard "cooking lager"? Now imagine that you’re in the pub on a Saturday night, and as you look at the beer taps, you notice that same Indian beer is there right next to Carlsberg/Carling/other standard "cooking lager". Would you pause for a moment before ordering you usual? No. That’s because you know that it goes well with curry, but it’s not what you want right now. There, you know that it “goes well with curry”. Food matched. Done.

You know there’s science to it as well as marketing and phycology? Yes it’s true! Beer has a particular taste. In fact, not only do different styles of beer have different tastes, but within each category of beer, there are of course a whole range of different tastes. And then we have food-stuffs. They too have a whole variety of tastes. And just as your tastebuds are governed by memory, conditioning, sensitivity and a million other variables, so we all have the ability to make decisions about flavour combinations. Some people like Marmite, some people hate it (hey, there’s a catchy phrase!). Some people (admittedly they’re mostly American) like combining Peanut Butter and Jam (sic “Jelly”). Some (call them crazy) put apple sauce on their roast pork. So why is the prospect of matching a particular beer with a particular dish considered so “out there”? I mean, we’re perfectly comfortable with the idea of wine matching. Even those who don’t go in for all of the subtleties of grape variety will know that you generally drink white with fish, but might order something heavier and red when eating steak. Maybe beer matching isn’t considered “out there” at all, but why then is it not part of our everyday dining experience? Why is the wine list given more precedence than the (often paltry, and in comparison derisory) beer list at your local restaurant?

These are questions oft-asked in my household and at this brewery. In fact, tomorrow evening we, and the good folk of Ilkley will be welcoming eminent writer and champion of all things beer, Melissa Cole, as she is speaking as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival (tickets available via ). Melissa has long been a vocal proponent of the beer and food matching revolution, and we couldn’t be happier that she’s in town so we can help raise the profile of the nectar of the gods in the food arena. Some of you may also have read the article in last Wednesday's Yorkshire Post
This was talking about our recent pairing with Stephanie Moon, chef consultant extraordinaire (she maintained two rosettes whilst Executive Chef at Rudding Park, and you may also have seen her on the Great British Menu). We have been working tirelessly with Stephanie to create the ultimate guide to matching beer to food, and of course in particular, matching our beers to food! And this is what we have come up with:

So whether you want to do something different at a dinner party, or just want to expand your repertoire of tastes and flavour combinations, next time you’re planning to drink something with a meal (you never know, it might catch on!), why not try a beer. And if you’re going to try a beer, why not make it a hand-crafted beer, brewed with patience, passion and skill by us good folk at Ilkley Brewery. We pride ourselves on using only the best ingredients, which means that the flavours are pure and true, and will compliment the flavours of your food. We also aim to maintain a wide range of beers and flavour profiles, so that whatever the occasion, or your particular tastes, we have something for you! If you’ve tried our beers with a particular dish, or have a suggestion, please get in touch, via email ( ) , or via facebook or twitter (@IlkleyBrewery) or of course you are allowed to comment on this blog if you want!! Get involved! Now, whilst I could sit here talking about beer and food all day, I’m off to make some Mary Jane and then eat some food. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a small sup with my sausage roll?!!