Home > Beer > Ilkley Beer Festival: Cask Ale, Abbey Cider, Tasty Pies and Craft Keg

Ilkley Beer Festival: Cask Ale, Abbey Cider, Tasty Pies and Craft Keg

Ilkley Beer Festival is one of those events that I always hear about before the event itself, but after tickets have sold out.  In the past I’ve tended not to mind too much, because it’s a festival organised by the Ilkley Round Table rather than CAMRA: what could the Round Table know about beer that CAMRA doesn’t?

However, having had the chance to go to the festival on Saturday afternoon as a friend had some spare tickets, I can say that they did an excellent job, and I’ll be quick to snap up tickets for next year.  This is partially due to the long list of corporate sponsors for the charity event: local solicitors, accountants, architects, bankers; the great and good of this predominantly middle-aged, middle class, West Yorkshire spa town which lies in the commuter belt for Leeds and Bradford.

However having a lot of money to throw at a beer festival doesn’t in itself lead to a good festival.  The venue’s pretty good: the King’s Hall in Ilkley is a good size and ornate, certainly a step up from certain other festival venues I’ve been to. The festival also benefits from a stall from the local butchers, Lishmans, which offers hot pies, sausage rolls and “Yorkshire pasties” for a voucher (£1.25) each.

Oh yes, I meant to mention the beer.  I would find it hard to put together a much better list of English cask ale breweries, including Buxton, Mallinsons, Roosters, Thornbridge, Marble, Oakham, Bristol Beer Factory, Dark Star, Red Willow, Hawkshead, Magic Rock, Brodies, Revolutions, Stringers and of course Ilkley Brewery.

I most enjoyed Brodies Citra (on the recommendation of @misterfrosty), a great beer for 3.1%; Hawkshead NZPA and Buxton Wild Boar IPA, both excellent strong, citrusy IPAs; and Revolutions’ Milk and Alcohol, a silky milk stout that Leigh and Dean had a hand in. Another highlight was the superb Ampleforth Cider, as made by a German monk in North Yorkshire, which was a steal at £1.25 a half, given that it’s 8.3% and usually costs upwards of £7 a bottle.  I’m afraid I missed the whisky cask-aged cider from Udders Orchard.

One interesting footnote is the “craft keg” section of the beer list, which had a single British keg offering from Ilkley Brewery, alongside two American (Brooklyn Lager, Flying Dog Pale Ale) and two German keg beers (Jever, Flensburger). All but the local Ilkley beer would have been “permitted” by CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival as “Bières Sans Frontières”, which does seem a little odd.

However I think we’re in real danger of making the term “craft keg” look absurd pretty quickly if we start using it to refer to Jever: a very tasty lager from a large scale brewery which is part of the Oetker Group, the food processor which also owns “a maritime freight business, a bank, a publishing company, an insurance outfit […] and a number of high-class hotels all over Europe”.

  1. February 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    We don’t have any keg American beers, they’re all cask or bottled. Keg continental beers are dispensed with compressed air rather than CO2.

    • February 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      Cheers for the clarification Steve. The beers we’re talking about were designed by the brewers to be dispensed with extraneous CO2 generally, though?

    • February 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      Sorry Steve, that sounded a bit dickish. I was under the impression that the rule was that non-live beer could be sold provided that the country of origin had no real tradition of live beer. Sorry if I misunderstood.

  2. February 12, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    yeah but still served without extraneous CO2…though i’m not quite sure how that works for bottles. I didn’t read it as dickish…don’t worry!

  3. February 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I think in some quarters the term ‘craft’ is getting applied to any foreign beer that isn’t readily available in the majority of High Street pubs. I’m not sure if it’s a cynical marketing ploy or just a bit of a misunderstanding

    • February 13, 2012 at 10:09 am

      The festival will have used the term in good faith, but in a wider sense I think it’s natural that any term used to distinguish a product in terms of quality will be abused by marketers, unless its meaning is protected in some legal manner.

  4. February 13, 2012 at 9:26 am

    That there is a Red Carpet line-up of A list breweries (in my book). I coudn’t make it to he festival this year, but new I’d be missing some treats. I hear what you are saying about the Ilkley demographic, but I can’t see a downside to that? just means that there are fewer nobheads… no wait?!? 😛

    • February 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

      It’s a great list, isn’t it? There’s only few breweries missing from a full picture of the best of British cask beer (maybe Summer Wine, Fullers, Hardknott).

      I wasn’t being snobbish/inverse snobbish about the good people of Ilkley, just explaining why they were able to attract so many sponsors!

      • February 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

        ha ha, I know you weren’t, I was trying to be lighthearted, by way of dispersing my guilt for nipping to Ilkley every few weeks to get a good hit of middle class living. Two hours a month is all I need 🙂

  5. February 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Glad the M & A went down well Nick. “Silky” is a nice adjective – we might have to borrow that!

  6. February 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Really glad you enjoyed your day out in Ilkley. We try to put on a good show for folk.

    You are spot on about the Ilkley demographics. The business sponsorship does give the organisers a lot of scope to source a great range of beers. The main aim of the festival is to raise money for local good causes and this year we hope to raise over £30,000.

    The simplicity of the token system is a great boon to our in-experienced bar staff, but it does lead to anomalies like the very expensive and very excellent Ampleforth cider being sold at £1.25 a half. But who is complaining?

    Unfortunately the Udders Orchard wasn’t on as the producer sold out after we had printed the programme. We will try to get some next year …

    My beer highlights were the Buxton Wild Boar IPA, the Saltaire Hazelnut and Coffee Porter and the Brodies Superior London Porter.

    Hope to see 2013. The dates being Friday 8th and Saturday 9th February. Tickets as always will be on sale via various Market Town Tavern pubs or from the Beer Festival website.

  7. February 14, 2012 at 7:44 am

    ….aaaaand back to the Beer. Ilkley’s a great festival and, as you say, holds a surprising number of great beers – imo a ‘better than the usual’ range. The contact i’ve head from the likes of Rob (above) prove the organisers of the event to be truly passionate about beer, with the Brewery taking a massive hand in proceedings. That accounts for the list. Yes, it sells out stupidly quickly, and has a lot of sponsors, but hey, we all need money. Glad you had a good time; i couldn’t make it this year due to weekends being sucked up with the house move, and on the basis of your review, that’s a sad, sad thing. Glad you enjoyed the Milk & Alcohol, too was a good launch on Friday night!

    • February 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Just to build on that Leigh. The Ilkley Brewery was founded after the first beer festival in 2008 by two Round Tablers (Stewart Ross and Chris Ives).

      In spite of my comment above, the beer has always been as important as the money side of things. We are chuffed to bits with this sort of feedback on the beer/cider range.

      • February 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm

        It was an excellent range this year, Rob, and a great festival overall. Well done!


  8. March 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm


    Last comment on this from me. We have now had the bean counters work through the figures (or whatever accountants do). The Beer Festival this year made a £35,000 profit all of which goes to local good causes and charities.

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