The original Ilkley Brewery was founded in March 1873 under the moniker ‘Ilkley Brewery & Aerated Water Co. Ltd’ in the titular town in the north west of Yorkshire. Supplying ale, porter, bitter beers and ‘superior aerated waters’ from nearby Ilkley springs, the brewery appears to have been successful, with around 50 different pubs under their belt at their peak. They were bought up by Hammond’s Bradford Brewery Co. Ltd in 1923, who in turn went through various mergers and buy-outs until ultimately the largest brewing company in the UK, Bass Charrington, emerged from the carnage. And were subsequently snapped up by bloody Anheuser-Busch InBev in the year 2000.
The Ilkley Brewery name was in limbo for most of the 20th century, but was snapped up by entrepreneur Luke Raven in early 2009, when he established the current Ilkley Brewery Company Limited. Like it’s predecessor, today’s Ilkley Brewery has built its reputation on the quality of its ingredients, with local spring waters, and malt from Simpson’s Malt in Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the north being utilised in the company’s brews. Their flagship beer is known as ‘Mary Jane’, which comes from the character in the popular Yorkshire anthem “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”. Virgin Mary is the brewery’s only alcohol-free beer (so far!) and like it’s big sister is a pale ale. However, looking at the different malts and hops used in each brew, they appear to be very different recipes. Will we be getting something very traditional here, or something more experimental?
Pouring out from the bottle we get a golden amber coloured liquid with good clarity and visible carbonation. Whilst a slight fluffy head does appear on pouring, the beer soon has less on top than King Louis XVI. On the nose we get a hint of malty sweetness and some lemon citrus, but it’s rather mild. According to Ilkley Brewery’s website a cornucopia of malts and hops are in use in Virgin Mary; Aromatic, Caramalt, Crystal, Munich and Vienna malts, Ahtanum, Azacca, Calypso, Independence and Taiheke hops. Many of these I’ve never heard of or experienced before, but surely between them all there should be more aroma here?
On tasting the beer we get a crisp, slightly grassy, slightly piney flavour, with some light malt sweetness lingering in the background. Once again, the abundance of flavouring components seem to be absent. The carbonation is rather heavy, though the body is slightly watery, giving a lacklustre mouthfeel. We get a slightly sweet watery finish to the drink.
If I hadn’t seen the sheer amount of different malts and hops supposedly used in this brew I’d be happy with Virgin Mary being a mild traditional ale. I was expecting something more in the IPA territory or even a juicy APA, but no. If it takes Ilkley Brewery so many ingredients to get this little flavour, this must have been an exercise in homeopathic brewing.
Buy Ilkley Brewery Virgin Mary
You can buy bottles of Ilkley Brewery Virgin Mary from various independent pubs and stores, along with buying online from either the brewer directly or from one of the following AF beer shops:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the bottle)
|Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast
|Country of Production
|Ilkley Brewery – https://www.ilkleybrewery.co.uk/
Ilkley Brewery Virgin Mary Low Alcohol Pale Ale Review
If you’re after a very mild ale, this will hit the spot. If you want flavour, look elsewhere.