Beer Review: Ilkley Brewery “Dinner Ale”

As much as I love the punch-you-in-your-face mega hopped monsters, it’s also really interesting to see what is going on at the other end of the ABV scale. These lighter beers are ideal for a cheeky midweek pint, or allow you to have a couple on a Sunday afternoon without ending up half-cut and falling asleep in your dinner.

Beers of note in the sub 4% range include Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club (a tidy 3.8%) and Thornbridge’s White Swan (clocking in at 3.5%), which both manage to pull off the balance of a bagload of pale ale flavour but with a lighter touch. So, the question was, could Dinner Ale pull off the same trick?

First of all, it’s worth exploring the background of Ilkley Brewery. Originally formed in 1873, it enjoyed great success before eventually being swallowed up and shut down by the Bass brewing conglomerate, like so many others. Interestingly, the head brewer then left for Timothy Taylor, where he first brewed the multi international award winning (and mighty fine drop), Landlord. Reformed from scratch in 2009, the brewery is now producing over 40000 pints a week – another sign of the great British brewing revival.

You might be thinking “Dinner Ale” might not be the most appealing name, however, it does have heritage. Ilkley have used a Victorian recipe from 1884 found in the archives of the original brewery, and is designed to be the perfect accompaniment for food. The modern twist comes from a quartet of NZ hops (Riwaka, Moutaka, Southern Cross and Nelson Sauvin, if you were interested).

So, on to business. Upon opening, I noticed a nice whiff of citrus as I dispensed the bottle into the waiting receptacle. The ale is clear, light golden in colour, lightly carbonated and pours well. Initial tasting notes were a decent kick of hop forward loveliness, the characteristics of the New Zealand hops coming to the fore, including a hint of a gooseberry from the Nelson Sauvin.

This beer is the sort of brew that encourages you to begin quaffing at an accelerated pace, given its refreshing nature . However, about half way through the bottle, the bitter finish becomes increasingly accentuated and does tend to distract from the other excellent characteristics. This is a bit of a moot point though, for a 3.3%er you can’t really complain that it’s got too much flavour!

It’s also worth pointing out that I didn’t actually have this with my dinner (or any food), as I was too thirsty to wait for the lamb that was in the oven. I can imagine this would go down very well with a roast, or even chilled down on a hot day with a BBQ. Get a few in, slap a few burgers on and you’ll easily demolish a few of these.

I’ve got another Ilkley ready to be reviewed, the mysterious Siberia (a Saison brewed with rhubarb) – watch this space. Got a few others to get through before then though…..