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Andrew Liddle
Features Writer
7:00 AM 13th May 2020

Wednesday’s Wallop: Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane

Mary Jane is our Wednesday Wallop.

Ilkley Brewery have not let the Wharfedale grass grow under their feet in their eleven years of existence. They’ve been busy to put it mildly – firmly establishing themselves as supermarket staples, with a reputation that extends very far beyond the county.

In the course of scooping more than 100 awards, they have brewed not far short of 200 different beers, exciting and diverse in character and very popular – like their American-style Ilkley Pale (4.2 ABV) , and the IPAs, Alpha Beta(4.5), Lotus (5.9) and their fruity Fruition (5 %). Many of them have been crafted by their Italian-born female head brewer Alessandra ‘Alli’ Confessore.

I might have chosen any of these or from several others and was, in fact, severely tempted to go for their American amber ale, Rombald (4.6), a colossus of a beer named after a legendary local giant who also gives his name to the moor.

Instead, however, the obvious choice had to be their immensely popular long-term bestseller – ‘Yorkshire’s most wanted’ - the one which everybody associates with them. According to director and founder, Richard Shelton, ‘Mary Jane represents fifty per cent of our production and is by far our most popular.’

What is the secret of its appeal I ask, wondering if it might be a silly question, the answer self-evident. ‘Well, it’s for a number of reasons,’ he says, readily, ‘but we manage to extract a particularly appealing flavour, unusual in a beer with a low ABV.’

It appeals to everyone, I suggest. ‘Yes, the full range of drinkers. The young find it just right for them and we are constantly converting lager drinkers. On the other hand, traditional beers drinkers appreciate it as a session ale.’ Richard quickly points out that, ‘Many of out other beers are targeted at other audiences, for example, Alpha Beta is for the craft market.’

The rich purple label advertises Mary Jane as a session pale ale and, at 3.5 ABV, it is indeed ideal to get you through the week or for any other times. Light and sparkling and extremely thirst-quenching with hints of lemon, peach and lime, you can safely imbibe it deep if you’re not driving.

Writing predominantly for northern folk, I don’t feel much of an obligation to say too much about the name, synonymous with Ilkley Moor. Mary Jane, remember, was the fair lass who went acourting with the song’s narrator, who in an age of hat-wearing forgot his – stupidly went baht’it and caught his death of cold.

If Mary Jane had any part in addling the poor lad’s wits, this beer is not that sort of a beer. It won’t lead you astray. Yes, it’s fruity but discreet with it. For me it’s a convivial and relaxing beer. It might have been brewed for summer nights with friends – or for sitting, on your tod, on the banks of the Wharfe, just watching the brown river roll gently by and dreaming of casting a fly.

Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane is my Wednesday Wallop

Mary Jane is widely available in supermarkets. Or alternatively consult: https://www.ilkleybrewery.co.uk/