Friday, 21 February 2014

Battle of the Bottles - Wild vs. Ilkley

Two top tips for the tip top in 2014 going head-to-head here over 3 rounds. The most notable trend in Sheffield ale over the past 12 months has been the increased availability of quality bottled ales. Even supermarket-avoiding beergeeks find it all too easy to bag a beer to sup at home these days. (Sorry pub, will do better). Amateur ale enthusiasts might procure a pint at Tesco or even B & M bargains, but we whole-heartedly support local specialists like Hop Hideout and Mitchell`s.


The Ilkley Beer Co like a bit of alliteration (as do we!) and they proclaim to be `deceptively different` and `uniquely unconventional` but the first two were a bit too noticeably normal TBH.

 Mary Jane has plenty of taste for a 3.5% brew but the carbonation came through strongly resulting in a taste (from the bottle) that was too lagery rather than an Amarillo or Cascade punch whilst Ilkley Pale offered more. It is hoppier (from NZ) and possesses a white wine Sauv Blanc bite. This pale produced a nice head topping a decent citrus bite coming in at 4.2%.

The `special` selected for this contest from Ilkley was Siberia, a bold 5.9% rhubarb saison but the fizz factor seemed to limit the depth of the fruit (?), vegetable (?), legume or something (?!) to come through fully. All these ales tasted promising but not as good as the Ilkley encountered on cask and keg; A timely reminder to get to the pub more often .. . . !?!?

So, not wild about the Ilkley offerings but would Wild Beer Co make my heart sing?

This tasty triumvirate were purchased from Abbeydale Road`s Hop Hideout which is a neat, new place attached to VintEdge which is a cool antique shop. First up was Fresh. The motto matched here as this brew really was `wildly different` and flagrantly `fresh`, and this murky mystery almost got away! Despite pouring carefully, this was absolutely full of life and, as described, `friskily fragrant` resulting in a huge hoppy head (in the free glass supplied - thanks HH!). Fresh is 5.5% and very green hop but just too pungent on this occasion. Tasty though. 
Having blogged Madness IPA before, I was pretty sure what to expect ; hops + hops + hops the label proclaims and the aroma is classic IPA. However, that does not do this bottled beauty justice. The depth and variation of hoppiness was really commendable providing an zingy aromatic extravaganza rarely found in a 330ml, even at a sturdy 6.8% and stands up very well to the kegged version.

The Wild `special` was, well, what the hell was that?! This one was a complex taste to say the least and it is apparently part of the Wild barrel trinity. Six months spent oaked away in cider brandy barrels make this `premier cru` all the way. Barrel antics have got to be the way forward for British brewers and why not cider as Somerset`s finest showcase here. Personally, I am not an `alcoholic apple juice` fan but brandy maybe, whatever your palate, this tastes nowhere near a 10%. If Madness IPA was a knockout punch in this contest, Ninkasi PC is maybe a MMA choke-hold.


Mary Jane - 6.5/10
Ilkley Pale  - 7.5/10
Siberia - 7/10
Fresh - 6.5/10
Madness - 8.5/10
Ninkasi - 9/10
Ilkley Brewery Co. = 21/30
Wild Beer Co. = 24/30
  • Clearly a win for the South-West over the North this time but maybe the selection was suspect. For the record, Mayan by Ilkley is a bit of a special bottle so you choose the line-up and let us know if your scores differ!

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