Someone asked me the other day why I just keep writing about pubs? Simple, I love pubs (and bars). I think when I go into a really good pub that they should get some recognition. Some people do it on TripAdvisor, I choose to do it on here.
I’ve been to Ilkley a few times over the last few week as it’s been the Ilkley Literature Festival , which is worth a mention too. There’s lots of pubs in Ilkley, as well as this one, probably some good ‘uns too. The burning question is why did I go into this one in the first place and why do I keep going in, when I really should be trying somewhere else?
The first answer is, word of mouth. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me that I must go and try The Flying Duck in Ilkley. One lad who worked for me swears by it, and he was a Lager drinker till he moved to Ilkley and found this place. I’m a big social media fan and proper advertising with decent copy sells. But, there’s nothing better than word of mouth, an endorsement from someone you know and trust who’s stood in front of you, selling it for free. The answer to the second part of the question is easy. It’s Frabjous and there’s no Jabberwocky. But why is it Frabjous Rich, I hear you say?
The very worse bit about the eighteenth century, Yorkshire stone building is that it sits at the side of the extremely busy A65 and you really need to cross at the nearby Pelican. Ilkley by-pass anyone? Once you’re ensconced behind the two feet thick walls, looking out through the stone mullioned windows while you’re sat in the window seat of the main bar you don’t even know the road is there. So gaze at the tap list, stand on the flagged floor in front of the roaring stove and concentrate on the main business in hand, the beer.
The Flying Duck is the Wharfedale Brewery tap and the 3.5 barrel micro brewery is out the back. You can sit on a really pleasant first floor balcony terrace and peer in through the floor to ceiling window. They do four ales, all with the Wharfedale prefix; Blond 3.9%, Bitter 4.0%, Black 3.7% and Pilsner 4.0%. Stewart Ross got involved after he left(?) Ilkley Brewery and acts as consultant brewer, so the quality is first class. Don’t get them confused with Wharfe Bank Brewery who operate about eight or nine miles further down stream in Pool in Wharfedale.
Most people would be quite happy just drinking the on site produced
beers, and rightly so. It doesn’t end there though, because The Flying Duck offers you a wider taste of the British beer revolution, in some style. As well as their own three standards on hand pump, there are six other cask ales. There’s a couple of reasonable Lagers, Guinness and Thatchers on draught as well as a couple of real ciders; Orchard Pig and Lilley’s when I was in. There’s a big board on the wall showing everything on offer; brewery, beer, strength and price. I think this should be compulsory. When you leave the pub, a ‘coming soon’ board looms in front of you. It’s reminiscent of Jim Bowen, ‘Just look what you could have won.’
On two visits I tried quite a few ales, because they do thirds. Everywhere with more than three decent beers on the bar should be obliged to do this. First time I had an excellent light coloured and very hoppy Naylors 1919 4.0%, a yummy Great Heck Yakima IPA 5.7% at £3.70/pint plus the Wharfedale Bitter. All in tip top form and well pulled. Second time I had a Wharfedale Blond which was on banging form, very nice, plus Black Magik from Abbeydale Brewery, Roosters Fort Smith 5.0% and ended up drinking pints of Five Points Pale 4.4%. You can see the prices from the photo, but £3.55 for a pint of Five Points, in Ilkley, is impressive.
There’s a second room downstairs and another seating and bar area on the first floor which the staff explained is open at weekends and busy periods or can be hired for private parties. For the oenophile there is a good selection of proper wines available, not the usual pub crap that isn’t worth vinegaring (a lot doesn’t need it!). They also do pub food and have daily papers. You can read opposite ends of a left of centre view; The Guardian and The Mirror? Full marks in the toilet department. A check of the bogs, on two separate visits mind, revealed they were exceptional. Dogs are allowed in and drinking bowls provided. Dog owners, please be respectful. I don’t want to hear someone’s Labrador slobbering and crunching a glass full of ice cubes on a Yorkshire stone floor. Bar staff everywhere, let the dogs in, but please stop serving glasses of ice cubes to over anthropomorphising dog owners.
The only real puzzler for me was how quiet it was at lunch time. Expected mid week perhaps, but on a Saturday, I was quite surprised how few people were in. The really friendly staff thought the same and told me it had been heaving the previous Saturday lunch session. On cue at about half past one it magically started to fill up, and so it should.
You can easily get to Ilkley on the regular train service or X84 First Bus service from Leeds. There’s plenty to see and do as well as this place.
Apologies to Lewis Carroll, but like I said at the start: No Jabberwockies here!