Ilkley’s Wharfedale Brewery has announced the appointment of award-winning brewer Stewart Ross as technical director just three months after opening for business.

Stewart, who is registered blind, has been acting as a consultant to the brewery and general manager of the Church Street Brewpub, The Flying Duck, for the past 12 months. The 52-year-old is credited with bringing brewing back to the area after a near 100-year absence when he re-established Ilkley Brewery in 2009. Mr Ross, creator of their flag- ship beer Mary Jane, left the company towards the end of 2012 and is now firmly focusing on the future. He said: “I take tremendous pride and satisfaction from the knowledge that I was able to create a range of beers that people appeared to enjoy but I don’t wish to dwell on the past.

“Times change and people move on and I am delighted to have been given such an exciting opportunity at Wharfedale Brewery and the Flying Duck. “Despite the many challenges faced by both the pub and brewing sectors, I’m looking forward to bringing my experience and enthusiasm to this stimulating market.”

Assisted by fellow brewer Michael Allan, Stewart has already produced three staple beers under the new Wharfedale name.

They are Wharfedale Blonde, a refreshing zesty session ale; Wharfedale Best, a traditional Yorkshire Bitter; and Wharfedale Black which is described as a satisfying dark mild.

Along with the sales of a further six rotating guest ales from microbreweries across the UK, an extensive array of lagers, ciders, bottled beers, wines and spirits, Wharfedale’s first Brewpub has reported brisk trade during an encouraging first quarter in operation.

Nevertheless, marketing director Jonathan Shepherd said there was no room for complacency.

“Whilst we are not getting carried away, we are delighted with the support and feedback we have received from our customers so far,” he said.

“The project is still somewhat of a work in progress and plans are in place to provide a few finishing touches to the building whilst also introducing a lunchtime menu and series of events that we think will be of interest to the public.

“We have been hugely encouraged by the mix of customers visiting the pub and the wide range of drinks people are consuming, with wine sales in particular surpassing all expectations.”

On Stewart’s appointment as director, Jonathan added: “We feel we have pulled off a major coup in appointing Stewart as a full board member and his new beers are already proving a big hit in the town.

“I would go as far as saying that if Wharfedale Blonde isn’t already the best-selling beer in Ilkley, it soon will be.”

The pub reported selling eight firkins (576 pints) of the Blonde in one day alone shortly before Christmas. It will be showcased on a special Wharfedale Brewery bar along with the Best Bitter, Black and a special Festival Ale at Ilkley Beer Festival this weekend.

The Beer Festival, which raises over £40,000 for local charities, was the brainchild of Mr Ross while chairman of Ilkley Round Table, prior to its inception in 2008. Mr Ross will be chatting about the beer festival, Wharfedale Brewery and all things beer during a special ‘Meet The Brewer’ night next Wednesday at The Flying Duck where tickets are now on sale priced £10.