After my last effort (here) and the fact that this week appears to be all about the Magna Carta on the news and in the papers and all around the country, it seemed fitting to try out and review something I picked up from Lincoln. I was lucky to get it, they had just three bottles left when I rolled in and they had just one on display when I left (and I didn't buy the other). So, it is with some trepidation and apprehension, but the good kind, that I embark upon this 1215 by Lincolnshire Brewing Co.
There's clearly a good deal of pride in the city of Lincoln for their connection to one of the four oldest copies of the Magna Carta and they have embraced the opportunity to go a bit ape for the 800th anniversary of the document. Given that the battle of Lincoln came as the climax to the struggle to get the rights outlined in the Carta into English Law that is somewhat understandable. And the place has surely benefited a great deal from the increased tourism that this latest big round number has afforded.
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The bottle makes some rather grandiose claims about the ale that are worth going over: "Nice, fruity nose with the fruit ebbing away leaving the malt flavours at the forefront. Bursting fruity aftertaste and a gentle bitterness in the throat." I have to have a little giggle at their expense here, because it is hardly likely that they would add any other adjective than 'nice' when discussing the nose of their own ale! Still, they weren't kidding on one count. The aroma is indeed fruity and floral, putting me in mind, strangely, of a decent rose wine as it happens. It was rather fizzy on pouring, leaving next to no head at all and little in the way of obvious carbonation. This is in large part, I feel, to the fact that the day of purchase was very warm indeed and that this had been part of the shop's window display and thus out in the sun for a good three days before I laid grubby mitts on it.
Nevertheless, that aroma is heavy and pungent. It is like walking into a meadow on the edge of woodland as the sun breaks through a bank of cloud in the height of summer - there is a blast of heat in the heavy and humid air, steam rises from the grasses and the pollen seems to create a viscous liquid through which the walker must swim rather than pass. Strains of flowers weave along with the grasses and even the trees as the scents mingle in the nose and into the throat as you breathe. This is much like that. There's a damp grassy quality to it, but the fruit wins out with something like cherries, but less harsh and more candied, being the takeaway quality. Good colour too, darker than most ambers but very much in my line of colouration. Part of me wishes I could have kept this longer and maybe cracked it open a year from now but the moment would have been lost and I've already laid down a couple of other ales that I like for now. Maybe another brew. Also, although I cannot complain about my financial situation, I lack the ready cash to warrant buying ale I won't be drinking just at this moment.
Onto the taste and there is some truth in the claims on the bottle again. Sure enough, there's a big hit of hops on opening, tempered by the bitterness of the hops in there, so that the whole thing is very much in the line of actual cherries this time rather than the floral sunlight glade of the aroma. Spears of yeast are just present for a moment before the crashing wave of the malt hits, very much as one would expect but less creamy than I think I had been prepared for, and then washes quickly to the back of the throat before there is time to catch any change in the overall character of the ale. Sure enough, once at the back of the throat the floral aspects are all but spent and are being replaced by the bitterness of a standard, but well brewed, bitter. Not quite into citrus territory but close enough that you can see that's where it would go if it had the chance. There's a hint of raw alcohol here too, despite the 4.3% ABV, and that's a bit of a shame for an ale as nice as this surely is.
Despite that last point this is a decent little bitter. I am glad that I got hold of it and I am glad that I had chance to drink it rather than keep it back. On reflection, I don't think I would be busting a gut to get a second, nor suggesting that everyone put in an order right away. That said, if you see it in a shop, it is well worth the asking price (just shy of £3) and would hold its own in most pubs that I have had the pleasure to be in. It's another of those ales that would do well with a working class ploughman's lunch on a hot summer's day. Indeed, it would not look or feel at all out of place if had in Cardigan, by the river, with the children playing on the steps below the pub that's just by the bridge into the city centre.
Enjoy this best in summer, probably in Lincoln, at a table shaded from the heat of the day but around lunchtime. Get a salad in, make sure there is some decent pickle and a hunk of rough bread, and take your time. Use it to wash down the tastes and smells of the main cobbles outside the castle and then, when finished, exclaim something suitably northern like "by the lads!" and then continue on your way, job done. It's a decent ale, a nice ale, but not something to set the world alight.