Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Beer Review: Magna Carta

It was Sunday but the anniversary for the sealing of the Magna Carta was, apparently, this Monday. I know this because I was in Lincoln that day and there was cake. 800 slices. For free. All of which was in celebration of the sealing of the Magna Carta. Now, as a History teacher, this sort of thing shouldn't surprise me. But, as a me, it does. I'm rubbish with dates.

On a slightly related note, I was at the open farm at Oakfield Farm and the home of the Nutbrook Brewery (here) on Sunday and happened to try one of their ales on pull. There was still plenty to choose from but I had a hankering after their Magna Carta because... uh... history!

It was a lovely warm day, plenty of sunshine, the kids enjoyed the bouncy castle and watched a sheep get sheared. I got talking to a couple who make mead and am strongly considering adding it as a batch to my summer brewing plans, if I can gather the funds to make it happen with local honey (because why would anyone do it with non-local?) but, in the meantime, I am reviewing the ale.

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This was poured well and looked burnished and bronze in the sunshine amid the hordes of people at the makeshift bar before the brewery itself. Stacks of casks behind the wooden frontage bore the legend 'sold out' and the head brewer himself explained to me that they had been rammed all weekend. Apparently it had gained an almost festival atmosphere the night before and a number of the better known ales, such as Black Beauty (here) had all but sold out. Luckily for me, Magna Carta had not. At 5% ABV it billed itself as a ruby bitter, though to my mind the colour was closer to what I'd expect of a decent amber ale. Still, very floral on the nose, no real hint of the bitterness, and the thin film of head spoke of cream and smoothness in the liquid beneath.

Good bubbles, allowing small points of yeast to poke up above the velvet gown draped around the proceedings, the malt doing the minimal job of delivering the bittering hops at the end and facilitating the filling of the whole mouth. There was no run off, no gaps, no space to pitch a tent as the taste slid around and did the work. Sure enough the hops were noticeable, softly at first but rising in bittering notes without tending toward the acidic ends of lemon or lime. This was the sort of bitter that does well to quench thirst on a hot day such as the one I had it on. It was something to be sipped appreciatively rather than quaffed, but I can well imagine that it would do well as a sessionable ale.

Alas, I had but a half as I was to drive the family away from the gathering and did not wish to get myself too much enamoured of such fare. Nevertheless, this was the sort of ale that deserved another or, at least, a full pint. If you are lucky enough to find this on your travels I would highly recommend that you try it. I thought it a decent ale, perhaps not the sort to set your senses alight and make you forsake all other brews, but as a special occasion ale with an edge to it it did the job. Comparisons to the Magna Carta itself are possible, but I'm not sure what they would suggest. It lacked the oaky nuttiness of the treaty itself, signed beneath an oak in Runnymeade, and there was a distinct lack of baleful glances and glares nor the influence of Marshall or Henry III. However, the bitterness of the deal was there and hung around in the back of the throat, as one would have expected for John himself given the situation.

Enjoy best as a pint over a meal. I would suggest a pork cob with lashings of mint sauce accompanied by chips that are thick hewn from large potatoes (King Edwards or Maris Piper) and fried well with black bits from used oil. Ensure you are sat on a bench that keeps moving and rocking, a table that has deep gashes within it and a sun awning that has seen better days. With the sun in your eyes and a feeling of betrayal from the seat beneath you will appreciate the setting of the original Magna Carta and the keen eye that has gone into the brew.

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