It's about the time of year for the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo - a battle that I mainly know about through the influences of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series (the book Waterloo appropriately enough) and John Keegan's The Face of Battle. Despite this being as powerful a shaping force on the culture of the British Isles as it is I must admit that I very mearly missed the fact that it has been 200 years since it was fought. I have, equally, never actually visited the site of the battle but I can claim to have seen the diorama of it at Leeds Armouries. I also have an attraction to it as a geeky teenager who lusted after making his own models and painting them (but who was so bad at it that he never actually did it). In honour of the occasion it is time to review Timothy Taylor's Havercake.
Would you like to know more? Because, to be honest, I don't know what this review does to potential readers but it terrifies me!
There's a quite lovely fruity aroma on opening that somehow matches the pour that results in that rather magnificent poof-y head there in the picture. It's a good colour for bitter too, in my opinion, and it shaped up to be quite a taste. There's obviously a bit of a creamy head and it persisted, long enough for me to snap the above picture, and well into the drinking of it too. I'm not usually a fan of such things but I shall confess that in this instance it wasn't all that off-putting. Mind you, my whiskers did make for 'entertaining' (for various values of fun) asides and issues. Basically the froth got caught and it turns out I am not really good at finding where it is caught in the beard before causing Anna to essentially lose faith in humanity and weep at my complete inability to rectify the problem. I digress.
First taste is largely as one would expect - creamy head allows for a smoothness in the liquid and full mouthfeel rather than frothy and empty or artificial and fizzy. Bitter hops punch through and hang about as the rather heavy malt, and I blame the head again, move snail like down toward the back end of the mouthful. Small yeast spears itself through, supporting the rather small 4.7% ABV, though certainly nothing to be sniffed at, with a little fizz that does just enough to get the spice of yeast through to the tongue but not overwhelm the senses, which is nice. This was all rather nice after an evening or marking and going through papers - there's nothing quite so depressingly off-putting as reading page after page of someone not getting it, knowing they don't get it, but desperately trying to throw as many words and half-remembered and garbled information onto the page to justify the fact that they failed to revise or pay attention for the last year. I mean, bless 'em, but... And I digress again.
Overall then, this settled down nicely through the pint into a steady rhythm and a steady drinking ale. Nothing too bright or fresh but serviceable and dependable. Much like the bread of the name this is a staple ale rather than a write home ale and no big hitter or hero of the piece. In the battlefield of life and ale this is the mail carrier, the man who delivers the rations and counts the bullets, the pen pusher on manoeuvres if you will, and therefore is essential but unglamorous and often unsung. Coupled, as I did, with falafel and red onion (just look at my fancy schmancy middle-class food) it works well enough and manages to maintain a welcome freshness long into the pint. It is a good ale with which to close the day.
Enjoyed best on a warm evening after work with a chaser of the same and a third on standby. Hot, slightly tired and ready for a bit sit and lots of blowing out and sighing, you will turn to the bottle and be comforted by the 1970s style design artwork, much like Landlord (here) and drink with big gulps but long pauses as you chomp your way through an uncomplicated meal and just relax a little. Maybe even indulge in a little sport, but cricket or squash or the peloton rather than football. Aaah.