Sunday, 9 August 2015

Beer Review: Lancaster Black

This was picked up in Booth's in Keswick and billed as local. I have my doubts as to how local Lancaster can be to the centre of the Lake District, well, the northern bit, but I am not complaining. This was the good stuff and you know how much I like my stouts. Well, if you don't you do now, and Lancaster Black very much looked the part. I am indebted to a good friend (see here) for knowing to look out for these brewers and I was happy to have this alone and savour it. It is an ale to savour and enjoy.

Would you like to dive deep beneath the dark waters of the mere of stout to see what lurks beneath that smooth and featureless shore?

In celebration of joining Twitter whenever I did that I was asked to post a beer review in 140 characters. At the time this was the last ale I had tried and so it fell to the shoulders of Lancaster Brewery to provide me the grist for that particular mill. I have to say that the overall result was accurate but a little terse and lacking in my usual waxing lyrical. As one may well expect. The full text, for those that like this sort of thing, can be found below (don't worry, a full review is coming):

Lancaster Black 4.5% Stout: deep, dark w choc & bitter tones rich choc taste, hvy bitter, velvet mouthfeel, end on plush warmth - good stout

So, that was how I put it there. Like I say, accurate but terse. This had to wait a day or two after purchase before being imbibed because I had quite a lot of ale whilst on holiday and there were other bottles. My initial plan had been to save this for the winter and have it as the cold drew in and forced the nights to linger longer into the evening but that was not to be. On one level I am very glad of the chance to have had it and, on the other, I am saddened that it is now finished and that I did not buy two. Alas, my budget is often stretched and so I end up just having the one. Oh dear, first world problems ahoy!

On to business then, this poured with the depth and darkness that I appreciated, looking not a little unlike the kind of scene one would associate with the old landscapes of the north in the times of the Border Reivers. A kind of peaty blackness that comes with the clouds as the sky turns and bruises at the end of a day, the sort of threatening deepness that looks back at the one that scries further into it as though there is something within that is trying to get out. An aroma of dark chocolate and bitter tones but muted without the sweetness and heaviness of chocolate that can ruin a good stout or come to dominate. This was the sort of brew one could easily imagine being carried across the moorlands and the bracken to some ancient moot held in the stones of Castlerigg or Long Meg and Her Daughters. Here the wafting scents would mingle well with woodsmoke and human sweat in that hardy way that travellers and wayfarers have. Nearby the pine needles would give up their sweet smell to complement the bitters in the stout.

The first taste is one of proper medieval luxury, draped in the best fabrics against the warming fire in the great hall after a meal of the finest roast boar and meats. Here, amongst the opulence, there is the richness and the depth of this very soft and gentle brew. Even at 4.5% ABV this feels forgiving and comfortable, allowing you to settle back into the upholstery with the weak chocolate gently niggling at the edge of your perception. None of the harsh sugary flavours one may find in lesser ales, no, this is a thing of great trade and power from the spice routes winding their way through the far eastern lands to arrive at the Keep of the seat of ancestors, given out to show the wealth and influence of the master of the ceremony. It's a heavy and satisfying bitter too, thick and viscous on the tongue as it slowly bleeds down toward the throat, wrapping everything in velvet and muffling any weariness and aching from the long day of travel. On the second sip of this one can almost hear the crackling of the logs, if there was talking whilst I had this I confess that I couldn't hear it, this is coddles you from the harshness of the world about.

Anna joined me in appreciation of this, commenting that it may have been the best of the ales that I had bought whilst up north, and she is not a fan of heavy stouts such as this so that is high praise indeed. As the taste wound up from the first forays into the glass there was a smooth and full mouthfeel like suckling on melting caramel, but with a taste less sweet and more inkeeping with a good real ale. This is finely crafted stuff that ends on a plush bitter tone but remains warming and safe for the night ahead on the stone floor of the Great Hall.

Enjoy this best when visiting the Lord of the Manor for a great feast. Bring something with which to complement the host on the choice of ale to share and be sure to wend your way closer to the head table as the better sleeping is to be found before the Great Fire. Come armed, for there will be much boasting surrounding the drinking of this fine real ale and you should find yourself drinking hard of it. Ease out of the armour though, there is no need of leather and mail, and relax in its soft velvet embrace to sleep and dream of great deeds.

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