I've been waiting to try this for almost three years. My colleague at work who is awesome, whom I shan't name but she knows who she is, brought the bottle in as a means of starting conversation with a Year 7 class - there may have been more to the story, this is the bit that resonated with me - and it's been sat there, on her desk, ever since. And, ever since, I see it every time I go in the room. She thinks I'm there on official business but no, I'm lusting after this dang ale. I finally saw this on sale in the local supermarket and bought it almost without thinking, it's one of the more expensive bottles I've bought at £3!
What can this wonder-ale be? Well, here's the saddest part, it's Bad King John and there's nothing that special about it, so I'm reliably informed. And I don't really care whether it's special or not, it's been taunting me for nearly three years and now I get to complete that quest and maybe even unlock an achievement or something. Who knows, right? So, onward! For victory!
I know very little French and even less Medieval English, so would you like to know more?
No fuss no muss on the opening and pouring, a delightfully dark brew spills forth with plenty of carbonation but this fast and lively. There's an extremely quick head that rapidly disappears, far quicker than my ability to capture an image, and that's it. The deep brew does rather catch the light, however, and there's a hint of ruby, like red wine, that flickers through toward the edges of the glass, which is nice. Subtle chocolate is the first thing I notice on the nose, as I would given my love of such things, but there's some bittering hops there, limited in their citrus and presence, atop a standard but welcome malt. In short, this is not a stout, but it smells like it wouldn't be totally out of place in a line up with them and that sort of things sells well to my senses. Not even a skein of head by this point and that chocolate feeling grows - more of a malt than an actual infusion is my guess - and puts me in mind of the darker versions with stuff like orange and mint in them. No mint here and I'm not going on a limb and deciding orange for this, it's too indistinct and subtle for me to give anything approaching a decent description.
Thin and cool on the lips, quickly giving way to a surprisingly light and thin malt that waves forward, on the edges there's a warming blast of hops at the edges, but these are beaten by the yeast and the malt in the middle of the flow as it fills the mouth. Minimal carbonation, but definitely present, that chocolate rides amongst it, hitting the top of the mouth, before it all collapses in on itself like a dying star out in the coldness of space, moving swiftly down to the back of the throat where waits the oblivion of the edge of the Universe and... nothing. The aftertaste is concentrated in the front of the maw, hanging around like the dust from which stars and planets are made, comets of memory shooting around to bring back the hops and yeast from the sides of the galactic arm near the teeth. There's something chocolate-y happening there and there's a hint of some fruity hops - nowhere near as bitter or definite as even the nose suggested.
Special or not, I think I quite like this one. Perhaps it's the long wait that I've had but I'm almost thinking it was worth the extortionate price I ended up paying (yeah, but I nearly bought a bottle of Jaipur X at £4.80 a few weeks back). It's a pretty friendly ale for something at 6% ABV and I can see this accompanying marking or lesson planning quite nicely without sending me back to dawn of time or anything like that. I'm not saying I could have it on a school night but the strength is remarkably forgiving, which is good because I am, in fact, remarking upon it. It's a full brew at the front of the taste and in the main area of the mouth, but there's not a lot of bang for your buck in the latter part of the taste as it heads down to the back of the throat. Some roasting aspect there, almost smoky, but like coffee-beans smell rather than how meat or fish is smoked. I imagine this would do badly with a curry, the two would fall out and there would be no peace.
Like the King himself, this is a brew best consumed with happiness and joy, history will remember the mistakes and the folk tales that were created by his successors to justify what they did to bury his reign and the commitments he made and broke. In time even his supporters will argue that he did little to aid the kingdom and thence the tale will begin and the gossip will win out over the other points. Scant attention will be paid to the context and the situation, but with the right context and the right kind of evening this ale, like the King, will reward you for your time.