Sunday, 26 June 2016

Beer Review: Law of the Land

This week I 'ave been mostly in Lincoln. Basically, a place I usually go one day for a trip I ended up there on three consecutive days. And, what do you know, there are plenty of ale shops (including a lovely bottle shop that had a specimen of Sink the Bismarck in it, but too rich for my budget) - by the end of the third day, as I get rather stressed on trips, I caved in and bought some of the special ales they had in the castle. So it is that today I decided that I should break from my marking and enjoy a look at the Law of the Land brewed to celebrate last year's 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by Batemans Brewery and only just still in date (being best before the end of June 2016).

Couple that with a warm and bright day, if not terribly sunny, involving much ferrying about and rushed shopping (I was up late last night marking like a berk) and it seemed like the perfect moment to sit a little in the garden. I say seemed, because I tired of that and retired indoors fairly soon after starting because it was a bit too close out there.

Not even a King can escape the Law of the Land so would you like to know more?

A strong pour on this one that for some reason put me in mind of strong white flour for bread-making, I don't pretend to understand the connection merely pass it on, and this brought a big almost biscuit coloured head atop a body of chestnut brown. True enough, the brightness of the day shot through to reveal the ruby red undertones, as one would expect from a ruby ale, and the sweet, almost treacle, aroma won over the more musty smell of a drying garden. There's a strong yeast to the nose too, less on the hops, that almost seems malt-like but falls short of that overall. It's not a bad combination, though one wouldn't necessarily match treacle sweetness and yeasty spice together in an idealised version of a pint. Still, it smelled not a little unlike the room they keep the actual Magna Carta in at Lincoln Castle, for what that is worth.

Straight away, Willow pointed out the treacle and yeast on the tongue when she tried it, agreeing with my assessment of the aroma. I agree that the treacle is the main feeling in the mouth, rapidly fizzing outward like an incoming tide over the teeth and down the sides of the mouth, but I'm less certain of the yeast. We get the spears and arrows fired by the besieging French forces over the wall of yeast in the carbonation, which isn't so bad but is pretty lively. The defenders draw up a doughty defense, working hard on the narrow walls to bring in the rocks to defend the barbican and connect the main tower with the extra motte opposite the imposition of the cathedral. An overall sweetness follows and surrounds the taste, like the battering rams and catapults brought into the outskirts, but is rendered useless by the heady dryness that fully delivers the 5.5% ABV strength of the brew all at once, making sure that you don't mistake this for something sessionable. It is full-bodied, thick and warm, dry at the outset and then like a steamed pudding on the aftertaste. The kind of ale that does well at the end of a meal, coupled with the cheese and biscuits or the cake course.

On that note, this is a rich ale, full of flavour and promise. It is, if anything, somewhat out of place in the summer with the heavier feel to the air and the pregnant skies. It works, I am certainly enjoying it in my break, but it would be more at home in autumn or early spring when the air is cooler and the sun is weaker and the light starker. Each sip maintains that playful sweetness on the lips and maintains the lively fizz all around the mouth on tasting so that it is not diminished as you go through the glass.

King John may have died in Newark but his son knew how to rule with guile, or his advisors did, so that he issued a Charter of the Forest and the Great Charter together soon after routing the French forces at the battle of Lincoln. That kind of cunning use of power, the velvet glove coating an iron fist, is perfectly fitting for the ale as it tastes. Make sure the chambers are free of interruptions and the fire stacked high and well, draw down the muslin windows to keep out the wind, hang the favourite tapestries, cloth the tables and invite the servants. Feast and finish with Law of the Land to usher in the closer talking that ends a meal well, retire sated to the private chambers and half tester.

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