Sunday, 11 September 2011

Fullers Vintage Ale

"It's good."

So sayeth Fullers brewmaster John Keeling in response to a tweet about the 2000 Fullers Vintage Ale. I've been hanging on to a few different vintages of these beers, and thought I ought to get cracking on them. A vertical would leave me hospitalised, so I'm aiming to work through them over the coming weeks. I attended the Vintage Ale tasting John did at LoveBeer@Borough a couple of years back, and I recall his description of the changes the beer undergoes over time. As I remember it, he compared it to a sine wave.

I'm partial to the odd pint of Fullers, but my pint of choice isn't London Pride. I like Chiswick, and, when I can find it, the cask London Porter is lovely during the winter. However, this whole bottle-conditioned range of beers is most intriguing. Vintage has been produced for almost 15 years, but Fullers seem to get overlooked by the crafterati at large in favour of big and hyped imported beers. I'm usually as guilty as any other beer geek, but in this case it'd be nice to see Fullers get some love.

For me, I've also been sitting on some Brewers Reserve No. 1, and still need to get myself acquainted with these Past Masters beers. Nothing wrong with a regional brewer experimenting with this sort of thing, and I think I'm correct is saying Fullers have been pathfinders in getting English brewers sorted with HMRC on the matter of using spirits containers in their brewing without being reclassified as distillers.

So, to the 2000 Vintage Ale. The bottle I had was labelled for the US market, so there's no ABV. It's described on the box as 'mellow and golden', and the Fullers website tasting notes reveal it was an organic beer, brewed with Champion Optic malt and Target hops. I should be looking for a 'fresh hop aroma with notes of honey and toffee, leading to a slightly sweeter taste and burnt, bitter aftertaste'. After 11 years, what's changed?

The colour, to begin with. Sorry for the crap pic, but you can see the beer is a rich deep ruby hue. It was bright with some tiny bubbles persisting. It sustained a caramel coloured head for as long as it was in the glass.

On the nose, hops had been replaced with a gentle aroma of peaches, and the presence of Fullers' signature zesty orange from the yeast. The body was thick and satisfying, and mouthfeel was zingy and bright, like a big spoonful of a good marmalade which gave way to a long and slightly bitter and warming finish.

The beer hadn't gone boozy over time, though it was a sipper. There was something I thought might be metallic in the finish, but it wasn't there all the way through the beer, and in the end I decided it was simply some finishing bitterness.

Very nice beer to linger over with my feet up for a while. Later vintages for tasting are the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. I'll summarise all of those in a single post once I get to the end, using the tasting notes. One thing, though, Fullers. An update of the tasting notes to indicate how each year is drinking would be useful.


Anonymous said...

the wheatsheaf at the borough market has a cask of brewers reserve no3 on tomorrow. first come first serve. cheers

Bailey said...

Are we in the crafterati? We're definitely in the blogerati. In fact, we're probably in the blogstapo. Anyway, we love Fuller's. OK, Discovery is a bit crap, and we can take or leave Jack Frost and a few of the other seasonals, but Bengal Lancer, London Porter, Chiswick, Pride, ESB, 1845, Vintage Ale.... that's a hell of a line up!

Sid Boggle said...

Bailey: I meant to clarify I was talking about Vintage Ale, Brewers Reserve etc., but I went charging on without tidying that up.

After these new beer bodies being launched, I'm wondering if we'll all be pulled together as the splinterati...

Birkonian said...

I've got quite a lot of these including 1997 and 1998. I suppose I should drink them sometime.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'm lucky enough to have got an invite to the vertical tasting of all 15 Vintage Ales.

I agree that Fullers are underappreciated. If a geek brewery released some of the same beers everyone (well, all the fanboys) would be drooling over them.