Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fullers Vintage Ale: 2005

First off allow me to apologize for the lack of updates over the course of the past month. It has been nearly 6 weeks since my last correspondence. I recently travelled to London, England for an 18 day mini-vacation to visit friends and drink good beer. I suppose this is as good a reason as any for a lack of updates. In any case, I am back in action today by posting a review of one of my favourite beer experiences in London. It comes to us from a very well-known English Brewery: Fullers. Fullers produces a wide-range of English Ales, from their flagship beer, the London Pride (English Bitter) to their London Porter and 1845 Celebration Ale, Fullers produces some excellent brews. And they have won many awards to prove it. By far my favourite is their Vintage Ale.

The Vintage Ale is of course exactly what it sounds like, an aged beer. Classified as an Old Ale (also referred to as a Stock Ale or Strong Ale), this style of brew has its roots firmly planted in English soil. Emerging in or around the 18th century, this style of beer has changed much over the course of the past three centuries. Brews produced in this fashion were often a blended combination of one, two or three different runnings (ales of varying ages), often a young and much older matured ale. The original running of the beer would be aged in wooden casks and the beer would assume like flavours including some stale flavours from oxidation. Old Ales are typically high in strength, although some commonly found today are considerably weaker than others, but this Vintage Ale from Fullers is no exception, sitting at a burly 8.50% this is a very strong beer by English standards. Colours range from dark amber to dark brown. They are full-bodied malt-forward ales with little to no bitterness surviving the long maturation process. For me, this type of ale (if done correctly) is at the pinnacle of the English beer world. These brews are very complex and their depth is unrivalled. Tasting notes anyone?

Name: Fullers Vintage Ale
Category/Style: Old Ale
ABV: 8.50%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Unknown
Bottled: 2005
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Lamb and Flag, London, UK

The Pour: Murky chestnut brown, unfiltered, yellow-orange copper hues, slight gold hues around the edges. The head is creamy and off-white, a little retention, and a little lacing.

The Nose: Sweet malt and dust. Detecting some caramel and something very Port-like. A little wood and heaps of dark fruit: figs and raisins, with raisins being dominant. A little musty and something a bit astringent, perhaps a little bit of orange peel and spice, clove? Stale apple juice, a bit cidery...

The Taste: Lots of dust, full-bodied, a little alcohol, quite sweet but not syrupy. A little toasted malt. Nice bitterness, carbonation is medium: not too much not too light. I rather like this. A little spice, a little orange peel, a little apple juice/cider notes. Heaps of dark fruit: mostly raisins. Finish is rather dry and there is a detectable alcohol warmth on the back of the throat. Exactly what I'd expect from this style of ale.

The Verdict: This is the second time in a week that I've had this ale and I absolutely love it. Out of traditional English styles this one just might be my favourite. Flavourwise it's spot on and there is nothing that shouldn't be in this brew. I also prefer bottle conditioned to the widespread cask conditioned (real ales) found throughout the UK. What can I say? I like my beers well carbonated. The higher alcohol percentage is a real treat also as it is difficult to find a brew over 5.00% in most pubs. It's great for sharing and the perfect beer to drink through the winter. I also like the fact that it's from 2005. It's old. The back of the bottles suggests drinking by 2008 but that flavours will continue to develop for many more years. Seven years later it's still perfect and still developing I'm sure. No idea if you can find this anywhere in the US (quite rare I imagine) but if you find it, you should certainly buy it. If you're looking for a real traditional English brew or maybe you're looking for a different kind of winter-warmer, then make this your beer. Toodles for now!

Thanks for reading!


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