Monday, 2 November 2009
Fuller's Vintage Ale
The 2009 Vintage Ale from Fuller's is just about to be released to stores and I was lucky enough too receive an invitation to a recent vertical tasting of the beer at the brewery shop.
Fullers Vintage is brewed once each year using the finest quality ingredients available to the brewer, John Keeling. This year's beer was brewed four months ago and bottled in the last week or two. It is an 8.5% bottle conditioned, barley wine, has a fresh Goldings hop aroma and flavour, and the distinct traditional Fuller's character of orange marmalade which comes from the Fullers yeast in their stronger beers. I love this version of the beer - newly brewed, good balance of bitterness and sweetness, fresh and loads of hop character. However this beer does mature and develop over time and, to illustrate its potential for ageing, next up was the 1999 Vintage.
This beer has been in the bottle for over 10 years and the spicy hop notes are gone giving way to an aroma and flavour more reminiscent of a sherry or liqueur, the orange flavours remain though I think there is an alcoholic finish that I can't really appreciate. However I concede there are plenty who prefer this older, more mature version of the beer. It has developed into a complex and sophisticated drink and is to be appreciated in a small glass on a cold night.
To my taste the beers reach a peak at around five years and the third tasting was a 2005 Vintage, a smooth mellow beer, no harsh alcohols, still a noticeable spicy, citrus, Fuggles hop aroma and flavour. It remains balanced with both the sweetness and the bitterness providing a delicious taste of rich fruit cake followed by a long warming finish. Lovely !
The shop itself is going from strength to strength. The recent refurbishment and longer opening hours have been an improvement and now one can find the full portfolio of Fullers beers together with a much expanded range of clothing and collectibles and some special items exclusive to the shop.
Each of the previous Vintage Ales that remain available are also on sale at prices ranging from £4.85 to about £7 depending on the rarity value. The years 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2002 are no longer available - this is a great shame as they are the only ones missing from my own collection. The store will be going on-line in the coming months too for those fans who are not within reach of Chiswick (alas UK only to start with).
To receive future information about special events and tastings at the shop, register here or follow @fullerstony or @fullersjohn at Twitter.