One of the highlights of the recent Willoughby Arms Halloween Beer Festival was a rare cask of Fullers, Gales Prize Old Ale.
The tasting notes in the festival program were written when Roger Protz was a boy, describing hand-corked bottles and wooden fermenters and really relate to a beer from a bygone age.
The story of the new version of Prize Old Ale is as follows :
Fullers acquired the beer when they took over Gales of Horndean in 2007. They also acquired a final batch of forty barrels of the beer that had been brewed by Gales and was being matured. Fullers took this beer back to Chiswick and launched it in bottle last year. The beer had a distinct, overpowering sourness reminiscent of the Belgian lambic style beers.
Fullers first effort at brewing the beer was last year. The 9.5% barley wine style beer was brewed in Chiswick in 2008 and blended with the very last drop - a small amount - of the old Horndean brewed beer thus retaining the provenance and continuity of the Gales beer, imparting some infected tartness but not allowing the lambic character to be overpowering. This beer was then matured in the brewery for a further year.
The beer was brewed again in 2009 and has just been blended 60:40 with the matured beer. This is the beer that has just been launched in bottle (and ten casks). The remainder of the new beer will now be blended with a small amount of the old beer and further matured until next year. A real labour of love for John Keeling, Fullers Brewing Director.
John provided me with some tasting notes for the new beer (via Twitter, hence the brevity) :
Prize Old Ale - aroma lots of fruit,sour cherries - flavour tart fruity sherbet edge balanced with malty sweetness
My own tasting notes at the Willoughby suggest a dark ruby colour, small tight head and a spicy hop aroma. Some alcohol evident on the nose. A full bodied beer, with a sweetness of fruitcake and wine gums with notes of raisins, leather and tobacco and a little sour tartness. A long spicy hop finish with a lingering alcoholic warmth.
The beer labelled the 2008 vintage will be available soon at the shop at the Fullers Brewery - which will also be getting an on-line presence in the very near future.