Fuller’s Vintage Ale

Reviewed by on December 17, 2014 in Holiday Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Fuller Smith & Turner PLC

  • Origin: London, England

  • Rated On: December 17, 2014

  • Best Before: end of 2024

  • ABV: 8.5%

  • Ideal Temperature: cool to cellar temperature

  • Style: Old Ale

  • Rating: WORLD-CLASS !!!

The Review

Fuller Smith & Turner is an English (you don’t say) brewer, and their Vintage Ale is released in fall every year, but for some reason I always associate it with Christmas parties and this festive time of the year.  2014 marks its 18th birthday, and with a pan-Atlantic hop schedule – Goldings from England, and America’s Liberty and Cascade for the dry-hopping, which should be interesting.

This 500ml bottle pours a mostly clear, bright medium orange brick amber colour, with three chubby fingers of aggressively foamy, puffy, and somewhat sudsy off-white head, which leaves some nice sticky rainforest canopy lace around the glass as it gently sinks away.

It smells of sugary caramel malt, biscuity hard toffee, candied orange and red grapefruit rind, apple cider, dank cellar, a touch of warming alcohol, and further floral, earthy, and perfumed hops. The taste is heady malt sweetness up front – bready caramel, butterscotch, raisins – which dries out rather quickly under a strong earthy noble hop surge, the alcohol chipping in its share, with some bruised apple and overripe plum fruitiness. I can’t help but notice the slow, subtle furtherance of that old musty, woody essence – it’s like this beer sopped up the air under the well-worn stairs in my parents’ basement, which is not to say that it’s overpowering or off-putting, just a different companion than one might be used to for the big buttery caramel malt. The carbonation is quite understated, manifesting in a mild frothiness throughout, the body a sturdy medium weight, creamy, well rounded, and solidly smooth. It finishes surprisingly dry, the malt turning somewhat crackery, and the alcohol making itself clearly known, ably rendered as it may be.

A pleasantly warming and very engaging vintage ale, with that ‘old’ character meshing well with the rest of the strong flavours.  The use of American hop varietals in this year’s version seems to have achieved their goal – dry-hopping generally affects the aroma, and the citrus notes that wafted about are a testament to that.  I know that it is early days to be diving into a beer like this, but like anything age-worthy, it’s good to have a starting point, a base from which to ascertain change over the coming beer-appreciation years…right?

Brady White

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