Brew Review: 2008 Vintage Ale
Brewery: Fuller’s (London, England)
Style: Old Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 8.5%
Since the early 90’s craft breweries have been releasing limited edition brews at least annually to showcase their talent. And, of course, make some dough. Once reserved for daring beer geeks, limited editions are now prized by drinkers everywhere and dozens can be found in craft brew mega-marts. These high-end suds are usually higher in alcohol, brewed with copious amounts of malt, and many utilize heavy hop additions as well. As a result, many are age-worthy. In fact, beer connoisseurs across the globe now cellar and age beer like their vino-loving brethren.
Fuller’s Brewery out of London is best known for their London Porter, IPA, and flagship London Pride Pale Ale. Once a year they release their Vintage Ale, which is an “Old Ale” by style and comes in at a hefty 8.5% alcohol by volume. It’s been brewed since 1997 and, according to Fuller’s website, “each vintage is a blend of that year’s finest malt and hops, and of course our unique yeast, creating a unique limited edition brew” — although when reading the tasting notes, all the descriptions appear to be fairly similar. Each classy, numbered bottle comes attractively packaged in a swanky red cardboard box and a strip of paper across the cap, reminiscent of port wine. The two bottles sampled were of the 2008 vintage –Numbers 123201 & 123136.
A thick and creamy tan-cream colored head forms as the beer pours, but it quickly fades, leaving a nice lacing on the pint glass. The beer is minimally carbonated, appropriate for the style. Striking hazy amber hues make it on the eyes while scents of date, sweet malt, and apricot entrance the nose. Pleasant and mild flavors of vanilla and dark orange initially hit the palate. Robust and grainy dark caramel, and raisin notes follow, along with a show-stopping nuttiness that lingers all the way to the finish. There, it’s joined by tasty resin and candy-like English hop flavors. The alcohol heat is well-masked but is slightly detectable at the finish, along with some moderate hop bitterness.
This Old Ale is really something special. The malts and hops have mellowed and they’ve blended to harmonious perfection with age. The Vintage Ale is velvety smooth, complex and layered yet remarkably balanced — it’s nearly flawless. Best appreciated on its own, but would pair well with desserts or stronger cheeses. Quite simply one of the best beers this reviewer has ever had the privilege to try, ever.
Who’ll Like This Beer: Any drinker who appreciates quality beer, especially some of the heavier, higher alcohol brews. Those who enjoy port wine should check this one out.
Little Known Fact: Fuller’s has been around since 1845 and is “London’s only traditional family brewer” left standing.
The Verdict: Delicious and nearly perfect, pick some up while it’s still available.
Rating: 10/10 Mugs