HAVING lived in London for a few months, it’s about time I tried the local ale. And here it is: Fuller’s London Pride Outstanding Premium Ale.
One of the things I like about this traditionally shaped bottle is the number of words embossed on the glass. The coat of arms logo, established date of 1845 and “Independent Family Brewers” are all raised on the surface of the bottle. That’s the most I’ve yet seen. But I would like to see a bottle that only has that type of print. No printed or painted labels, just raised lettering. Are there any out there that do that?
Back to the real world, and the neck label needs a magnifying glass to see properly.
Central of which is the Fuller’s coat of arms logo. Something that throughout the outside of the bottle, always mentions its home at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, West London. Can anyone confirm if that is the one that you pass while driving into London from the M4 motorway?
The neck label also says that this is award winning. There are also some little pictures of medals with the words “Voted Britain’s Best” to back up that assertion. Sadly, no actual awards get named.
The main front label is a picture of tradition. There’s a big red shield, on which are the logo, a picture of some hops and the basic facts.
It’s not overcrowded. And it doesn’t push any boundaries. You could say that it’s unoriginal. But when it comes to ales, that doesn’t matter very much. The most important detail on the front is the alcohol volume, which for London Pride is only 4.7%. And that’s lower than most of the beers and ales that I’ve tried recently.
Over on the back of the bottle, the rear label is a big red rectangle with lots of small white text.
Fairly prominent is the famous slogan “Whatever You Do, Take Pride”. Famous because it’s recently been on the side of a good number of London taxis.
The first chunk of small white text goes on describing what London Pride is all about. Not the intangible emotion of pride in London, but the more relevant topic of what this ale is like. They describe it as having a distinctive malty base, balanced by hop flavours. They also say that they use Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties of hop. None of which I understand the significance of. If you know why these are good, do please leave a message at the end of this post.
They go on to say that this is a surprisingly complex beer considering its strength. By which I think they mean that even though it’s weak, it will still taste good. They also say that this is the UK’s number one premium ale. Is that number one in a competition? Or number one in sales? That would be odd, as I don’t remember seeing it on sale anywhere else in the UK.
On the back label in the white text, they go on to mention their other beers. Their website at www.fullers.co.uk and their Fine Ale Club. The small print begins shortly after with the Chiswick, London, postal address for Fuller Smith & Turner Plc. Other pieces of small print in three of the four corners of the label include the UK units of alcohol, which are 2.4 in this case. The 4.7% alcohol volume. And that this is a 500 millilitre bottle.
With all that chatter out of the way, I’m looking forward to seeing if I can take pride, in London Pride.
In the glass, the colour is a dark gold. There’s a modest head too. But the head swiftly vanished which was disappointing.
The smell is invitingly complex though. Even I was able to smell a fantastic blend of malty, hops and… is that a hint of something fruity in there? It is a very nice blend of smells. I wasn’t expecting it to smell this good.
A couple of gulps in though, and I’m undecided. It seems too watery and bitter. This will need a few more gulps to figure out.
A few more gulps in, and yes, the taste is mostly one of bitterness. Presumably the end result of all those hop varieties. But it does have some complexity. There are some other tastes and flavours in there if you look hard enough. The label mentions a malty base, which does seem to be in evidence. Even if not to the fore. And thinking about what I called a fruitiness to the smell, I could be wrong, but is that coming from the hop varieties? That’s because I’m picking up hints of something arable in there, and the hops are the only things I can think of that link all these things together.
Other things on the credit side are that it’s not gassy. In fact, it’s almost still. Which, I’m tempted to put on the debit side, but won’t. They have also done a good job of squeezing maximum taste complexity from minimum volume. It’s also quite drinkable. This is one of those I think would go well with a pub meal with friends.
But over on the debit side, it can’t escape the accusation of being a little weak and watery. It just lacks the body that I expect an ale to have. Still, it has won lots of awards from people who know more than I do. What do you think? Am I looking at London Pride in the wrong way? Or am I right?
To summarise, London Pride is good. It smells good. It tastes as hoppy as anything I tested so far. But with that, comes the drawbacks of bitterness. And it’s lacking in strength and body. Some people will like those things. But for me, they mean that it doesn’t quite cut it. Even so, it’s good enough to make me want to try the rest of the Fuller’s range.
Have you tried Fuller’s London Pride or any other Fuller’s beers? What did you think?
Comments, ideas, suggestions, corrections, explanations and insults in the comments box below please.