FULLER’S do seem to make very good bottled ales. Fuller’s London Pride Premium Ale was very good and their ESB Champion Ale was outstanding. I was excited then, to find a bottle of Fuller’s 1845 in a west-London shop.
This one looks special. I’m hoping that it is. Time to look closer and figure out what makes it so special.
The bottle itself doesn’t give anything away. That’s because it’s the same black bottle they use for every other beer. That means it has embossed upon it, phrases like “Family Brewery”. And “Estd 1845”. Maybe that’s a clue as to the origins of the name? Lets read on.
The neck label is always a good place to start. As well as the griffin bearing Fuller’s of Chiswick logo is a clue. And the words “Matured for 100 days” is it. That sounds impressive and significant to me. But I want more facts. What will the big front roundel reveal?
Quite a lot by the look of it. The gold border says “Celebrating 150 Years of Brewing Excellence”. And around the bottom part of the border, we’re informed that this is an “Award Winning Strong Ale”. Both of those facts are things that I like. Especially as there aren’t nearly enough strong bottled ales out there.
Inside the roundel, the year “1845” takes centre stage, as does the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery of Chiswick logo. But, also catching your eye is that “100 days”. Printed right on the front is “Bottle Conditioned Ale Matured to Perfection for 100 Days”. That’s more time than any other I’ve seen. It even puts the magnificent Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer’s 77 days in the shade. In a world where everything is manufactured in colossal quantities, and as rapidly as can be gotten away with, 100 days of brewing is stupendous. That, together with the live-ness from the bottle conditioning and the 6.3% alcoholic volume are going to make this a formidable ale. I hope your mouth is watering at the thought of this, too.
The back label is tall, and full of very small writing.
But it quickly starts offering more reasons for you to like this bottled ale. In one of the corners, a little symbol tells us that “CAMRA says this is Real Ale”. Which is reassuring. In the big block of writing, they tell us that “1845” was first made in 1995, and has since won lots of awards, including “two gold medals at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival”. You just know that those guys know their beer, so those are two awards that mean something. Not like the so-called medals festooning some continental bottles.
They then go on to talk about the “fruit cake aroma”. That it is “complex, yet smooth” with “mellow flavours”, all of which are attributed to the mind blowing length of time they leave it to mature for, and the Amber Malt and Goldings hops. They also suggest that it goes well with rich food like game. Sadly, my spaghetti bolognaise ready meal will have to do. Interestingly, they say that you should really keep the bottle stored upright in a cool dark place, and pour it carefully. My one out of three isn’t bad. At least I kept it cool.
Quickly rushing through the small print now because I want to try this drink. It was brewed by Fuller Smith & Turner at the Griffin Brewery. As usual, the full London address is there if you want to get in touch. They’re keen to let you know about their other beers and ale club at their website, which is www.fullers.co.uk. It contains malted barley, and this 500 millilitre bottle, at a strong 6.3% comes in at 3.2 UK units of alcohol. Which is more than most. You won’t need much before you start feeling the effects.
Did I miss anything? I hope not because I want to open it. What will it be like? How will it compare to other strong ales? Do I think you should buy it? It’s time to find out.
With all the advice on the label to treat it as carefully as Nitroglycerine, I was surprised to find it had almost no head at all. Moments after the photo, all that was left was a patch of bubbles, and some around the rim. All that careful pouring for nothing.
It certainly looks substantial enough. It’s a very dark brown. But a shade lighter than stout or dark ale.
It smells potent too. Put your nose anywhere near the top of the glass, and you’ll see what I mean. It has an intense smell of… something. The label says “fruit cake”. To me, it smells, intensely of malted barley and lots of other things. Two things are certain; it smells intense and complex.
But how does it taste? A couple of gulps into this deep, thick ale, and it tastes just like how it smells. That is to say, intense and complex. To try and start from the beginning, what are the flavours? That’s very hard to say without sounding like a wine taster. It’s sort of biscuity, malty, hoppy and other things besides. It’s complex, and interwoven so tightly, I’m having trouble identifying any of it.
If I can’t describe the flavour, what about the aftertaste? It’s much the same. Those flavours blend smoothly into a hoppy, bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while.
If I can’t describe the flavour or the taste, can I at least describe the character of the drink? Now that I can do. Fuller’s 1845 sums up what full-bodied, richly flavoured and all-round delicious ales should be about. I’m about half-way through now, and that flavour and taste is still no clearer to me. That’s the sort of complexity you want from an ale. It’s not only as rich as fruit cake, but smooth too. The flavours are strong, but never too strong. You can even describe them as “mellow” like the label does. And they change seamlessly into the hoppy, bitter, aftertaste. None of them ever seem too strong. And you certainly can’t accuse it of being weak. Lastly, I’ve hardly burped at all, so you can’t even level the complaint of gassiness.
Are there downsides? I like a beer to take risks in the pursuit of greatness. That’s exactly what 1845 does. But doing so inevitably incurs problems. That hoppy bitterness does come in gently, but it ‘balloons’ before easing off and lingering. Lots of you will like the way it does that, but it was a bit strong for poor old me. And that strong bitterness is going to be too much for a lot of other people too. Then there’s the flavour and taste itself. It feels like it’s been sanded and polished so much, there’s little sign of the barley and hop flavours you get elsewhere. Lastly, you’ve got the problems of finding, and affording such an exclusive bottle. I got it purely by chance.
To sum up, Fuller’s 1845 is excellent. If you like strong, interesting ales, you will probably enjoy this. It offers virtually everything. Theo whole experience reminds me a lot of the other strong ales out there. Have a look for Broughton Old Jock, Maximus Strong Premium Ale and Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale for something vaguely similar if you can’t find 1845 sold anywhere near you. Not for the faint hearted, and not the strongest either, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Have you tried Fuller’s 1845? What did you think of it?
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