Posts Tagged ‘fullers’

Beer Review: Fuller’s 1845

4 September, 2008

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?

Fuller’s 1845 front label

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.

Fuller’s 1845 back label

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.

Rating: 4.25

Have you tried Fuller’s 1845? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments boxes below.

Beer Review: Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale

29 May, 2008

THE last Fuller’s ale I tried was the pretty good London Pride. Only I knew that Fuller’s had more up their sleeves; the names of their other beers are on the sides of the delivery lorries that drive around the city. Except the only bottled beers they sold, on their own doorstep here in London I might add, were London Pride. Until now. The Polish run corner shop that keeps delighting, has done so again. Because here, for the super-premium price of £1.99 pence, is a bottle of Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale. Expectations couldn’t be much higher.

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale bottle

The neck label sticks to the Fuller’s formula.

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale neck label

Simply featuring the Griffin Brewery griffin. Which, incidentally, has a claw atop a barrel of beer. And surrounded by lots of little medals, featuring the words “Voted Britain’s Best”. Exactly like London Pride, apart from the colour scheme. Which for ESB is a fetching gold, red and blue.

The front label sticks mostly to the same formula as London Pride too. No points for originality.

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale front label

The big Fuller’s logo sits on top of the shield. Proudly displaying their Chiswick origins. With the sad demise of Truman twenty years ago, that makes this West-London brewer my local.

Under that are the reassuring words “Extra Special”. And then the huge ESB name. Which, for some reason, includes and oversized letter “S”. Hopefully the back label will explain that.

Under the “ESB” name, we’re told that this is “Champion Ale”. With that and the “Extra Special”, they really are getting my hopes up that this will be awesome. Under that are some more little pictures of medals. Not only do these have the words “Voted Britain’s Best”, but some also say “Voted World’s Best”.

The expectations go higher still when we see, barely, the alcoholic volume. Which is mysteriously written in very small lettering. 5.9% is great to see. It’s a big reason to want this over those generic Euro-5% beers and lagers and deserves to be much more prominent. But what do I know about marketing.

Over on the back, and we have a tall label stretching from the top to the bottom of the bottle.

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale back label

Starting from the top, this is a 500 millilitre bottle. I would dearly like to see a bottle as British as this one go for the full-pint. Well’s do it after all. What do you think? Opinions gladly welcomed in the comments section please.

The main block of text opens by informing us of ESB’s awards. ESB has twice been “World Champion Bitter”, thrice “Champion Beer of Britain” and won some other unnamed awards besides. I truly hope their assertion that ESB is “one of the world’s greatest beers” isn’t just marketing-speak.

They then describe ESB as being “smooth” and “full bodied”. And that the taste, with which it is bursting, is none other than marmalade. The same fruity conserve you might spread on your toast at breakfast. Is there nothing you can’t put in beer?

“Malty notes” are in the description. As is a list of the hops that “balance” it out. ESB Champion Ale has Northdown, Target, Challenger and Goldings hope. Now I’ve read a fair few beer bottle label at this point. And most have about two or at most, three types of hops. But four types of hops takes hop blending to the extreme. Maybe there’s something to ESB’s reputation, what with the marmalade and all those hops.

Next, they recommend you serve this beer cool. And they seem keen that you have it with some sort of meal. Beef, lamb and even game and mature cheeses are mentioned. I don’t know what sort of people regularly eat game and cheese with a bottle of beer, but I want to be that sort of person. That would be the life.

After that, they go on to promote their website and ale club. Their web address is www.fullers.co.uk. We also have the full postal address of Fuller Smith & Turner Plc. And a warning to drink responsibly.

The last small-print details on there are the ingredients; which are malted barley. But you knew that. And the UK units of alcohol. Which are a nice and round 3.0. No more beers today for you, girls.

Finally, it’s time to crack open this very expensive bottle. And to answer the simple question, is it any good?

If you pour it into a glass, you’ll notice how dark ESB is in colour. It’s the darkest, reddest shade of amber I’ve seen for a while. It also has almost no head.

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale pourde into a glass

The smell is of a rich, complex blend of malt and hops. Traditional, yet delicious for the ale aficionado.

After a few gulps, the first thing that struck me was how balanced it all is. None of the countless flavours in there really jumps out at you. Which can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you look at it.

After a few more sips, I’ve decided that this is one of the most complex tasting ales I’ve tried. And that out of the blend, the things you’ll notice most are the hoppy bitterness and sour aftertaste. It doesn’t linger, and it’s not unpleasant.

A few more sips into it, and I can hardly taste any malt at all. Let alone any marmalade. There is something slightly tangy to it though, which could be the marmalade at work.

Things I like about this ale are that it’s smooth. That it’s so full-bodied and full-flavoured, I’m surprised the bottle manages to contain it all. And that even with the strong flavours, high-strength and bitterness, it is still very drinkable. Plus it has quality in spades.

On the other hand, some people will be put off by the strong taste of hops. The shopping list of hops that went into this ale are amazing, but if you don’t like hoppy bitterness, you won’t find much to enjoy here. It also doesn’t play enough on the marmalade. More citrusy tanginess would add to the character. Apart from it being slightly gassy, my main complaint is that it’s so expensive.

How can I sum up ESB Champion Ale? It’s a hop driven ale taken to the extreme. If you like bold, hoppy bitterness, this is one to try. I love that this ale takes risks with big flavours. But it could make more of the marmalade inspired citrus and it’s an expensive way to offend the taste buds of someone who can’t appreciate bitter flavours. Very good, but not one of the greatest.

Rating: 4.175

Have you tried Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale? What did you think of it?
Got any corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas or suggestions? Then do please leave a message in the usual place.

Beer Review: Fuller’s London Pride Premium Ale

25 April, 2008

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.

Fuller's London Pride bottle

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.

Fuller's London Pride neck label

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.

Fuller's London Pride front label

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.

Fuller's London Pride back label

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.

Fuller's London Pride poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 3.2

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.


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