Each year Fuller’s brew a limited number of bottles of Fuller’s Vintage Ale. Each is unique, comprising of some of the best ingredients available each year. A few months ago I was lucky enough to get to try a bottle of the 2004 Fuller’s Vintage and even more lucky to be able to take a few home.
Cracking open a beer in your collection is a mixture of excitement and apprehension, what if the beer is bad? what if it hasn’t fully matured yet? but at some point every beer is going to be drunk and at that point a judgement is usually passed. Lucky for me, I had already tried the Fuller’s 2004 Vintage Ale so was in no danger of it being bad (save for the chance that I had a bad bottle – which does happen) so all I had was the excitement.
A thing worth noting with bottle conditioned beers which are aged for a while, they will have a sediment in them. Generally it is best to keep this in the bottle and out of your beer glass, sometimes this is unavoidable but it is harmless. This bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2004 had been slightly knocked in the past few weeks and so some of the sediment had ended up re-suspended – this lead to a poor colour (as seen in the pictures) but it did not seem to harm the flavour.
Originally the Fuller’s Vintage ales were brewed using prize winning malt and hops, but apparently it was found to not only be far too costly but also as the popularity grew and the required quantity grew it was no longer possible. Fullers still selects the highest quality ingredients each year for their Vintage Ale, just not necessarily the prize winning ones.
As each year the Fuller’s Vintage Ale is brewed using different ingredients and the recipe is adjusted to best present those ingredients each beer has it’s own character. Those lucky enough to have tried multiple vintages will have noticed similarity, but each has it’s own unique taste and I would imagine it’s own unique development with age. That said, there is a noticeable improvement with age, not that the beer was ever bad but more that it keeps on getting better.
So how does the 2004 vintage taste at the moment?
The nose is rich with fruit and sugars, like a high quality spirit or wine. The intitial taste is sweetness almost syrupy this leads into a deep malty textured middle with plumbs, raisins and rich aged fruitcake. The end is like sherry and leaves a spicy dry warmth.
To say this beer is fantastic is to understate it, this beer is an experience for any beer lover. However, the flavours are complex and strong, if you like your beer pallet quenching, refreshing or light then maybe this isn’t for you. Although, even if Fuller’s Vintage Ale is not your usual preffered beer it is something to experience and you should take the oportunity.
Each year the Fuller’s Vintage Ale for that year is easily available, if you are looking for older years then some are available from the shop on the Fuller’s website and selected online stores – but they are of course in limited numbers so get them while you can!