I had been saving a bottle of Fullers Vintage Ale 2000 since I was given it during a visit to the historic Griffin Brewery in Chiswick at a beer bloggers conference nearly three years ago. It was the first time a beer had lasted more than a week in my house, let alone years. Of this particular vintage Fullers had produced 85,000 bottles and decided to brew with English Champion Optic Malt and Organic Target Hops.
I wanted a special occasion to open it, Christmas Day seemed appropriate and much ceremony was made while pouring out this bottle conditioned* time capsule. Its smooth rich deep amber hue nestled comfortably into the feminine curves of the two elegant 1/3 pint CAMRA glasses I had chosen for the special task.
To my nose I raised the branded tulip and was struck a touch dumb with the complex aromas that greeted me. My olfactory curator reeled trying to make sense of this woody earthy perfume, but it began slowly to emerge. First fresh bees wax, then sweet corn syrup left to sit in the sun, next came toasted sunflower seeds and finally dense rich malt loaf with fat raisins. All the while weaving in and out were wild herbs and dried grasses. Now it was time to taste, the first sip coated my mouth with dry peach, then Demerara sugar. I kept needing to taste and re taste to discern the dry herb finish. It caused my to mouth actually sweat, the drying woody tannins lingering on my tongue. To say this 8.5% ABV beer is rather special is an understatement, it is a beverage imbued with the nuance and diversity of flavour that I usually reserve for wine – a truly try before you die beer.
It paired beautifully with the Neal’s Yard & Melrose & Morgan cheeses (Perroche soft goats, Stawley washed rind goats & Gran Jura) biscuits and onion chutney. Despite never having “laid down” beer before I can proudly say that there is around a dozen bottles from different brewers sat in my pantry stood a reasonably cool dark box, maturing, growing wise. I thoroughly recommend you do the same.
You can order Fullers Vintage Ale 2013 direct online from £6 a bottle. They may have other vintages in stock so do get in touch with them to find out.
*Bottle Conditioning – The secondary fermentation that occurs when yeast and sugars are added to the beer right before bottling. This process leads to higher alcohol content and allows the beer to be aged, which can produce varying changes in taste and strength.
Definition courtesy of Beer Tutor