Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fuller's Vintage Ale (2014 edition)

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1352) - Albany, New York, USA - MAY 20, 2015
There’s a niche British style of vintage ales that tend to be pretty amazing due to their complexity. The problem is they’re hard to come by, and their rarity is what makes them all the more appreciable. Fuller’s annual Vintage Ale is a perfect example, and the 2014 edition is probably as good as it’s ever been.

I poured a 500ml bottle into a snifter. There was no specific bottling date.

Appearance: Out of the bottle it’s apparently a dark copper/maize hue, but in the glass it has a nice burgundy/brown color. Not quite opaque, but definitely hazy with sediment and carbonation visible. Pours to a two-finger, white, foamy head which laces and retains very well.

Smell: Quite sweet with notes of berries and dried fruit with slight piney notes from dry-hopping (with American hops, interestingly enough!). Has the classic British ale character I enjoy in brews of the style.

Taste: Strong British ales tend to have many of the same flavors as strong Belgian ales, but somehow they’re different. Consider that the palette here consists of nuanced fruit notes of cherry, plum, prune and even strawberry notes it’d be easy to compare that to a Belgian Quad. Yet the British yeast gives it a completely different character than the Belgian yeast. Instead of being spicy it’s more refined, calm, and confectionery-like. Notes of caramel and treacle can be found, though I would not describe it as a sickly sweet beer at all. Even the hops are rather prominent – imparting a slight citrusy flavor with significant bitterness to match. For such a strong beer, the alcohol is nearly invisible and does not distract from the base brew.

Drinkability: I was a little hesitant going into Fuller’s Vintage Ale as it’s 8.5% ABV, which is pretty strong but not mammoth. Though it has plenty of flavor and is full-bodied, what it isn’t is intimidating. The mouthfeel is soft and comfortable with a smooth finish going down. There is only the faintest trace of alcohol warmth, and it finishes remarkably clean, too. No cloying aftertaste here. A beer like this should ideally be for seasoned drinkers, but I’d think even acolytes would enjoy this immensely.

Score: 10/10

NOTE: See my review of a 2008 vintage here:

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