Fuller’s Vintage Ale ’05 v.’10, South-like London, England

I have been wondering what to do with these single boxes of Fuller’s Vintage Ale I stick away every year. Seems a shame to blow them all in one binge even if shared with pals and plenty of notes. Not much to learn there. I needed a plan, a system. So, with that in mind, I figured that I would open the current version as well as the version from five years ago. That sounds like a plan. And it is a recurring theme. Just what the modern blogger needs: plans and themes. The boxes are note worthy in themselves if only to note that someone took the time to make the font on the box a little more elegant between 2005 and now – though it does not carry over to the card inside. And interesting to note that the 2005 is #10599 while this year’s model is #026673, expectant of its siblings growing into six figures. But let’s not get bogged down in packaging. Unless you really want to. No? Fine.

The 2005 opens with a fizt and immediately gives off a nutty sherry aroma…rummy even. Plenty of frothy oranged off-white head. In the mouth, I first get marmalade and sticky bun. There is a very nice light astringency around the edge. Nutty with almond a bit like Hungarian Tokay. Very rich with a pleasant candied quality but clearly working its way yeastily beastily through itself. The malt has pear juiciness in there, too. Before the pear shows up, in the first wash there is a hot wave that is almost tobacco. As it opens the tobacco and pear morph into a touch of licorice. In the finish there are complex twiggy things going on, something like hedge.

By comparison, the 2010 is simpler, heftier and sweetly cloying, the sugars not having broken down for half a decade of thermostatic abuse in my basement stash. Even the head is more of a uniform fine cream rather than the more bubbly open froth of its elder. The bitterness is more generalized and slightly rougher. The back of the throat heat a notch more pronounced. No sense of the pear in the malt at all but maybe bread crustiness instead. Good and pleasant but clearly a bit young by comparison like a cheese that has yet to develop its bite. Frosh.

Having said all that, I still have 80% of each bottle left. I feel like I should do some tests upon the fluid with, say, litmus strips… or maybe observe the reaction of small penned animals asked to bed down in the boxes laid down amongst the smelly wood shavings. But what can a data like that tell you? Look at the photo above. Science is not all its cracked up to be. Both beers are very moreish, rich and worth opening at this time of year. Each could stand up to old cheddar or stilton very nicely at the end of a big holiday meal. I expect I will go buy more 2010 and hide it from myself. I will. I’ll be a year away from the beginning of paying university bills by the time it’s ready. Better buy lots. They’ll probably be drinking them by then, too.

While we are thinking about it, it does make you think whether any nation on this planet can express the hidden capacities of good rich malt like the English can.

Obviousness Update: Monsieur Noix of Ireland calls me out over the geography but I am mere puppet in this respect, parroting the brewery itself.

Click on the image to the right as to the evidence at hand.

One thought on “Fuller’s Vintage Ale ’05 v.’10, South-like London, England”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Ron Pattinson – December 24, 2010 8:03 AM
    I scored 4 bottles of the 1999 vintage when at the brewery earlier this month. I’m planning on drinking one or two this christmas.

    Alan – December 24, 2010 8:21 AM
    Wow. My wife just said “you lucky bastard” to that comment.

    Tim – December 24, 2010 12:19 PM
    Oh my, opened a bottle of ’08 Vintage Ale the other night. One whiff produced a long “Oooooh.” Too good to get distracted with taking notes. It may have improved with further aging, but opening that bottle was hardly regrettable.

    The Beer Nut – December 27, 2010 10:49 AM
    You could get thrown in the Thames for describing Chiswick as “South London”. From the north bank, obvs.

    Alan – December 27, 2010 11:06 AM
    Then throw the brewery in the river, Monsieur Noix. See obviousness update.

    The Beer Nut – December 27, 2010 11:14 AM
    Ah the perils of the missing comma. Fuller’s is in Chiswick Lane South. That’s in West London and most definitely not in South London.

    Always check multiple sources.

    Alan – December 27, 2010 11:58 AM
    “Always check multiple sources.”

    No, not really for something as utterly trivial as that. I do wonder why they were economizing on comma ink, however.

    Alan – December 27, 2010 12:12 PM
    While we are at it… why the “malted barley” warning?

    The Beer Nut – December 27, 2010 12:27 PM
    For coeliacs, would be my guess.

    The Beer Nut – December 27, 2010 12:29 PM
    And trivial? In London, the difference between a West London and South London address is worth more than a few bottles of Fuller’s Vintage.

    Alan – December 27, 2010 2:35 PM
    Perhaps detritus? Flotsam maybe? But now that I think about it, gee, I really hope the title of my post has not led to a mass hopeless migration of Londoners roaming the streets of South London.

    It’s a funny set of languages for sale in Canada. Two in French but eight in various Scandinavian tongues.

    Dave – December 27, 2010 2:56 PM
    A friend of mine bought his father a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale in 1997 for his father. On a trip back to England to see his family, my friend found out that his father never drank that bottle. Well that bottle was brought to Canada and we drank it on Christmas. I’ve never had anything like it. We compared it a 2010. I regret spending the $7 on the 2010.

    He has found a 1997 Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale. It was like weak version of the Fuller’s. With an exception to a hint of the orange zest, the spices had faded to oblivion.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get so lucky again in the world of vintage beer.

    Dan small beer – January 4, 2011 5:14 PM
    Further to Dave’s comments, you can read about our ’97 versus ’10 Fullers Vintage Ale experience here: http://smallbeerblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/toasts-of-christmas-past.html

    The ’97 was a beerhemoth!

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