Posted by: The Prince of Whales | January 6, 2010

A mighty fine beer


In December Phil “The Fop” Hawkins and me had the privilege to be invited to a tutored beer tasting. The audience was a mixture of folks from across the trade – licensees, pub company reps, brewery staff and others.

As guests of London brewers Fullers, we spent a great afternoon quaffing and then sipping our way through their range of beers. John Keeling, their Head Brewer was a splendid guide.  He told us tales of brewing and beers going back into the history of Fullers, adding his own experiences as we drank our way through their cask beers to finish off with the bottle conditioned.  London Pride, Porter and ESB are all great beers but the stars of the show were the bottles!

John Keeling and his Vintage Ale

Heaven in a glass

Now the last couple of bottles were both Vintage Ale; one from 2009 and one from 2004. Although it may seem odd to be drinking beer that’s several years old, it clearly works. And oh boy, does it work!

In very matter of fact tones, John explained how he started experimenting with aging beer in spirits barrels in 1997. He had problems with the Customs & Excise; getting the alcohol levels right,  some spirits residues turned beer sour and some vintages “mature” differently in the bottle. Meanwhile Phil and me were like giggling school boys at the back of the class. This beer was beautiful; rich and complex; fruit cake with a fantastic lush mouthfeel. Half beer, half vintage port but truly amazing.

John ended his presentation and invited all ten tables to go next door for the buffet.  Phil and me thanked John for a very entertaining hour or so and then lingered. Waited.

Finally when the room was empty, we went round all the tables to ensure that not a drop of this great beer was left in the bottom of any bottle!

A great beer and a great day. Thank you John Keeling and thank you Fullers.

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