Should Fullers Vintage Ale be regarded as a different beer each year?

Discussion in 'UK & Ireland' started by CwrwAmByth, Jan 3, 2013.


    "And though it's released each year as a separate vintage, BA has been informed that the recipe is only slightly tweaked from year to year, while the ABV remains at 8.5%."

    2012: Goldings, Sovereign, and Target hops. "Unique yeast" and organic barley from James Fuller's estate. (125,000 bottles)

    2011: Goldings, Sovereign, and First Gold hops. "Unique yeast", Warminster maltings, and organic barley from James Fuller's estate. (150,000 bottles)

    2009: Goldings hops, Tipple malted barley, "unique yeast". (160,000 bottles)

    2005: Fuggles hops, floor malted Optic malt, "unique yeast". (95,000 bottles)

    The differing ingredients to me suggest it should be different beers to be reviewed individually, because surely Goldings hops would create a different flavour that would age differently to that which Fuggles creates, and the same goes for the different malts. As for the abv I don't really think that matters, as the change of ingredients are what separates it from Golden Pride I think. Maybe I'm wrong though.

    Your opinions? (feel free to fill in the years I don't have a bottle of!)
  2. FUNKPhD

    FUNKPhD Advocate (515) Texas Apr 13, 2010

    There's plenty of beers on here that should have different review pages for different vintages. The Abyss is an obvious choice. Having different pages for beers like this would also help people looking to get older vintages know how they're holding up.
    CwrwAmByth likes this.
  3. A few quotes from the Fuller's produced Vintage Ale Tasting notes;
    1. First brewed in 1997 it is based on our Golden Pride. Each year only the best of that years malt and hops are used.
    2. In some of the later years of this brand's development, the raw materials were themed to further add to it's unique qualities.
    3. Golden Pride was traditionally available as a mini pin for a limited period over Christmas. However it was felt that the appeal of this beer could be widened with the introduction of a bottle conditioned version.
    4. This limited edition brand is brewed traditionally at Fuller's as part of the party-gyle system.​
    I know it doesn't answer your question but essentially it is the same beer each year with a subtle difference which is not usually noticeable until it has aged for a few years, I recommend at least five years but three will suffice.
    If you get the opportunity to conduct a vertical tasting do, you wont regret it.
  4. Thanks for that. It's a shame the Fullers website doesn't look like it gets updated regularly.
  5. Yep, 5 years has been my golden number as well.
  6. Damn, 2 years late for the 2005 and 2 years early for the 2009. Dern it.
  7. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (510) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    The recipe is different each year. But then again, do you think that the recipe they used to brew London Pride yesterday is exactly the same as the one they used 10 years ago? Or even two years ago?

    Though having said that, the technical specifications of the beer have varied quite a bit from year to year. 8.38% to 9.08% ABV, 1082.5 to 1087.68 OG.
  8. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (510) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    I was lucky enough to be at the 1997 - 2010 vertical tasting held at the brewery. All the vintages were different and all pretty good, if in different ways.
  9. I'd say that was a different case because London Pride is a beer people aren't going to be wanting to get hold of different vintages for.
  10. I think it should be added separately as it is a collectable vintage, labelled and bottled as such to different recipes and production quantities.

    Why not try adding them all separately - I'm sure the admins won't be US biased and let the UK have it's one true regular and differing Vintage ale :D
  11. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (510) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    I agree. It's packaged differently - with the year - too.
  12. I've managed two verticals, the first when John did a tutored tasting at GBBF in 2005 and one in 2009 that I hosted for BSF staff at GBBF (just missing 1998!). Last year a did a 12 day countdown to Christmas 2011 - 2000.
    CwrwAmByth likes this.
  13. Where do you get older ones from? or did you just save them up?

    I'm worryingly tempted by a £25 1998 bottle on ebay (+£10 p+p though)
  14. Don't be, not at those prices

    Older ones can be hit and miss

    I've had 4 or 5 99's this year - one excellent, one decent, 2 average and one was bad

    I've got a few 99's left still I'll sort you one out next time we meet if you want?
  15. I've been cellaring beer for over 20 years
  16. Thanks, that would be great!
  17. shyhenry

    shyhenry Aficionado (175) Virginia Oct 11, 2010

    1998's probably the hardest vintage to find. If you actually want to build a vertical, you'll never find a '98 for cheaper than that.

    I got to try the '98 a few months back. It tasted knackered, unfortunately.
  18. Yeah the risk is probably the main thing holding me back apart from the cost.

    I got 9 bottles of Tiny Rebel, Buxton, Hardknott and Brains Craft for under £25 today, and I didn't have to pay a tenner for delivery either.

    Probably wouldn't advisable to do a vertical anyway, as I don't know anybody here who likes beer really, so I'd be unable to appreciate any of it before 2000 :p
  19. I had a 1998 a year or two after it was released (still have the notes) and it was magical. Can't imagine many Vintages being any better after 10 years. Even by 5 they've peaked IMHO.

    As for the thread's question, absolutely without hesitation. RB lists each vintage individually and their database is without equal. Get with it BA.
  20. Same with wine. I recall Robert Parker saying that a lot of the wines he's "treated" to in the US had faded.The owners thought that wine improves with age , which is true up to a point, but eventually deterioration sets in.Mind you, I've had some memorable 1961s!
  21. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (510) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    It's a bit more complicated than that. They'll have good and bad periods as they age, so a beer that tasted crap at 5 years old might be wonderful at 6.

    In the 1997 to 2011 vertical, the ones I liked the least were the 2003 and 2004. The 1999, 2000 and 2007 were the ones I liked most.
  22. Last year I had some port from 1977, and it wasn't as good as a mere bottle of Grahams Crusted from Sainsburys I had at Christmas, so I see what you mean.
  23. Some wine does improve with some age but not all. That being said there is a way to make judgements about the aging process of wine which seem largely absent/more difficult with beer. Like you, I've had some Bordeaux from the lesser years from the 70s which were sublime while 1990, a much heralded year, has often been disappointing.
  24. Most decent wines of course improve with age, I had a lot of 1975s which took ages.The tannins need to drop out and the whole lot to smooth out.But this doesn't continue indefinitely and eventually they fade.
    Back to beer, it's interesting to read about how the 1869 hoard discovered in 2006 in the Worthington's White Shield brewery was still drinking well.
  26. Yes, they call it the "dumb phase"
    I'm in the Wine Society and one of the services they provide is to buy wines straight from the vineyards "en primeur", which may take many years to come round. They store them for you and after a while they try a bottle (not one of the customer's!) and tell how the wine is progressing.The customer at some time from this information decides to take delivery , pays the duty and storage fees and is assured of wine in peak form.
  27. Yep, know the system well and they're holding on to some of wine for me. But in my experience The Wine Society can jump the gun a bit when tasting Burgundy (and others) with at times overly conservative aging estimates. I tend to gravitate more towards Clive Coates and Alan Meadows to help me navigate opening times.
    Too bad there's no one with similar expertise regarding aging beer.
  28. Back before the supermarkets got a grip, in Grantham were two brewery vintners, Ridlington's was Bateman's and Rutland Vintners was Ruddles.Both had stacks of really old Bordeaux and Burgundies at historic prices.Chambolle-Musigny, Clos do Vougeot , Vosne Romanee all from good Burgundy years in the 60s , Leoville Barton , Grand Puy Lacoste, Cantemerle, Kirwan,Beychevelle, all with age from Bordeaux, never paid much more than a few pounds for any , the most expensive was £8. Then along came Morrison's............
  29. FUNKPhD

    FUNKPhD Advocate (515) Texas Apr 13, 2010

    What's knackered? I speak English, not, well... English...
  30. Knackered is slang for tired/broken/worn out. I think he probably means the last one, as in it tasted past it's prime.
    FUNKPhD and shyhenry like this.
  31. shyhenry

    shyhenry Aficionado (175) Virginia Oct 11, 2010

    It tasted tired, old. It had obviously oxidized quite a bit and was well past its best.

    I have no idea how the bottle I drank was stored, so maybe other bottles of '98 have a bit more life to them.
  32. :-( :'(
    Man I hate stories like that. And here I was feeling good about the relative Burgundy bargains I got about 13 years ago. The eye waters.
  33. at GBBF last year I shared a case of Whitbread Celebration Ale, every bottle was superb and they were 20 years old. Admittedly a bigger beer than Fuller's Vintage Ale but it goes to show that if a beer is well made & well kept it can be a thing of beauty.