Drinking 7 year old beer – someones got to do it
I was given a bottle of beer to try by my step-dad David the other week – and it was a little different to say the least!
It was a bottle of Fullers ‘Vintage Ale’ – still in its slightly mottled box. Each year Fullers create a ‘best of the best’ ale – using their favourite ingrediants (malts and hops), and make it strong enough to last. The bottle I had was the 2003 vintage – that’s right, 7 years old! It was one of 50,000 made back in 2003 – and I wonder how many of that run are still left maturing. The ale is obviously bottle conditioned (bottled with live yeast), and was bottled at 8.5% I expect some very slow fermentation carries on – with the yeast trying to digest the more complex left over sugars, doing so with little oxygen.
The card that came with it did state a ‘legal requirement’ best before of 2006, but that could be ignored with an ale of this quality and strength, especially as it had been stored in a cool and dark garage.
Well I did what any beer fan would do – I opened it! The ale was darker than the ‘golden’ description, and it had the aroma of .. oak and sherry. There was still a reasonable level of carbonation – enough to give the ‘mouth feel’ you want in an ale, not enough to make it ‘fizzy’. The flavour is hard to describe (I’m probably not really a supertaster who is good at that sort of thing); very powerful complex flavour – you knew its % was strong, but the alcohol ‘flavour’ wasn’t too pronounced, probably after 7 years to merge with the other flavours. I couldn’t pick out much hop, so was left with an oaky malt.
It wasn’t an easy pint to finish – one that you have to take your time with. Not a beer I’d want to drink every day, but a real experience.