Tasting the Fuller’s Vintage 2009

“I have crafted this very special ale from the finest Goldings hops, Tripple malted barley and of course our unique yeast to create a truly extraordinary limited edition brew. Individually packaged an numbered, this bottle is one of only one hundred and sixty thousand produced. Although we are obliged to state a best before date of 2012, like a fine wine or whisky this mellow golden ale will improve with age for many more years. This 2009 edition marks 12 years of brewing this magnificent ale. Being bottle conditioned, the beer will form a natural sediment; so pour carefully, sit back, and enjoy this, the very finest of Fuller’s ales. ” – John Keeling, Head Brewers for Fuller’s Brewery.

And in fact, it was bottle number 050155 which I enjoyed thoroughly with my roommate this past weekend. The Fuller’s vintage is among my favorite all time bottles, and comes each year in a sturdy red box. The beautiful sentiment above by Fuller’s head brewer John Keeling is printed in fine cursive on the back of every box of Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2009. It comes out each year near Christmas, and I make sure that I always stock up on several to enjoy for the season, and many more to age in my cellar for years to come. A vintage ale is really a beautiful thing. Each year the brewery comes back to the previous years brew and determines how he can improve upon it, what subtle or extreme modifications can be made, or how can it be more unique and adventurous. Regardless of what the purpose of that specific vintage is, they are all crafted to be enjoyed now, and for many years to come. One of the many jobs of beer drinking is to be able to sit down and enjoy several different vintages of the same beer – ie. enjoying the Fuller’s Vintage 2005 through to 2009.

Somehow also, the British definitely know exactly what to do when it comes to the vintage. Maybe its their history of brewing, or the nature of the raw materials which they grow. Regardless of any fact, year in and year out Fuller’s produces a Vintage beer which makes my mouth water and drool for days if not more.

The 2009 Fuller’s Vintage Ale is 8.5% abv and comes in a 500ml dark and heavy glass bottle. In my humble opinion it is among the most handsome and classy bottles in the world. Beyond that, it does come in a red box as shown here, making it a very unique beer which stands out and commands presence on beer shelves.

The 2009 Vintage pours aggressively as if it has been waiting to be unleashed out of the bottle. It flows smooth but once it hits the glass massive carbonation and life is created which mounts in the heart of the ale and rises to the surface of the beer. The head is creamy and mountainous standing an inch off the beer with an amber bronze tint glowing through a reddish tan foam.

The beer itself is slightly transparent but full amber mahogany, with reps, golds, bronze, and  oak shinning through. It shows a slight haze and still much carbonation from the bottle conditioning. Bubbles form everywhere and gently rise to the top supporting the head which will gently recede to a medium film.

The nose is rich with warm malts and toffee, caramel, raisins, prunes, and soft hops. Light fruit lingers on a touch of alcohol and soft oak breaks though the back end. he hops are still there to balance the nose, and also indicate a refreshing bitter to finish this ale.

Once you get into this beer its obvious why they have been brewing it for over 12 years. Its smooth and gentle across your palate showing your tongue just how caramel and toffee flavors can be brought out of malted barley. Its exceedingly fresh and rich in body. The caramel is warm and soft leading into dark fruits, oak, warming alcohol and a touch of spice. Hops jump in at the end with a light citrus and mildly bitter bite. The overall impression of the beer is creamy toffee and soft malts.

It really is quite luxurious. The mouthfeel is elegant, full, gentle and hearty. Its a savory and gently sweet palate pleaser while still able to quench and refresh you in perfect harmony. The balance is really excellent as well – just enough bitter hops exist to subdue the malts, and the bottle conditioning creates a steady carbonation keeping the beer light in but full the whole time.

I expect, like all its predecessors, that it will only improve with age bringing more mellow smooth oak and gentle malt complexity. It should be enjoyed close to cellar temperature around 10 degrees Celsius (50F) and preferably poured into a standard British Pint glass.

It will be excellent with all red meats, roast chicken, turkey, wild game, lasagna, meaty pastas, or even just a baguette and cheese.

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