This month the session is hosted by Reuben over at the Tale of the Ale who is a thoroughly nice chap; so you should go check out his blog. I struggled initially to think of what to write about; should I be tongue in cheek and call my post "(no) Thanks to the Big Boys?". How do you define big anyway? Is it just referring to the megalithic brewers that control a big share of the market; or do the larger family and regional brewers also count as big boys? After all, any brewer in the UK that doesn't qualify for small brewer's relief could be considered a big boy, though even the biggest regionals here aren't a patch on the size of a lot of well known American brewers.
I've decided that I can write about a large family brewer and if Reuben doesn't like it he can admonish me! So today's blog is about Fuller's (or Fuller, Smith and Turner as some people know it). With 367 pubs and national distribution of their bottled product in major supermarket chains (even here in Northern Ireland!) I think they qualify for the tag big boy.
A lot of people were disappointed when Fuller's bought George Gale and Co. of Horndean in 2005, especially when they closed down the brewery, but the Gale family were looking to sell up and better it go to a sympathetic brewer that continues to brew some of the gems of the range than to a more voracious regional who would wipe all trace of it off the map. I am disappointed that they no longer brew Butser (BBB) because that was a lovely session beer and I keep my fingers crossed in the hope it may one day be brought back again as a seasonal. The majority of former Gale's pubs remain unchanged, save for the ubiquitous London Pride and Fuller's bottle range being available in all.
So what do I want to say thank you for? A few things:
|Fuller's Vintage Ale and Gale's Prize Old Ale|
1) Continuing production of Gales Prize Old Ale, which requires a lot of brewery space for aging and is a bit of a niche product that pleases the beer afficinados. The 2011 bottle wasn't as sour as I remember the 2005 being but complex nonetheless. I have 2005 (brewed and bottled at Gales), 2006 (brewed at Gale's bottled at Fuller's) and 2011 (brewed and bottled at Fuller's) bottles for comparative tasting later this year.
2) The past masters series. Fullers have been going back through their archives to rediscover beers that they used to brew and recreate them. I've got a bottle of each in my parents' garage to enjoy at Christmas, but I was lucky enough to try them courtesy of BSF bottle bar manager Ian at GBBF this year.
3) The Brewers Reserve series and Vintage Ales are also excellent. I'm yet to try BR #3 but the other two were superb. I have a collection of most of the vintage Ales in my cupboard ready for supping with some carefully chosen individuals. Ask me nicely and I'll invite you along too!
4) The core range is great, with special mention for London Porter, though I've never been keen on London Pride! I did a Fullers beer tasting as a "cultural talk" with my company whilst on a training course and the availability of the beers made it easy for me to organise last minute!
So thanks John and the team for continuing to make beers that I enjoy. Favourite Fullers pub so far? The old Gales outlet, the Old House at Home in Romsey. I'm not the only one that thinks that as it was Fuller's pub of the year last year too! Certainly worth a visit if you find yourself in Hampshire.