25/02/2012

Gales Prize Old Ale

@beersiveknown Well i managed three weeks off...
Old ales are beers that have been kept for a period of time before being bottled. Very few true old ales remain within the UK today, of those Gales Prize Old Ale is one of the most well known but perhaps least tried of the beers. Originally brewed at Gale's in Horndean it was worried that the beer would be lost when the business was sold to Fullers in 2005. People need not have worried however as Fullers cotinued to brew the beer, keeping back a little of the previous years brew to innoculate each fresh batch and thus preserve the flora and fauna or "wee beasties" down the years.
 The three beers I'm writing about today, although the same in name vary subtley. I shared these bottles with my beery partner in crime Alan (traPISSED) as a pretext to visit his beer cellar (stay tuned for more info). Roger Protz wrote about them here. Des de Moor Reviews a 2007 bottle here and Jeff Evans here.
Gales bottles were smaller and crown-capped.
Older bottles are probably going to be harder to find these days, and certainly the fullers Brewery Shop is out of stock. I picked mine up from Bitter Virtue, but I've been hefting the 2006 around for a good five years. A glance at the price labels leaves me pleasantly surprised as they only cost me ~£2.50 each...surely a bargain for such a complex and hefty beer.

As many people will know, in 2006 Gales sold to Fuller's and the historic brewery in horndean was closed. Here the Prize Old Ale was aged in ancient oak tanks, with all the wee beasties that provides. This gave the beer an understable lactic character necessitating the blending of fresh with old. 2006 was the last beer to be brewed and bottled at Gales in this way. In 2007 the beer brewed at Gales the previous year was shipped to Fullers and bottled without blending. This proved to be too sour for the taste of the marketing men and the following year John went back to the blending method, though odf course the beer is now aged in regular fermenters.

The 2011 (Fuller's) Gales Prize Old Ale
The 2011 was both brewed and bottled at Fullers. I actually had a bottle of this 6 month ago, so it will be interesting to see how it has changed with the extra time in the bottle. It pours a dark amber with fruity sherry notes on the nose. In flavour its closer to rum with toffee, burnt sugar, caramelised apple plus some juicy pear, which I'm beginning to recognise as hallmark of some Fullers aged beers. It finishes with a fairly astringent bitterness which suggests its not quite in its prime yet. In fact I think I preferred it younger.

The 2007 was of course a different kettle of fish. That lactic acid was immediately present on the nose as expected. This helped to make the beer lighter in body. Flavours much the same as the 2011, though with an unsuaul watermelon flavour at the finish.
Star of the show for both me and Alan was the 2006. This was a relief for me after the aformentioned disturbances including moving to Northern Ireland and a previous loss of liquid through the cap. Lactic acid again but a greater rich fruitiness like a good christmas cake, a touch of oxidation balsamic vinegar, heavy mouthfeel, some raspberry in the finish. Could easily have had a few bottles of this each.

From: http://www.gourmetbritain.com/
The stinky washed rind cheese were bought to bear for this session and for me the Irish cheese Milleens worked the best. Full of fruity flavours it accentuated some of those flavours too delicate to assert themselves from beneath the malts.

This seems to suggest that the beer improves with age (production location aside) and I'm tempted to get a case of the next release (this year?) and lay them down for a good few years. If you've not yet had the good fortune to try these then may I suggest you look out for them!

7 comments:

  1. I did an Open It post last night on another Gales beer, but also mention a bottle of what I believe is a '94 Old Prize Ale.

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  2. Welcome back! (...I write, as though it were my own blog.) I thought this beer was just some sort of legend, like Robin Hood or King Arthur: there are pictures of it in all the beerbooks, but it never seems to appear on the shelves. Even the e-shelves. Glad to hear it really exists. Next you'll be telling us that there really is such a thing as Bass No. 1...

    I totally forgot about Open It! until just now. And it's too late to go hunting in the shed...

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  3. Interesting you preferred that 2011 a bit younger. I wonder if it's entered a petulant teenage period? You see it in wine - they can improve up to a point then tail off before recovering and going on to greater things. ie. It's not the regular 'improvement' curve you might first expect.

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  4. Thanks Michael, its a great beer that you shoudl certainly seek out if they have a release this year.

    @Gareth, that could well be the case. I'm not keeping beer stocks for aging with a pending hous emove this year, but will certainly look to pick up a few bottles of future releases and compare over time.

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  5. Sounds like fun. Especially interesting to see the difference since Fullers took over.

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  6. I have 3 unopened bottles of Gales Prize old Ale from 1996 - signed by the master brewer of the day - where can I sell them?

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  7. Hi Alison

    Sorry about the delay in replying. I'd suggest posting a message on the trade forum of ratebeer or contacting the British guild of beer writers.

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