This years 2008 Fuller’s Vintage Ale is the eleventh annual release of it’s limited edition bottle conditioned ale. I’d seen them in stores and in Erik’s cellar before, but this is the first year that I bought one. Being a bottle conditioned ale, yeast remains in the bottle in dwindling quantities, meaning the beer changes (gets better) over time. Fuller’s states on the box (yeah, it comes in a cool box) that they can only legally recommend aging the beer for three years, insinuating that this delightfully crafted ale will last much longer and improve with advanced age. I showed absolutely no patience or self control by opening mine last Tuesday. How could I resist not opening my individually numbered bottle, one of only one hundred and forty four thousand, for any length of time?
It felt good to take a beer bottle out of a box and peel off a “limited edition 2008″ label to get at the cap. It was also comforting to know that this level of snobbery is the exception and not the rule when it comes to beer. Upon opening the box, I also noted that there was a pamphlet enclosed describing the previous ten vintage releases. I thought that was pretty cool. The beer itself had a lovely medium brown, amber color and produced minimal head. What I noticed right away was the delightfully rich malty, fruity smell. This is by far the best and most powerful smelling beer I have had the pleasure of sniffing. The taste was similar to the smell, with a rich malty and fruity flavor. What struck me about the taste was that the high alcohol content really came through. I really enjoyed the taste at first, but after a few more sips all I could taste was the alcohol, which lessened my enjoyment of this beer. Upon reading the enclosed pamphlet, I learned that the alcoholic taste would smooth out over time, like say a year or two of aging.
I can tell for certain that Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2008 will be much improved in 2010, which isn’t to say that it isn’t drinkable or enjoyable now. Hopefully by then I will also have garnered the self control needed to save drinking a Vintage Ale for two years down the road. Luckily for me, Erik bought me another one for Christmas. I do believe I will abandon my childish ways and adopt his practice of buying each year’s Fuller’s Vintage Ale and saving it for two years before drinking. Check out Beer Advocate’s tips on beer storage if you, like me, have also never had enough patience to save beer for any length of time.