Cellaring Ale

It's not uncommon to lay wine down in a cellar in the hope that it improves with age (and value). But beer? Yes, the nation's second-favourite drink can improve with age too. A beer can be aged under certain conditions to greatly improve the taste. Vintage ales are becoming quite the thing in jolly old England, with London brewery Fuller's at the vanguard of this promising phenomena.

Fuller's —London's last-remaining family brewery — started laying down their Vintage Ale in 1997, repeating every year since with the finest available ingredients for that year. Vintage Ale is a bottle-conditioned ale brewed especially to mature over the years due to the inclusion of a special live yeast that helps the flavour to develop. Vintage beers are generally stronger than an average beer to assist with the ageing. Fuller's Vintage Ale is 8.5% ABV.

Bottling is limited each year, each bottle stamped with an individual number. Fuller's are holding bottles back in their cellar from each year, but it is still possible to obtain a bottle from the now rare vintages of 1997 and 1998. Sip, swirl, swallow! I imagine a sip of the 1997 won't be likely on a tour of Fuller's Griffin brewery, dating 1828, in leafy Chiswick (below), but with all that London brick it looks like a pleasant part of The Old Smoke to spend a few hours.


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