Category Archives: Bitter/ESB/English Strong Ale

Hobgoblin ‘Ruby’ ESB


“Hobgoblin is a powerful full-bodied copper red, well-balanced brew. Strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness and slight fruity character that lasts through to the end.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Pours like a proper English Ale – light mahogany with notable ruby highlights. It forms a thick and creamy two finger head which holds its shape well. Tonnes of thick sudsy lace decorates the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Overflowing with candied toffee/toffee apple, sweet dark fruits like juicy raisin, dates/prunes and glazed cherries. The more subtle chocolate notes emerge as it starts to warm…although it’s not straight chocolate, it comes across as fruit & nut and carob. It has a certain Barleywine and or Quad-like character with its ultra sweet residual sugars but it’s nicely balanced by a dose of earthy and spicy English hops.

Flavour: Super rich and complex for a mere 4.5% ABV beer. Again, those Quad-like flavours present with rich toffee, raisin and dark fruits. The subtle chocolate and carob only emphasize this further. What it does really well is it incorporates a distinct bitterness which goes a long way in offsetting the rich sweetness. Nicely balanced yet complex finish which holds on nicely.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous, chewy. Medium-full body. It drinks a whole lot bigger than the ABV (4.5%) entails.

Overall: Impressive how deep and complex it is but it’s just a tad too sweet and artificially tasting for us. Maybe it needs that extra 6% ABV on top to make it a Barleywine?! It’s certainly worthy but it’s not a return beer.

Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’ English Pale Ale


“The drinkers’ favourite, a classic pale ale with a complex citrus and hoppy aroma. It has won more awards than any other beer, winning both CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain and the Brewing Industry Awards Gold Medal four times.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous bold amber hue and holds a sturdy two finger head. Excellent retention and equally excellent lace work as we go.

Aroma: Another edition to the “we can’t believe we haven’t reviewed this before” files. This beer has literally graced our fridges dozens of times over the past 15 or so years and not once has it crossed our minds to review it. Well here we go. Hallmark British Pale Ale features of caramel, sweet doughy bread/brioche, toast, marmalade, mandarin, orchard fruits and somewhat nutty and woody malt notes. Brilliant.

Flavour: Drinks almost exactly how it smells – a delicious sweetness washes over the palate but it’s kept in check by a perfectly integrated bitterness. It’s genius coz as it progresses that caramel sweetness and bitterness holds steadfast and it builds up from there with marmalade on toast, brioche, nutty and woody malts, buttered biscuits, a kind of floral-infused honey sweetness and a spicy herbal tea quality to finish.

Mouthfeel: Smooth but with good grip on its way down. Medium body, mild-moderate Co2. The 4.1% ABV is dead set spot on.

Overall: Absolutely brilliant. We were proper bummed when we heard Phoenix are no longer importing these to Australia. We hope another supplier picks them up as it is as good as an English Pale Ale gets.

Breheny Bro’s Queensland Bitter Ale


“Breheny Brothers Queensland Bitter Ale was RE launched based on the same recipe used when the beer was produced by cousins John Leslie Breheny and John Louis Breheny at Breheny’s Brewery in Toowoomba over 100 years ago. It is an easy drinking beer that will appeal to mainstream beer drinkers.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Deep golden complexion with a loose and fizzy head that swells to about a finger before forming a collar. Very little in the way of lacing.

Aroma: Very stock-standard characteristics here. It carries a hint of that aromatic English malt and hop which we loved about Wild Dog, but with a little bit extra bite in the form of of subtle yeast esters. Kind of has a hint of Cooper’s Sparkling Ale about it which we’re digging. Soft orange citrus tones, toasty malt, peppery spice, earthiness. A touch of apricot. Quite nice, we like it.

Flavour: Tell ya what if this really is the same recipe that the Breheny Brothers were brewing to all the way back in the late 1800’s then they were so far ahead of the game. It’s striking that balance between toasty, cereal malts and slightly citrusy, spicy hops. The bitterness is perfectly integrated and it all lands on such an incredibly neat and tidy finish. Good length on it as well.

Mouthfeel: Crisp and refined yet still holding a good weight. Finely carbed and the 5% ABV is right on the money.

Overall: Everything about this brewery we’re loving. The history, the OG labels, the quality of the beer. Even down to the fact that they chose Burnley Brewing to brew the beers for them. Onward and upward!

2 Halfs ESB


“Copper-hued extra special bitter, crowned with a creamy bone white head. Medium in body with a malty, caramel and estery flavour and aroma. Punchy assertive bitterness moderating the malty sweetness.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Bold amber pour with 100% transparency. Good Co2 activity. Only manages a finger of off-white head which quickly reduces. A kind of wet lace is dragged down the glass.

Aroma: As we sat here writing out the appearance we kept getting Lager-like aromas i.e DMS (corn), vegetal notes and cereal grains. Not a lot changes under the nostrils either, the malt profile definitely offers more chewiness though… caramel, buttery biscuits and toast. Floral and herbaceous hops, a fleeting hint of watermelon buried deep. Interesting.

Flavour: It’s certainly unique how it’s straddling the line between Ale and Lager. It has Lager flavours reinforced by Ale complexities and body. Old world hops – florals, herbs, earthy/woody spice mixed in with caramels, honeysuckle, biscuits and toast. A gentle bitterness enters at the right moment and helps set up a well balanced, slightly fruity but mostly malty finish.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous. Medium body and mild-moderate Co2. The 4.5% ABV is a bit light for an ESB in our opinion.

Overall: Not totally sold on it but at the same time we can respect the idiosyncrasies on display.

Boatrocker ‘Straight To VHS’ ESB


“An often maligned and under-rated style, the ESB is an absolute classic that often has nowhere to hide (in much the same way as a great lager or pilsner). It depends on only the finest English malt (Maris Otter) and judicious use of specialty malts. Achieving a balance between them and the English hops is no easy task. This beer style is traditionally served at cellar temperature with a lower carbonation, and the drinker should be able to sit on a pint without feeling the need to rush to finish it before it goes warm. Straight to VHS is our cheeky nod to a style we love, but that may not make it to the big screen.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Light amber to deep golden body with a slight chill haze. The head swells to about two fingers before retracting and settling to a film. Excellent lacing as we go.

Aroma: Like any good ESB this one is packed full of Maris Otter and the aroma is oozing with its nutty and biscuity characteristics. There’s a delicate sweetness alongside a faint toasty accent as well. No ESB would be complete without the use of English hops either and we’re picking up the subtleties of varieties such as EKG, fuggles and challenger. Pretty tidy.

Flavour: It’s good it just doesn’t have the depth and intensity of say, a Fuller’s or a Greene King. They’re definitely on the right track though…there’s a lovely spicy and herbaceous hop quality that weaves its way through the nutty, woody and slightly toasty malts. A soft bitterness develops late in the piece and helps set up the nicely balanced finish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly nondescript…smooth, medium bodied with a mild hop bitterness in the swallow. The 5.5% ABV is on par for the style.

Overall: Not bad. We like the fact that they’ve tried to keep it as conventional as possible. Probably wouldn’t rush back in a hurry but it’s a reasonable offering.

Bowden Brewing ESB


“We invited a bunch of the brewery’s regulars to help make the beer they’ve all been asking for; a beer for the people, by the people… an extra special bitter. The brewing style is known for its’ balance and interplay between hop and malt, with this being no exception. A hint of fruit on the aroma, followed by a drop of sweetness on the palate, this medium-bodied local has plenty of rich flavour to give. What truly makes this Bitter extra special? The hands that helped create it.” 

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Moderately hazy amber pour with a big and frothy three finger crown. The head gradually recedes and leaves healthy lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Mostly sweet, bready and biscuity. Dominated by the chewy caramel malts but nicely checked by the fruity hops. Delicate toasty and nutty tones mingle with the overwhelmingly savoury notes beautifully. Good depth and overall character to this aroma, even if it is basic.

Flavour: They’ve certainly got the bitter side of things dialled in. Upfront there’s a moderate caramel sweetness then the hops barge in and practically reach all the way into the finish. They also provide a distinctly citrusy yet mildly spicy and herbaceous quality while a biscuity and nutty malt profile develops late and draws out in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Slick and a tad chewy with a substantial hop bitterness in the swallow. Medium body with good carb. The 5.1% ABV is about bang on for the style.

Overall: This was our first crack at this South Australian brewery. When we hear Bowden we immediately think of Billy Bowden (the quirky cricket umpire known for his hook-fingered dismissals). Unsure if there’s a connection but this ESB is somewhat like old Billy boy – no nonsense and full of character.

Greene King ‘Abbot Ale’ ESB


“Warming, malty and fruity. Pale and amber malts contribute to a mouth-filling and satisfying Horlicks and biscuity maltiness. Challenger and First Gold give a base note of herbal hop and Fuggles as a late hop contributes the main fragrant fruity and floral and spicy notes. Fermented slowly to give just enough fruity esters Abbot Ale provides a complex, satisfying and warming experience.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: It pours a very attractive deep amber with full transparency. Not much in the way of head formation and the story is much the same with its lacing.

Aroma: Super sweet, but like all well brewed English ESB’s it’s perfectly balanced by a woody and earthy hop profile. Deep seated notes of caramel and toffee apple, marmalade, buttery biscuits and slightly nutty malt fill it all out beautifully. It has a certain residual sweetness to it which gives off an obscure Barleywine quality as well.

Flavour: Oh man there’s nothing like a traditional ESB in the middle of Spring – rich and sweet malts behind a veil of English hops. It strikes the perfect balance between malty sweet butterscotch, raisins and caramel with woody, floral and spicy hops. Gentle toasty notes and subtle fruit developing late in the piece. Nice, dry and earthy finish to round it all out.

Mouthfeel: Slick, chewy and gelatinous. Medium body. The 5% ABV is spot on.

Overall: One of the best ESB’s we’ve had for a while. Very impressive.

Heavy Reel ‘Mind Trip’ ESB


“What started as a foray into a Creamsicle Sour quickly became this malty yet easy-sipping staple. The grain provider for the brewery shipped a base malt that was bigger, more robust, and more chock full of caramelly notes than the Heavy Reel team expected. That’s really nice, but unfortunately doesn’t vibe with dessert-inspired Sours. So what did the New Jersey crew do with that “happy accident”? They turned on the Grateful Dead, cracked their knuckles, and got to brewing, adding in a dose of extra specialty malts from past batches to elevate the caramel and spice notes to unseen amber-hued brew heights!”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Attractive deep amber pour with a billowing four finger head. It gradually deconstructs and leaves blotchy lace clinging to the glass.

Aroma: Initially we were thinking it was very true-to-style but a few more wafts reveal an emerging toffee-laden sweetness which intensifies. It almost has this dark berry-like fruitiness driving it as well. Quite astonishingly though, it all seems to have reformed that classic earthy, toasty and tobacco-esque quality and is back to its true-to-style self again. Bizarre…but very appealing.

Flavour: It kinda finds this happy little medium here. Getting shades of that black and or boysenberry-driven toffee sweetness along with shades of nutty, toasty and herbaceous earthiness as well. They both come together harmoniously but it’s the delicate bitterness that rounds it all out. Nice smooth finish….a tad fruity and a tad dry.

Mouthfeel: Fairly light on but with enough to chew on. Smooth, finely carbed, the 6% ABV is well behaved.

Overall: Our first crack at this brewery from New Jersey. Can’t say we’re totally sold on it but it’s a pretty respectable interpretation of an old English classic.

Cooper’s 2022 Vintage Ale


“Each year, the Coopers brewing team creates a unique limited-edition Vintage Ale. This year’s Vintage Ale, the 22nd in the series, is characterised by its hop selection. The 2022 Vintage features El Dorado, an American dual-purpose hop with tropical, pear and stonefruit notes and Huell Melon, a German variety delivering fruit and berry flavours. The brew also uses Coopers Pale Malt. Coopers Managing Director and Chief Brewer, Dr Tim Cooper, said the 2022 Vintage Ale release exemplifies the brewery’s experience in developing of premium quality, limited edition beers.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Murky light brown complexion with the standard fusion of fine suspended sediment floating about. It forms a thumb of off white head which retains fairly well. Patchy lace sticks to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Really harnessing ye olde English style here. We guess that’s what we love most about not only this seasonal release but Cooper’s Brewery as a whole. Showcasing a robust malt profile of bread/toast, caramel fudge and earthy grains but because it’s still so young the hop additions display bright fruity notes which brings a crucial balance to the nose.

Flavour: Wow those hops keep coming! We’d go as far as to say that the fruit and bitterness actually outweigh the malts here. Not quite to the point of an English IPA but it’s certainly close to it. It hits a crescendo of yellow grapefruit then the malts and the classic Cooper’s yeast take the baton and finish with a dry, toasty and grainy quality that lingers.

Mouthfeel: Chewy yet quite dry and sharp. Medium body. The 7.5% ABV shows up intermittently.

Overall: We’re in two minds. We like the bold hoppy characters but at the same time we were yearning for a malt bomb. Hey, it’s nothing a few years in the cellar can’t fix 😉

Hargreaves Hill BA Double ESB


“This Ale is an Imperial version of our ESB that has been aged in VSOP Brandy Barrels, and Bourbon Barrels before blending.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Murky deep amber kind of affair with a thumb of frothy off white head capping it off. Reasonable retention but scarce lace left on the glass.

Aroma: It’s pretty cool that they could even get their hands on ex VSOP barrels to begin with let alone use them for a Double ESB. It’s a risk we’re impressed by and it does actually work well. The distinct notes of baked apple/candied pear, vanilla and fresh apricot blend well with the sweet, bready/toasty and earthy notes of the ESB. Also some light florals and musky tones peeking through too.

Flavour: Again, lots of fruit, lots of sweetness and syrupy/sugary goodness but not a whole lot of balance unfortunately. We feel they’ve got a bit carried away with all the ingredients and it’s all sort of cancelled each other out. Galaxy and Mosaic hops (as brilliant as they are) are probably a bit too fancy for this style of beer and the bourbon gets completely overshadowed by the VSOP. Not to mention the classic ESB notes are hide to locate.

Mouthfeel: Nice weight to it. Smooth and rounded, slightly lifted Co2, medium body. The 9% ABV was very well hidden.

Overall: We rate Hargreaves Hill highly and we really wanted to like this but it just didn’t cut the mustard. Big points for securing ex VSOP barrels but it all felt out of sync as a whole.

Garage Project ‘Epuni Street Bitter’ ESB


“Brewed for Ale + Gravy 91 Aro, 2021 (part of WOAP). Epuni Street is a particularly iconic street in Aro Valley. It is, notably, the host of the annual Compost Parade. “Each year on the Sunday after the Equinox, the simple but beautiful cycle that creates compost is celebrated and in true Aro style there is music, food and costumes. The Compost Parade has become a popular event in the past few years, bringing together compost lovers from all over Wellington.” The parade is in September, features a Golden Compost Bucket which is ceremoniously carried up the street and GP usually shouts a bunch of flagons to this noble cause. It has been running for 8 years!”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Gorgeous amber pour with a faint ruby red tint when held to the light. A thumb of creamy off white head settles on top and weaves a fine lace down the glass.

Aroma: We were quietly hoping it was going to be a conventional take on an ESB and it is exactly that. At its core is a beautifully sweet and chewy caramel malt profile which offers up nuanced toffee, maple and buttery biscuits. Exquisitely balanced by the earthy hops though, and further offset by the classic spicy and herbal characters of EKG and Fuggles. Supoib!

Flavour: One of those rare moments where it’s too well balanced! When it comes to ESB’s we love them more on the malty side with the bitterness tucked in behind. The earthy hops/bitterness is a tad too prominent here in our opinion. Still, it has a nice chewy caramel malt backing, some dark fruits and toast along with the spicy and delicate florals/herbals from the hops. Nice dry and bitter finish with some malt sweetness to balance.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, chewy and a little sticky. Medium body. Perfect carbonation and ABV (5.5%).

Overall: What was shaping up to be a sensational ESB kind of fell away a bit in the middle unfortunately. That aside, it’s still a reasonably good interpretation of the style.

Durham Brewery ‘Evensong’ English Bitter


“The recipe is based upon an original beer made by Whitakers of Halifax in 1937. A smooth well balanced traditional ruby bitter. Five different malts including crystal and amber create a rich toffee/cherry flavour. Earthy Fuggles and Goldings hops combine in a smooth English character with hints of kiwifruit and toffee.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Slightly muddy light mahogany pour with a ruby/red hue. It forms a frothy three finger head which slowly deconstructs and leaves healthy lacing on the glass.

Aroma: It’s like a fruity malt bomb. At first we’re detecting sweet dark fruits like plum, raisin and blood orange but as it settles it develops more strawberry/overripe cherry notes. Truck loads of caramel and toffee apple with delicate hints of blackcurrant, freshly cut grass, earthy spice and jam on toast. A rather complex aroma and we dig it!

Flavour: It’s much more carbonated than we had anticipated. Quite a well balanced flavour profile though – sweet dark fruits and caramelised crystal malts are perfectly countered by the grassy, spicy and earthy hops. A very mild toasty-ness through the mid and it develops a slightly burnt toffee late in the piece which performs another key balancing act to the sweet, malty finish.

Mouthfeel: As we touched on before it’s overly carbonated…too much for our liking. Mild-medium body, 5% ABV. The texture is sticky and a little chewy.

Overall: Not all that fussed with this offering. Durham are one of our favourite English breweries but this seems a little off the mark. Not sure if it has a small infection or not as well. If it does and it still drinks this well then they must be commended.

Fuller’s 2021 Vintage Ale


“Now on its 25th edition, 2021 is a landmark year for Vintage Ale. At its heart, Pale Ale and Caragold malts combine with DRC®(Double Roasted Crystal), to deliver a toffee and raisin sweetness. Turning to hops, we’re showcasing younger UK varieties for their luscious fruitiness. Endeavour brings plummy tones, while Olicana® and the yet unnamed experimental hop CF182 add tropical and orange notes. All complemented, as ever, by the zesty marmalade character of our famous Fuller’s yeast.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Light ruby red pour with an amber gradient towards the edges. A rocky two finger head forms on top and gradually retreats, leaving a lacey mess on the glass.

Aroma: Up until now we’ve only ever drunk a Vintage Ale with age on it so we’re chomping at the bit to finally try one this young. It has the same rich and sweet malt base but the big difference is the hop profile…it’s alive! The Target and Endeavour hops bring the classic floral, spicy and herbal notes but the Olicana (previously used in the ’18 Vintage) and an unnamed “CF 182” adds a fresh and fruity edge to it. Digging it.

Flavour: So much firmer when it’s young (just like us humans right? 😉). There’s without a doubt a sharper bitterness plus the 8.5% ABV has some bite. Still getting a lot of earthy hop character, toast, subtle dark fruits and herbals to reassure the die-hards that it’s still purely English at heart. Not to mention a deliciously malty finish that lingers.

Mouthfeel: Super smooth, slick and rounded. Low-ish Co2, medium-full body. 8.5% ABV, comes through intermittently.

Overall: You know what the similarities to wine are intriguingly comparable on many levels. One thing that doesn’t surprise us is that this series of English ales are much more charismatic when they’ve been laid down for a while. Still, a very impressive offering.

Fuller’s ‘Golden Pride’ English Strong Ale


“Golden Pride guarantees a superb range of flavours, that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning of palates. Our brewers describe Golden Pride thus: ‘ deep amber in appearance, Golden Pride is full bodied, of moderate bitterness, moderately hopped and rich in malt. Full flavoured, and reminiscent of sweet orange oil, toasted grains, and bread. Rich malty aromas lead to a similarly styled palate, with an intense finish. Sweet and bitter flavours are expressed in good balance in this weighty brew.’ Or as the late Michael Jackson, beer writer and connoisseur, put it: ‘the Cognac of beers’.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Magnificent looking beer: somewhat light chestnut hue with soft red highlights. It caps off with a thumb of tan foam which slowly recedes. Fine lacing as we imbibe.

Aroma: Equally magnificent as the looks. A straight up and down bread bomb with a good helping of dark fruits and liqueur to sweeten the deal. The longer it sits in the glass the more it becomes like a deliciously decadent English Barleywine – massive malt foundations with tonnes of residual sweetness and warming booze. We’re loving this!

Flavour: Exactly how we wanted it to taste. Uber sweet and kinda toasty malt profile but nicely balanced by the Golding/Challenger/Target hops which provide ye Olde marmalade, herbal, floral and spicy vibes. There’s also a big dark fruit presence i.e raisin, dates, plum, even venturing into Port and dessert wine territory at times. Nice little roasty/toasty aspect to balance out the decadent finish.

Mouthfeel: Super smooth and velvety, well rounded and sticky. Medium-full body, mild-moderate Co2. The 8.5% ABV slots in so perfectly.

Overall: We were searching for the one perfect word to sum this up but it doesn’t exist so the short version is pure elegance, complexity and just good old fashioned class. Top shelf stuff.

Five Barrel ‘London Calling’ ESB


“This is an English Style Ale known for its balance between malt and hop
bitterness. ESB’s have an earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. with a medium to high hop bitterness, flavour and aroma.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Pours a redolent deep amber with full transparency. It only manages a short khaki head that peels off rather quickly. Nice wavy lace being strewn down the glass.

Aroma: Smells pretty good on face value. Well balanced, sweet, toasty and spicy with those brilliant EKG and Fuggles hops throwing out the earthy herbals and wet grass. Lots of caramel sweetness and toffee, dark fruits like golden raisins and blood plum, caramelised pear/apple and marmalade on toast. We didn’t realise it at first but it’s actually quite a complex number with good depth.

Flavour: Follows on from the nose – a supremely balanced blend of sweet, toasty and biscuit malts with the herbal, grassy and citrusy hops to counter it all. A delicate bitterness and earthy dark fruits push through the middle and lay down for a really dry, bitter yet mildly sweet and citrusy finish which lingers.

Mouthfeel: Slick, a little sticky and chewy. Mild-moderate carbonation, medium body. Only 4.3% ABV which is pretty low for an ESB.

Overall: To pick up again on the low ABV…for ESB’s we expect to see it land between 5-6%. At 4.3% we’d be calling it a straight English Bitter in our opinion. It still drinks like an ESB though; nice and plump, full flavoured and slightly complex…just without the higher ABV 😉

Bad Shepherd ‘Aries’ ESB


“The long-awaited return of our ESB is finally here with a new name and fresh look. Originally launched in 2016 as part of our Brew Crew Series, our take on the traditional British style Extra Special Bitter pours a beautiful rusty hue with subtle hints of caramel and biscuit malt, and a delightfully creamy mouthfeel. The name is a nod to the mighty Ram; a symbol synonymous with change and as we leave 2020 in our dust, we are all looking forward to that.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Bold amber with full clarity. It whips up a two finger head which holds for a little while but eventually peels off. Nice webbed lace clings to the glass as we imbibe.

Aroma: It’s noticeably sweet but with a soft touch of toasty malt which takes some of the edge off the heady caramels, toffee and honeysuckle. Quite musky and floral with a distinct Noble hop-like quality which provides earthy and herbal accents. Slightly syrupy/cloying which is a shame though. It ain’t bad just seems a little off the pace.

Flavour: Delivered with a lot more balance. We’re getting more of a robust earthy-ness which counters the malt sweetness nicely. Mild orange citrus, musk/florals, honey and toasty malts through the mid then rolling into a nice toasty finish with delicate caramel sweetness and earthy herbals drawing out on the back end.

Mouthfeel: Slick but still somewhat crisp and clean. Moderately bodied, finely carbonated. 4.9% ABV is about on par for the style.

Overall: It’s a fairly decent crack at an ESB but it doesn’t really cut the mustard unfortunately. Maybe it’s all these Fuller’s Vintage Ales we’ve been treating ourselves to lately that’s set the bar too high! Not bad but not great either.

Fuller’s 2015 Vintage Ale


Get your hands on the limited-edition Vintage Ale 2015 – a beautiful beer brewed celebrating the 50th anniversary of famous British malt variety Maris Otter and brewed using exclusively British ingredients. The floor-malted Maris Otter is combined with home-grown Target, Northdown, Challenger and Goldings hops to create a best-of-British beer with complex flavours, a fruitful aroma and a bitter finish.

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Like its younger siblings this ’15 vintage pours a muddy light brown with a short khaki head which fades pretty quickly. Minimal lace as we go.

Aroma: Seriously, this vintage series is the pinnacle of English brewing. The rich concoction of residual sugars, toffee and toasted malt, earthy and slightly fruity hops is simply glorious. One of the aspects we’ve loved the most is the quasi-Belgian yeast profile which throws out this distinct dark fruity sweetness. It’s divine. Hell, the whole series is divine!

Flavour: Amazing. Theres a kinda yeasty fruit profile, rich toffee and caramel, toasty and doughy malts, residual sugars and earthy hops which all converge and dance on the palate like there’s a rave party in the mouth. It continues with this semi sweet, savoury biscuity quality that joins the rest of the party and finishes with it all hanging to the back palate for dear life!

Mouthfeel: Smooth, velvety, slightly creamy. Medium-full body. Once again the 8.5% ABV is nowhere to be found. Incredible.

Overall: We’ve now found it. This one is the pick of the bunch. Could it be that the older they get the better? It sure looks that way. What’s depressing is we can’t find a bottle of ’14 or earlier anywhere *sad face. Absolutely superb.

Fuller’s 2016 Vintage Ale


The 20th limited-edition beer in our Vintage Ale series, Vintage Ale 2016 is a rich, smooth Barley Wine that promises a distinguished drinking experience. Packaged in our signature Vintage Ale gift box, it’s a special beer inside and out, perfect as a gift or to add to your own collection. Brewed to 8.5% , Vintage Ale 2016 brings together classic British ingredients with the aromatic Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand  – used here both for bittering and as a dry hop. The global combination of ingredients gives rise to a rich and complex amber beer, with aromas of sherry and Cognac, and a flavour profile that picks out toasted grains and sweet cherry Bakewell Tart.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Quite a muddy number this one. Kinda light brown centre working out to rusted amber edges. It forms a thumb of light tan head which slowly retracts. Spotty and wet lace trails it down.

Aroma: We’re noticing that as we go further back in this spectacular vintage series the more Barleywine-like they become. This ’16 vintage is certainly showing some residual sweetness along with hearty toffee/caramel, buttered bread, marmalade and yeast-driven fruit esters. For this vintage they’ve added Nelson Sauvin hops (apparently!?). They’re very hard to detect but there is a very subtle hint of white grape coming through.

Flavour: So satisfyingly English. And so savoury! Oodles of residual sugars and caramel malts, toffee, doughy bread pudding, toast, buttery biscuits, marmalade and golden syrup. There are some fleeting hints of earthy hop but the typical attributes of Nelson Sauvin are pretty much MIA. Raisin is as close to grapes as we can get. That aside, it’s still an absolutely amazing flavour profile.

Mouthfeel: Sticky and gelatinous, medium-full body and soft carbonation. Like past vintages the 8.5% ABV is remarkably well hidden.

Overall: Brilliant. We reckon it’s safe to say this is our pick of the bunch so far (between the ’16-’20). It straddles the line between English strong ale and Barleywine and the result is outstanding.

Fuller’s 2018 Vintage Ale


This year’s Vintage Ale is a celebration of Fuller’s long-lasting friendships with the hop growers, merchants, and maltsters of the UK. It has been brewed using exclusively home-grown ingredients. The beer’s passionfruit, grapefruit and mango notes might be synonymous with the ‘new-world’ hops of America and Australia, but the beer’s tropical flavours, in fact, come from the British Olicana® variety. Alongside Olicana®, Ernest hop from Kent has been added to the brew – a variety that brings apricot, citrus and spicy notes. There are also herby, pine and earthy flavours to discover, from the classic combination of Target, Goldings, Challenger and Northdown hops.

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Somewhat rusty amber pour with a short khaki head which slowly peels off. It settles at the rim and drags a wet lace down the glass.

Aroma: Crammed full of the classic EKG and Challenger hop qualities; earthy, herbal spice and grassy but accentuated with a lesser known British hop named ‘Olicana’ which is said to offer passionfruit, grapefruit and mango…all of which are quite hard to detect through the big and beautiful Maris Otter-driven malt profile. Love!

Flavour: Simply amazing. Rich and savoury sweet. Jam packed with nutty malts, toffee/caramel, buttery biscuits and brown leather. Kinda sweet and earthy apricot, orange citrus and raisins fanning out to more greener notes of pine and old herbs as it nears the finish. Definitely ends much sweeter with an emphasis on this syrupy/fruity note which lingers.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and silky texture. Flat-ish Co2, medium body. Seriously can’t believe it weighs in at 8.5% ABV. So well buried.

Overall: Full credit to these masters. Sometimes the old world styles need to be paid the respect they deserve. And this one is due for some honours. Superb.

Fuller’s 2017 Vintage Ale


“As the new Head Brewer, this 2017 edition of Vintage Ale champions a new American hop variety Denali, used to give the beer a citrusy, pine-like flavour and a new British malt variety Laureate. Combined with trusty British hops Target and Goldings, our 21st Vintage Ale is a well-rounded and balanced beer with Fuller’s yeast adding the orange, marmalade characters to it.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Slightly muddy copper pour with a short fizzy head which quickly disappears. Next to no lace as we go.

Aroma: The classic sweet malts come to the forefront bringing toffee, caramel fudge and rich butterscotch. Not as much toast and nutty malts as your typical English ale though, they’re replaced by residual sugars, port, raisin, dates/prunes and jaffa. Even after all these years it still holds on to some hop character too – a touch of sweet orange and candied lemon, herbs and spice. Impressive.

Flavour: It’s like this thick, earthy and malty presence that masquerades as a Barleywine but is light enough to pass as an ESB. All the while offering your classic English particulars like toffee apple, caramel, marmalade, orange citrus, biscuits, fruit cake and ginger-like spice. It’s amazing…it keeps this intensity of flavour all the way through to the finish.

Mouthfeel: Dense and meaty. Quite surprised by the Co2…it’s fairly active for the style. 8.5% ABV is so well concealed.

Overall: Well well, what a beer. We only just tried the 2019 vintage a week ago and now we’re on a mission to try them all. This 2017 vintage is immaculate. Who’d have thought we’d be giving brewery of the month to Fuller’s! Completely deserved though.