Jeff Evans back with the last beer review of 2022.
FULLER’S VINTAGE ALE 2022, 8.5%
The release of Fuller’s Vintage Ale is always a highlight of the year. Each annual brew features different malts and hops, so there’s a spark of variety in every bottling, but there’s also some consistency in the idea that each vintage will mature well in the bottle for many years.
The 2022 edition includes Target, Bramling Cross and Emperor hops and these provide a slightly grassy bitterness over the full, rich sweetness of the pale Caragold and doubleroasted crystal malts. Throw in some dried stone fruit flavours and the distinctive Fuller’s orangey yeast notes that mark this ale out as a clear sister brew to London Pride and ESB, and you’ve got a beer that bursts with character.
Everything is lively and bright at the moment, but mellowness should ensue as the hops calm down with time in the bottle and some of the sweetness begins to fade. It’s a lovely beer already and it could get lovelier still.
THORNBRIDGE CHIRON, 5%
Last brewed in 2021, and then only available to members of Thornbridge’s Beer Club, Chiron is the latest addition to the brewery’s core range of canned beers.
Thornbridge brews so many excellent limited-run beers that it must be a headache working out which should be upgraded to permanent status, but it’s made an excellent choice with this US pale ale that pours clear and golden, and is crisp and balanced on the palate. Bitter oranges, pine and floralpeachy notes all feature, with sweetness seeming to come as much from the hops as the malt.
This is an excellent example of how to pack a US pale ale with hop character while leaving it highly quaffable and moreish, a lesson in delivering fathoms of hop depth while avoiding that often unpleasant hop burn on the palate.
DURATION SEEDS SLEEP IN THE DARKNESS, 8.5%
Duration is a farm-based brewery in Norfolk with a penchant for experimentation. This new beer is its take on a Belgian tripel, enhanced with the foraged flowers and leaves of the fireweed plant.
Tripels often have a lacing of herbs or spices, so the concept is not out of character for the style. Nor are the flavours, which blend full-on, syrupy, melon-like sweetness with the bitter notes of herbs, some floral elements, a peppery warmth and a clove-like note that runs on to dominate the finish. The texture is lush and unctuous and the alcohol – although very apparent – by no means unpleasant.
A company video reveals that the brewers imagine drinking this at “dusk on a beach, wrapped up in blankets by a bonfire”. The satisfying, comforting flavours and the warm glow the beer leaves behind would certainly make that a pleasurable experience.
ADNAMS EASE UP IPA, 4.6%
Gluten-free beers today are unrecognisable from the early attempts at making such offerings. Brewers have learned new tricks in brewing and fermentation that allow the gluten content to drop out naturally and some also employ enzymes that strip away the gluten. The result is a clean beer that tastes just like a regular brew – and that’s what Adnams has produced here.
It’s a session IPA, rather than a full-on version, and it opens with a bright, peachy nose. The taste is then somewhat drier than expected: floral, peachy, crisp and mostly piney-bitter, with a light undernote of apricot jam and a suggestion of grapefruit. There’s one other thing that adds to the appeal and that’s the faint, briny note that distinguishes Adnams beers, which I am delighted to see has not been obscured by the intensity of the hops.