A few nights ago I attended a very enjoyable and informative ‘Meet the Brewer’ evening at the Bowl Inn, Charing.
John Keeling, head brewer at Fullers Griffin Brewery and some of his colleagues, braved the foggy winter weather to come down from Chiswick in West London to give the talk.
The first part was on the history of Fullers. The brewery was founded in 1845 by John Bird Fuller, Henry Smith and John Turner. Smith and Turner came from the Ind and Smith brewery, which left Edward Ind without a brewer until he was joined by George Coope. This led to a gentlemans agreement that Fullers would only trade in West London and Ind Coope in East London which lasted until the late 1970’s. The Griffin was chosen as the company logo because Griffins are the guardians of treasure- the Fullers Griffin has its foot on a barrel of beer. The old head brewers house at the brewery has the first ever wisteria introduced into the UK growing up it.
Next were some facts and figures. Fullers has 360 pubs, 6 hotels, 210,000 barrels of beer a year. 1 in 5 barrels exported, the main overseas market is Sweden, then the USA and Canada.
Then the brewing process and the character of beers was explained. All beers will taste slightly different with each brew made. This is down to the organic nature of the raw materials, hops and barley and how they are grown from year to year, also the differences that occur in yeasts. Many different flavours are imparted by the ingredients, although one flavour called ‘skunky’ is caused by the effect of sunlight on some beers, if a beer has this taste it is said to be ‘light struck’, this why Fullers use brown bottles as opposed to clear for their beers. Another undesirable flavour is cheese, this is caused by using hops three years or more old, (although some countries like this flavour in some of their beers). Secondary fermentation in casks can sometimes result in a sulphur smell caused by some yeasts, this is also known as the ‘Burton Snatch’ because as you raise your glass for the first sip and smell the sulphur you snatch your head away. It was usually associated with beers brewed in Burton – hence the terminology.
Something I always wondered about was why is the same beer more alcoholic in bottles than casks – simply because stronger beers ‘go off’ slower, so have a longer shelve life.
Finally the main event arrived. The beer tasting. John explained how beer should be tasted then the beers arrived in jugs and were sampled.
Chiswick Bitter 3.5% – a light refreshing beer with biscuity malt flavours. Available in casks.
London Pride 4.1% – fruity and malty, very drinkable indeed. Available in casks or bottles.
Gales HSB 4.8% – HSB stands for Horndeans Special Beer, a chestnut brown colour, with a Dundee cake aroma and rich fruity taste. Available in casks.
Bengal Lancer 5% – an IPA pale amber with a hoppy taste. Available in casks or bottles.
Organic Honey Dew 5.0% light and zesty, made with organic honey. Available in bottles (from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and ASDA).
Cornish Orchard 4.5% – crisp , dry tasting and very appley, made from English bittersweet and dessert apples. Interestingly many well know large cider producers use Chinese apple puree in their ciders. Available in bottles.
London Porter 5.4% – made with Fuggle hops and a blend of brown, crystal and chocolate malts, has a smooth rich coffee/chocolate flavour. One of my favourite styles of beer. Available in bottles (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose).
ESB 5.5% – (5.9% in bottles) – a malty, hoppy fruity flavour. When first brewed in 1971 it was the strongest cask beer available. Available in casks and bottles (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, ASDA).
Golden Pride 8.5% a barley wine style beer, a Christmas cake smell with a nutty malty taste. Available in bottles from selected Sainsbury’s and Waitrose stores.
Finally two Vintage Ales, both 8.5% and bottled conditioned. One from 2006 and the other 2010.
2010 – had a strong brandy smell and a nutty, malty taste.
2006 – a Christmas cake smell but a warm brandy taste.
Available – only from Fullers brewery store.