Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Fuller’s Past Masters – XX Strong Ale

While the face that Fuller’s presents to the public is a chintz-shirted James May advertising the ubiquitous London Pride, much more remarkable, newsworthy developments are taking place behind the scenes at the Griffin brewery, Chiswick, West London. Down in the archives dusting off the old, hand-written brewing books have been Head Brewer, John Keeling, and Brewing Manager, Derek Prentice. With help from brewing historian, Ron Pattinson, the result is the first in Fuller’s Past Masters Heritage Series: the 7.5% bottle-conditioned XX Strong Ale. Called XXK in its original 19th century version, the K denoted ‘keeping’, a beer designed to be hopped down in the vats for maturity, three months for this resurrected version, hence the alcoholic strength and high hop-loading for preservation.

Attempting to authentically resurrect a recipe from 2nd September 1891 brings its own difficulties and the bottle I sampled in the Hock Cellar at Fuller’s brewery last month is an adaptation of original ingredients and modern brewing processes. The malt used in the original XXK was imported from Germany, the Middle East and what is now the Czech Republic, so a close British match was required. The substitute barley, Plumage Archer, a variety dating from 1905, was provided organically from a Gloucestershire farm and malted using the traditional germination-drum process by Simpsons Malt (see left image).

Along with pale and crystal malt, the fermentable material was No 2 invert sugar. Hops used were Fuggles with late copper and dry hopping with Goldings, emerging at about 55 IBU. This amber-hued brown beer pours with an aroma of bitter pear and tangerine. The initial taste is of rich, sweet malt and caramel fruit, leading to a drier, bitter, warming finish from the hops and alcohol. And as a post-script, the second in this series is now out, a 7.4% Double Stout, brewed to a recipe from 4th August 1893. I picked up a bottle from the Basketmakers Arms, Brighton, on Saturday.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.