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.
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.