There is never going to be a Fuller’s Past Masters beer that we don’t buy by the case, even though this makes three in a row that have failed to hit the standard set by the first two.
Though supposedly brewed to a recipe for Fuller’s standard mild from August 1914, the ABV has been bumped up from an almost sessionable, historically accurate c.5% to 7.3%, more befitting of a limited edition release. (Here are Ron Pattinson’s notes on Fuller’s X from the period.) It cost us £3.75 a bottle, in a case of 12, plus delivery.
It certainly looks enticing in the glass, gleaming red, and has the characteristic Fuller’s tangerine aroma.
The problem, however, occurs on tasting, when an overriding, Irn-Bru, Lucozade sweetness takes over. It made us think, unfortunately, of Innis & Gunn, of whose beers we are not fans, or even Adelscott, the whisky-flavoured, sweetened, alco-pop beer from France.
In fact, the reminder of whisky doesn’t stop there. Though we occasionally drink it, as with coffee, we struggle to discern specific flavours and qualities beyond the bleedin’ obvious, so please excuse our vagueness when we say that there was a whisky-and-water boozy, smoky afterburn in the throat and nose.
There’s also a gentle tooth-stripping quality like the feeling you get after eating a particularly tart rhubarb or gooseberry crumble. (Oxalic acid says the internet.)
We’re making this sound like hard work, aren’t we? Well, that’s how we’re finding it, four bottles into a case of twelve. The rest we’re going to leave for a few months and see if it mellows, though we can’t really see how it will get less sweet unless some of the remaining sugars are somehow digested by the bottle-conditioning yeast.
Ultimately, it’s a really quirky, interesting beer that won’t appeal to everyone, and we know some people have loved it:
The new Fullers Past Masters 1914 X Mild 7.4% is wonderful, this style needs to make a comeback, making brown beer sexy
— Bantam Brewery Co (@bantambreweryco) December 11, 2014
But the really exciting news: that incredible 1893 Double Stout is being re-brewed this year. We’ll buy two cases this time.