Fullers recently launched the second in its series of beers from the archives: Past Masters Double Stout. Organised by the Fullers Fine Ale Club, the launch took place at the brewery shop, where John Keeling introduced the beer to a packed audience, and beer writer Melissa Cole then led a tasting of both Double Stout and the previous brew, Past Masters XX.
Based on a recipe brewed on 4th August 1893 and weighing in at 7.4%, the Double Stout is already gorgeous – it poured a deep red-black with a head like a fine espresso crema, and I detected cocoa, a little coffee and hints of tart red fruit on the nose. Others commented on tasting molasses, a slight salty dryness, and an almost savoury liquorice note.
It will improve with age, and may also increase in ABV, John said. He added: "This beer will age – they designed it to age in 1893." The XX (an 1891 recipe) is already mellowing well after nine months in bottle – the fresh gingery notes have eased off, with hints of honey and orange juice emerging, plus perhaps a slight earthiness.
John added that he had just returned from an enjoyable trip to Marble Brewery in Manchester, where he collaborated on a 6.8% Marble-Fullers tawny ale. "If it's successful, we might bring the Marble brewers here and do a Fullers-Marble beer," he said.
All of this fits in with Fullers interest in trying new things, which John said is older than we might think. "People think American hops are new to this country," he said. "Our brewing book shows we were using them in 1891." He added that his brewers are also doing more barrel-aging experiments – "We have put some XX in cask and are waiting to see how it turns out."
And he said that the next Past Masters recipe is one that's especially dear to his heart – an Old Burton Extra, as brewed in 1956 on the day that he was born, and aimed for release on his birthday this coming September.
(This entry is based on a story I wrote for the upcoming London Drinker magazine. Click through to the big photo if you want to read the bottle notes...)