Monday 1 November 2021

No more cask Fuller's Vintage this autumn

 If, like me, you look forward to a few glasses - or even pints - of Fuller's Vintage Ale each autumn, you're going to be sadly disappointed this year. Unless, that is, you caught it at the London Craft Beer Festival back in August.

Cask-conditioned Vintage Ale 2020
The background is that, while most of each year's Vintage Ale brew goes into bottles, Fuller's always puts some into casks. A few of these go to beer festivals local to the brewery, and most go to a small number of cask-led Fuller's pubs. A couple of the Fuller's pubs I visit normally get two or three each, which they serve from around October onwards - last years' was especially delicious. 

This year, however, there has been a problem. I heard from multiple sources that the casks had been sent out, but had then been recalled by the brewery. So I asked for more information and this is the reply I received: 

"We released a very small quantity of Vintage Ale 2021 on cask this year at London Craft Beer Festival in August and a handful of pubs during Cask Ale Week.

"Unfortunately, as time progressed, we weren’t completely happy with how some of the Vintage Ale 2021 casks were tasting when we sampled them. 

"There were a few cases of low cell counts, which left them susceptible to oxidation. While they posed no safety risk, we did recommend to the pubs that still had stock to withdraw from sale. 

"Hope that is helpful to know. We’re sorry for any disappointment caused. Our priority is always ensuring consumers enjoy our beers and experience cask at its best."  

It's hard to judge from the outside, but it looks like something went badly wrong while the beer was being prepared for cask. This involves filtering the beer and then reseeding it with the right amount of fresh yeast for that secondary conditioning in-cask. 

It all seems rather odd. Yes, it can be a ticklish process to get right, but Fuller's brewers should have plenty of experience here, and under normal circumstances you then have experienced cellar staff in the pubs who are able to make the final quality decision. 

Yet the reports I've seen from LCBF suggest the Vintage Ale was unusually sweet this year. Could someone have forgotten to reseed it with fresh yeast? Or what else might have gone wrong? Either way, it is disappointing - but still, better no beer than bad beer, I guess. 


  1. That seems like such a rookie error for an experienced cask brewer, made all the more galling as it's probably their most anticipated annual release.

    But thanks for the heads up, Bryan. I had vague plans to wander out later in the week and hunt down some cask Vintage Ale, so that's saved me a fruitless trip. I guess I'll just have to wait for the bottles to appear on the shelves at Waitrose...

    1. My local Waitrose hasn't had any bottles this year, whereas it did last year, which makes me suspicious once again! I'm nipping over to the brewery shop to see if there's any bottles there...

    2. My Waitrose has the 2020 at £6 instead of 2021. Had to pick up a few at this price!

    3. Seems reasonable to me! I did indeed go over to the brewery shop to check, by the way, and the 2021 is £6 there - though you can get a discount if you are suitably 'local'. (-:

    4. Popped into our local Waitrose this morning and no sign of either the Vintage Ale or the Impy Stout, both of which are usually on the shelves by now. I had a look on the Waitrose website and no sign of them there, either. Hmmm...