In response to the cold snap that’s covered most of New Zealand this week, last night I made mulled wine for the first time this year. A rich pinot noir, heated gently with water, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves and a star anise, and a few sultanas. Rich, sweet, and very very warming.
Beer can do the same thing. Far more than a cold refreshing drink for drinking on a warm afternoon. As the nights grow longer and the cat grows more somnolent in front of the heater, my preference shifts from the likes of golden ales and pale ales towards porters, stouts, and “strong ales.” I’m always pleased, for example, to see Yeastie Boy’s Hud’a’Wa reappear around this time each year. And, though it is available year round, this is when I’ll look at getting in some of an old favourite, the ‘1845’ from long-lived English brewer, Fuller’s.
This is an elegant deep ruby red beer, all the better for catching the glow from a fireplace (or from a gas heater!) The aroma is of a boozy fruit cake or perhaps baked desert – toffee, dried fruit, maybe a bit of stewed apple.
Surprisingly, in the mouth, the feel is a lot lighter than the dark ale and aroma might suggest. The initial sensation is of sweetness, but as you swallow the ale the fruit comes back through, with a big, long, lingering bitterness.
While the colour and the spicy booziness may all come from the combination of malts and the 6.3% abv, there’s some genius use of Goldings hops going on here too to bring in the fruity flavours. This liquid fruit cake carries flavoured of dried orange and mandarin peel; which all comes from the hops. Quite remarkable in the way those sharp, bitter flavours play off with the malt to create something quite dessert-like.
The 1845 is a bottle-conditioned ale, where additional fermentation goes on in the bottle. I’m no expert in this, and I’m sure there’s other factors at play, but I can’t but help think that the yeast continuing to do their thing long after the bottle is sealed is why I’ve haven’t yet had a bad or ‘off’ bottle of this 1845, despite it travelling the world to get here to New Zealand. Each bottle has been rich, flavourful and delicious.
Or maybe it’s just because it’s a damn good ale. I’d love to see a cask of this turn up on these shores, so I could compare how it travels when cask-conditioned.
Certainly one to easily compare with a fruity, sweet and spicy mulled wine. Certainly an ale to drink in similar circumstances! Like mulled wine; Fuller’s 1845 is very very warming, indeed!