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Classic Beer of the Month February 2013: Fuller's 1845

Fuller's 1845, 6.3%

In February 1995, The Prince of Wales did the honours and tossed a handful of hops into a copper at Fuller's Chiswick brewery.

Fuller's 1845The brew bubbling beneath was the first run of the company's 150th anniversary ale, to be named 1845 after the year the Fuller, Smith and Turner partnership took shape.

The beer, devised by head brewer Reg Drury, was a throwback to those Victorian days.

It was chunky (6.3% ABV) and, alongside pale and crystal malts, included amber malt, rare in the 1990s, having fallen out of favour with brewers who cared less for its biscuity character. The hops chosen were Golding, as traditional as you could get.

It was also bottle conditioned, the first beer presented that way by Fuller's for many years. By the time it was released for sale, it had already matured for a hundred days.

1845 was an immediate hit and quickly found shelf space with major retailers. Drinkers latched on to the rich, deep amber colour and savoured the complex, cake-like aroma of malt, chocolate and dried fruit.

Hints of orange, nut, raisins, caramel and more chocolate in the full, multi-layered taste hooked them further and the dry, bitter finish, with the same malt and hop characteristics, sealed its place as an instant favourite.

In its 18-year life to date, the beer has become a stalwart of the bottle-conditioned beer sector, up there with Worthington's White Shield and predating that huge influx of what CAMRA calls real ale in the bottle by a good few years.

Inspiration and Belief

It has, no doubt, inspired many of those beers that followed in its wake. It has also led to a strong belief in bottle conditioning at Fuller's itself.

Seeing how well 1845 matured in the bottle, Reg Drury decided to create Vintage Ale in 1997, a stunning barley wine that is now released annually, vintage dated.

Fuller's has continued to expand its bottle-conditioned range with the two former Gale's beers, Prize Old Ale and HSB, as well as the IPA Bengal Lancer and the Past Masters and Brewers' Reserve series.

Prince Charles could not have been aware of what he was setting in motion when he tossed the hops into the steamy abyss.

By doing so, he not only launched a great beer – twice judged CAMRA's Champion Bottled Beer – but an important bottling legacy, too.

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