Monday, 30 March 2015

That Fullers feeling

That Fullers feeling…

Fullers Brewery 1914 Strong Ale (bottle conditioned 7.3 ABV)

This ale glugged into the balloon glass with a hiss and I instantly caught some of the aroma. It rolled around the bowl of the snifter and glowed. This glass is the ideal recipient for this particular beer; both for the aroma retention and the sense of occasion. The liquid was caramel amber and the hop oil head dissipated within seconds but would be swirled back up numerous times just so I could stick my nose in. It smelt sweet like cognac and hot candied apples. I let the first liquid in. It had that distinctive Fullers yeast taste like sherbert but with the high ABV it had been rounded out to peardrops with the acrid edge of burnt toffee. The mouthfeel was smooth and creamy. It’s real charm though – the alcoholic warmth. 

Fullers has been aging beers in bottles and on the wood long before it became common practice in the brewing scene. Apart from its Frontier Lager, all its bottles are still 500ml. The experience I had with this strong ale was very similar to the experience I’ve had with the Vintage ales and the other beers from the Past Masters series. The notes I give above I recall getting from just about all of Fullers’ heavier ABV beers. So it’s pleasant but strays little from its own beaten path. 500ml makes the experience last a bit longer than the 330ml bottles from other breweries and I’ve mulled over the word “booze” which is conjured up so naturally by this warming nectar.

The word booze or boozy isn’t onomatopoeic because booze isn’t heard as a sound. It’s more of a sensation. The word is made by the mouth relaxing. The “z” sound is an added satisfaction that serves to underline the feeling of unwinding. It’s a bit like breathing out and purring or snoring at the end. It starts with a hard consonant - the only part that requires effort. The rest is the relief of pressure from the lungs and diaphragm - that’s why it fits so well. It might be an example of ideasthesia where the sound of a word reflects the sensation that goes with it.

Booze is originally a falconry term. A bird is boozing or “bousing” when it drinks. It comes from middle English via middle Dutch. The fact that the word has come to so accurately describe warm alcoholic unwinding is just a happy coincidence – serendipity.


Like looking at Christmas baubles on technicolor footage from the 1970s. The baubles gently dilate out of focus while the light glinting off them expands like ice crystals. Think of a fade out from sequins on Top of the Pops from the glam years. It’s going from a monochrome colour to a warm pastel one. Anyway, although the X X Strong Ale seems identical to all its “past” Past Masters It’ll make your Christmas baubles gently slip out of focus. What more could you possibly want?