Fuller’s and Friends

I think many who drink modern beers would agree with the statement that 2017 has been the year of collaboration beer. More than ever this year, we’ve seen breweries join forces and produce a beer together.

Collaboration Beers are the Norm

When this first started to happen, it was such a novel idea and generated a great deal of excitement in me. But, as the year has gone on, I must admit the concept has lost its special appeal for me. The novel idea has gone from being special, to be the norm. Is this a bad thing though? Perhaps not. In a time where brewery numbers are growing, yet pub numbers and pint sales reduce, it’s these kinds of opportunities that will help keep breweries alive. For now, at least.

It’s essential that breweries produce great tasting and quality beers. For that you need consistency in what you are making. So, when Fuller’s, one of the most well established and consistent breweries in the UK, announced their collaboration series, that excitement I first had, came back.

Traditional Fuller’s?

To some modern beer drinkers, there may be some nose turning up at Fuller’s doing this. The brewery’s reputation amongst some people is traditional, not necessarily experimental, or ‘exciting’ enough. But, having been fortunate enough to visit their Griffin Brewery a few years ago, as part of a Cask Marque programme, I fully appreciate the focus in quality, and flavour, that Fuller’s have.

Also, recently Fuller’s have been exploring other beer styles more. I’ve tried a black IPA, they’ve added a Rye Ale to their portfolio too, amongst other new beers. This isn’t a sign of a brewery who doesn’t experiment.

The other two boxes weren’t mine. Honest!

As part of this collaboration series, called Fuller’s and Friends, Fuller’s teamed up with six breweries from across the UK. Some more established than others. Thornbridge, a personal favourite brewery of mine, arguably the most established name. The others included Cloudwater, one of the most popular and innovative breweries of the moment, Fourpure, Marble, Moor and Hardknott.

I was pleased to see Hardknott amongst the six breweries. The small team work hard in a difficult market, yet continue to innovate and produce great beers consistently. What a great way to gain more national exposure for them.

All six beers brewed were packaged together as one box and sold exclusively at Waitrose. At £12 for a box of 6 beers, with all these breweries represented, I think that’s a steal. I personally would have been willing to pay a bit more. Note at the time of writing, these beers are still available, click the Waitrose link to go direct to the offer!

The Six Beers

Enough waffle! What did I think about the beers?

Fuller’s and Cloudwater – New England IPA (7%)
New England IPA

As if there was going to be any other style of beer brewed with Cloudwater! Cloudwater are masters of the NEIPA art and this one didn’t disappoint. The colour on this was pale gold, and the beer was clear, surprising as Cloudwater love a hazy beer. Tropical and citrus fruit flavours, a little resinous and alcoholic, with a lingering bitterness. Really tasty.

Fuller’s and Fourpure – Galleon (4.8%)
Galleon

I’m a big fan of Fourpure’s Juicebox. This lager style beer was pale gold/straw in colour, very smooth, with a clean, fresh lemon flavour. Very light and easy to drink.

Fuller’s and Hardknott – Peat Souper (7%)
Peat Souper

This one poured very dark, almost black, with a dark coloured head too. A porter tasting of smoke, peat, alcohol and finishing with a light lingering bitterness. This was an incredible beer and one where I wish I had two, so I could have aged one.

Fuller’s and Marble – Matariki (5.8%)
Matariki

Pale gold in colour, this was a saison style beer. A style I have a soft spot for! This gave it a bit of a yeast flavour, peppery and a little tart. The finish was light bitter and dry. This was a really well produced saison style beer.

Fuller’s and Moor – Rebirth (6%)
Rebirth

I was looking forward to this one as I’m a fan of Fuller’s own ESB beer. This beer was based on the original Extra Special Bitter (ESB) recipe. A lovely copper colour, tasting sweet, malty and with a light bitter finish. Quite an alcoholic hit on the end which would likely mellow if the beer were aged a bit longer. Really moreish!

Fuller’s and Thornbridge – Flora and the Griffin (7.1%)
Flora and the Griffin

Although they brew a variety of styles, Thornbridge specialise in IPAs. So, it was interesting to see a different offering here in the form of a red rye ale. This was copper in colour, with a malt focus and quite earthy flavours. Very smooth, with a dry bitter finish. A quality beer you would expect from these two powerhouses!

A Truly Special One-Off

A great selection of styles and all brewed with real quality. The one that trumped it for me though was Peat Souper, the Hardknott collaboration. I’m a sucker for smoked beers and this was a stand out for me. A great tasting beer.

Overall, I thought this collaboration series was well produced and marketed. It felt like a special event in the build-up, and the end products were worth the wait. Would I encourage a part two? Probably not. On the theme that I opened this post with, I’d like this one to be left as a truly special one-off.

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