Dallas Craft Beer Examiner
Old ales are so named for two reasons. First, they are among the oldest of the British ale styles, brewed for centuries before the pale ales and porters became popular with the public.
The other reason for the name is that they are often well-aged after brewing. Also known as “stock ales,” old ales were generally higher-gravity beers cellared for at least a year, and used by publicans to blend with newer, fresher beer for a more well-rounded flavor (or flavour) that pub patrons enjoyed.
One of the greatest brewers of English beers in general, George Gale & Co. Ltd., was purchased by the Griffin Brewery in 2005. Griffin is best known for the popular Fuller’s line of British ales and associated pubs in the U.K., many of which we already get here in Texas and have for some time.
But this version of Prize Old Ale is new, also in two different ways. This is newly arrived to Texas, which has never seen Gale’s products before, and the 2007 dated edition on shelves now is Fuller’s first attempt to re-create this historic Gale beer. And they’ve done a mighty fine job of it.
Prize Old Ale pours a deep red-brown with an aroma that is malty sweet, vinous and slightly papery. Aged for two years before bottling, the beer is slightly oxidized—which adds to its complexity rather than being a fault. The taste is sweet but not cloying, with almost a port or sherry nature, maybe even fruitcake. Malt is king here, with elements of red grapes, dark cherries, plums, figs and maybe old pipe tobacco.
Like bocks, old ales are a particular passion of mine that we don’t see enough of. This beer might pair well with roast beef, but at a sneaky 9% ABV (none of which is detectable in the taste) it is better left as an after-dinner sipper in place of a brandy.
Availability: Sold in single 500-ml bottles for about $5 to $7 each at better beer bars, British-style pubs and better liquor and grocery stores. As it is now a Fuller’s product, it should enjoy the same wide distribution of their beers.
Originally published August 21, 2009, at Examiner.com