It's the same story every time I'm in a Fuller's pub: I have whatever's on draught, but there's always a selection of those beautifully-shaped Fuller's bottles staring at me from the fridge. I've (almost) never resorted to buying one, however, partly because bottled beer is poor value in the pub and partly because I've heard they're not very good. Yes, Jack Frost, I mean you.
Nevertheless, when another of them -- Fuller's Old Winter Ale -- popped up in my local offy I reckoned it was time to finally satisfy my curiosity about it. 5.3% ABV and mahogany-to-amber, so very much in the English old ale bracket so far. That's where the comparison ends, though. The aroma is slightly caramelly, but the taste is dominated by hop bitterness -- acrid at the start, turning tangy at the finish. Not good. Yes there's a bit of toffee malt but not nearly enough for the winter warmer it purports to be, instead offering a hollow and quite watery middle.
This stuff is a very long way from the smoothness I adore in English old ales of my previous acquaintance, and I'd take mainstream fare like Hobgoblin and Old Peculier well ahead of it. And in a Fuller's pub: back to the ESB, no question.
Reuben has similar thoughts here.
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