Fuller's & Friends
There's been some hype recently with the announcement from London brewery Fuller's that they would be releasing the Fuller's & Friends collaboration project. The collaboration sees Fuller's team up with six regional UK breweries to produce a unique selection of beers. The collaboration box had a limited release in supermarket chain Waitrose and was released at the bargain price of £12. Here's what Fuller's had to say about the project on their blog:
Not wanting to miss out on this interesting collaboration between an established brewery and some of the biggest names in the UK craft beer scene, I decided to pick up the Fuller's & Friends box and give them a try.
New England IPA - New England IPA 7% // Cloudwater Brew Co. x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: We've used oats, wheat and a mountain of hops - Chinook and Simcoe from the US and Olicana from the UK - to make a soft, juicy New England IPA. We've then bottle conditioned it, old-England style.
Expectations: My expectations for this NEIPA were high since it involves the massively popular Cloudwater, who have produced some amazing stuff in recent years. I think a lot of the reason that the Fuller's & Friends collaboration box has been so popular is because of Cloudwater's involvement. I've been a bit disapointed with NEIPAs lacking substance recently so I was approaching this with caution, hoping that Cloudwater and Fuller's could pull it off.
Reality: This collaboration is definitely the standout of the pack. Packed full of hops, it has a all the juiciness you would expect from a Cloudwater beer. It also has that NEIPA 'mouth-feel' that they are so famous for. This is a great beer and it's a savvy decision by Fuller’s to get this Manchester brewery on board with the collaboration.
Galleon - Dry Hopped Lager 4.8% // Fourpure Brewing Co. x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: We've used lashings of Loral, a modern American hop, to give Galleon its unique character. There's bucket-loads of floral, citrus and delicious dark-fruit flavour in this crisp, refreshing lager. Dry-hopped for extra punch.
Expectations: Although I haven't sampled a huge amount of their range, I'm a fan of Bermondsey based Fourpure from what I have tried and Juice Box might be one of my favourite beers of all time. A lager doesn't really get me excited so I was a bit aprehensive at seeing this in the pack, still I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt...
Reality: Unfortunately, this lager is one of the weakest to come out of the six pack. Although refreshing and inoffensive, it really doesn't have much else going for it. All I can say is than it is your standard fairly bland lager, a similar style to those output by some of the big Asian breweries. I can't say that I got any of the citrus or floral notes from this beer or much in the way of hops. I can't help but think that Fourpure pulled the short-straw by being asked to help create a lager.
Peat Souper - Smoked Porter 7% // Hardknott x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: Named after the thick fogs that bedevilled industrial London, this delicious dark beer takes inspiration from the capital’s 18th-century Porters. Smoky peat, rich malt and a trio of classic English hops make it one to savour.
Expectations: A smoked porter is much more my thing and I was excited to try this despite knowing very little about Hardknott (who I now know to be based in Cumbria). This beer probably had the best description on the pack, although the whole idea of drinking something "peat" flavoured did put me off slightly...
Reality: A stellar effort from Hardknott and Fuller's, this is a lovely porter packed full of flavor. The rich smokiness and malt really come through in this delicious dark beer. This made for great slow drinking. I'll have to keep an eye out for Hardknott in the future. Easily one of the best beers to come out of this project.
Matariki - New Zealand Saison 5.8% // Marble Beers x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: Belgium meets New Zealand in this zesty, spicy ale. Using wheat, oats, rye and spelt alongside a quartet of Kiwi hops, we've created a beer that's both complex and very, very drinkable.
Expectations: Possibly one of the more unique sounding beers of this project. I'm a big fan of Marble, I think they produce some of the best beers around at the moment and I'm yet to be disappointed by them. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this New Zealand Saison as to me, it conjures up conflicting flavours and styles. Billed as "Belgium meets New Zealand", I was excited to see what had been produced.
Reality: This is definitely the wildcard of the pack. Although this probably won't be to everyone's tastes, I thoroughly enjoyed the unusual combination of flavours this saison packed in. The Belgian style is immediately recognisable, with it's rich, spiciness and the New Zealand influence also smacks you in the face with the bucket load of powerful hops. This is definitely a complex brew and one of the more unique contributions. Overall, I thought this was one of the more enjoyable and interesting beers conjured up.
Rebirth - ESB 6% // Moor Beer Company x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: Inspired by the very first ESB recipe, we’ve used hops from Britain, Australia, Slovenia and the USA to create a rich, complex, delicious ale. The original ESB from 1971, reborn.
Expectations: A bitter isn't really a style that gets me overly excited. However, I've had a few of Moor's beers which I've found to all be generally excellent so I thought I should approach this with an open mind. There's history behind this beer and it's interesting to see the range of hops sourced from around the world to recreate this original ESB recipe first brewed in 1971.
Reality: When I cracked this beer open I didn't really have high expectations at all but actually, I quite enjoyed it. This strong bitter packs in the maltiness. Although not be hugely interesting, it's overall a pretty solid effort. I'm not old enough to know how this tastes compared to the original ESB recipe but I have a feeling that Moor have probably put a slightly modern twist on the recipe.
Flora & The Griffin - Red Rye Ale 7.1% // Thornbridge Brewery x Fuller's Brewery
What the box says: This punchy red ale is made with a diverse range of ingredients including spicy rye malt and bold, floral American hops. A beer named after the symbols of both breweries, Flora and The Griffin.
Expectations: Thornbridge are one of the breweries that I trust for, and generally associate with, quality beers. I'm also a fan of rye beer and red ales so this partnership was looking promising. The description of Flora & the Griffin doesn't give much away, it's the strongest beer out of the collaboration project at 7.1% so I was certainly expecting it to pack a punch.
Reality: I was a bit disappointed by this effort. Yes, it's a red rye ale and looks gorgeous in colour. There's a hint of spice but other than that, I couldn't pick up on much else. Overall, I thought this was strong for the sake of it and I was hoping for a lot more flavours packed in. Although perfectly drinkable, this isn't a beer I would ever make an effort to have again.
To sum up the Fuller's & Friends Collaboration, I would say the box contains two really good beers in the New England IPA and the Peat Souper, two solid beers in the Matariki and the ESB, and two pretty forgettable beers in Flora & the Griffin and the Galleon Lager. At £12 a pop though it's worth checking out but perhaps temper expectations. It's a pretty interesting collaboration to see from a well established brewery and some newer faces on the scene. It will be interesting to see if other breweries try similar collaborations.