A weekly beer + food column to support the launch of CAMRA’s new podcast, Pubs. Pints. People. You can tune in each week on Apple Podcast or Spotify or simply visit https://audioboom.com/channels/5020734

On Thursday night I grabbed my splendid brass ship’s bell and raced up two flights of stairs to our small balcony to join the weekly homage to the NHS. I figure I need to keep them onside, with all this beer boozing and over-eating during Lockdown.

Our bell was a gift from American pals to mark our 40th wedding anniversary. It is not big but, like some beers drink stronger than their ABV, our bell packs a helluva peel that reverberates across the Sound.

Below me our police boat was making its round and joined in with its hooter; then a massive cargo ship contributed its deafening blast, while cars at traffic lights on the bridge pipped their horns and, heigh-ho, we almost had a cacophony.

What with that and VE Day on Friday a special celebratory beer was called for; and what can be more special than Fuller’s iconic boxed Vintage Ale? We possess the first, brewed in 1997, and several since – would that we had them all; our system is simple – buy two, drink one, lay one down. Happily we’d still got our 2019 ‘spare’ so partnered it with a celebratory roast chicken.

That, too, was special. A proper family butcher’s near us remains open and in there I snapped up their last fresh free range bird. At £14 it wasn’t cheap (or should I say cheep) but worth every penny. It was a Creedy Carver chicken, raised by Peter and Sue Coleman on their family farm in Devon, allowed to roam freely on grassland, feasting on a cereal-based diet with no additives.

It was the best I have tasted in many a year – like chickens used to be; succulent, mouth filling, its skin crisp perfection. And it came with the giblets so I used them to make a gravy stock adding just a slurp of Fuller’s; it’s really too fine to cook with.

The box tells you each recipe is unique from the last; “for the 2019 we travelled 12,000 miles for inspiration, as West London meets South Island New Zealand. Wai-Iti hops bring mandarin, lemon and lime to the fore, whilst crystal malt, grown on New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains, adds notes of toasted bread and honey… our famous Fuller’s yeast gives the beer its familiar orange and marmalade backbone.” It is a full-bodied vinous ale, that toast and honey maltiness truly complementing the sweetness and slight gaminess of the meat.

(It seems to be available online from the brewery shop, but Fuller’s bottled 1845 makes a very acceptable alternative, sold in Sainsbury’s.)

The 2019 has a drink by date of December 31 2029. I suspect it will survive longer than that, not sure I’ll be around to find out. And on that cheery note, Cheers – and Bon Appetit!

Susan Nowak

Susan Nowak, pictures by Fran Nowak

Join the Discourse

Want to discuss this article? Join in on Discourse