Cloned Beer Review: Fullers London Pride
For three and a half years I lived in Ealing, West London, just a few miles from the Griffin Brewery, home of Fuller’s, Smith and Turner, London’s oldest brewery.
Most of the pubs in Ealing were owned by Fuller’s, which meant things could be tricky if you didn’t like their beer. Thankfully I loved it.
Fuller’s best known beer has to be London Pride. It’s a fine pint. So when I found a recipe for it in my homebrew beer book, I knew I would have to try it one day.
But it was to be a brew that would not be without difficulty. For starters, I found I was missing some hops so had to substitute. A bottle of Pride lists four: Target, Goldings, Challenger and Northdown. I had no Challenger in stock and ended up throwing in some Progress hops I had lying around instead. This was not the best of starts. But hey, it was worth a shot.
So how did they compare? Pouring out a bottle of my “clone” and the real thing, they looked pretty much the same. Well until I held them up to the light for I was in a rather dimly lit room. Then I realised colour-wise, the two were completely different. Proper Pride was lighter, more golden, whereas mine was darker, browner.
A good start then.
Next up, a good smell. Yes there was a difference there. The Pride had a nice whiff, the clone rather lacking something. Hmm. Going well this.
I waited for the head to settle on both, noting that the head on both disappeared in a similar time, although the proper stuff had a whisp that remained for quite some time.
Enough waffle. Time to taste. The original first. Oh boy. Smooth,biscuity, malty goodness. Almost a hint of smoke. It had been some time since I had had a pint of the stuff but straight away I was back in the Red Lion, opposite Ealing Studios. Ah yes, this was the good stuff.
And my heart began to sink a little. For I knew what my beer tasted like. I had had several bottles already in previous weeks, and it wasn’t like this. It definitely didn’t have the smoothness. There was malt, but not biscuity. It was fine as a beer. But it wasn’t Pride. Pride was definitely superior. It rolled over the tongue beautifully.
Okay so the hops were wrong but not by that much. Instead I am sure that there was something lacking in the malt department. And I suspect that – as with my clone of Black Sheep – yeast played it’s part. I had used a rather standard, a tad basic yeast and no doubt Fuller’s use something a bit more interesting.
But was is just the yeast or was there something else missing? I wasn’t sure. Although it did occur to me that I did have in my cellar some bottles of Fuller’s Vintage Ale, bottle conditioned, with some of the Fuller’s yeast in them. And you can use the yeast from any bottle conditioned beer in your own brewing if you try. The answer was clear! Do a batch of the recipe with a normal yeast and with the Fuller’s yeast. But that would be for another day.
Of course I think I would be a bit worried if I had preferred my brew to the one Fuller’s produced. They have a lot more brewing experience than me. And better equipment for that matter. None of this was to say that my beer was bad. It was perfectly fine. I just wasn’t anything like Pride. And it was disappointing to not even be close though. And that was all you could say about that.