Review: Fuller’s Wild River
As any good London beer geek would be, I am of course a member of Fuller’s Fine Ale Club, and the other day my free membership really paid off (ha ha). I was among the lucky 20 Fine Ale Club members to be invited to the launch of Fuller’s new seasonal offering, Wild River. Wild River is an American-style Pale Ale hopped with Williamette, Liberty, Cascade and Chinook hops and is, according to John Keeling of Fuller’s, inspired by the US craft beer scene.
The tasting event was held at Fuller’s pub The Banker, a dungeon-like place under the arches of Cannon Street railway station. Guests were lubricated with Fuller’s Discovery before the main event, and treated to a roomful of snazzy branding. To quote John Keeling, “It took us two months to come up with the recipe for the beer, and two and a half years to come up with the name and branding”. I’m not surprised – it must have taken a while to figure out those cardboard bear traps! Jokes aside, it was a very nice and well-run event – I ended up chatting quite a bit to beer profile extraordinaire Phil Lowry, and all-round nice chap. As I recall, conversation ranged from how to make the best US-style barbecue to the political situation in the Ukraine (if you thought we geeks only talk beer at events, think again).
Yes, yes, but what about the beer? Well, here’s the review:
Wild River (American Pale Ale, ABV 4.5)
Look: Dark yellowish gold, clear and crisp, with very little head – something I attribute to the beer being poured from a pitcher into the glass. The beer in the pitcher looked like it had a nice white frothy head (like foam on a wild river or something, I don’t know)
Nose: Citrus, citrus, citrus and a tiny bit of bready maltiness. The citrus I got on the nose was quite mellow and floral rather than acidic and tart.
Taste: This is a beer that starts off slow – suckers you in, even. My immediate reaction was actually one of disappointment – sure, the subtle lemon and marmalade notes were nice, as was the malty backbone, but where were the hops? As it turns out, this is a beer that grows and develops on the palate: the subtle citrus notes were soon followed by a long, lingering citrus pith/grapefruit bitterness. Wild River stays on the tongue a long time, and is all the better for it. The mouthfeel was also pleasant, very light and with exactly the right amount of carbonation.
Verdict: This is definitely something that’s not like anything Fuller’s has made before and as such fits well with their overall range – I’m surely hoping this will not just be a seasonal pub offering but that it will also be available bottled eventually (all down to sales over the summer, of course). It’s very fresh, very summery, and it will go great with a whole range of foods – the light yet malty body plus the citrus hops will make it an excellent barbecue beer, I’m sure. I would also think this is a good ‘gateway beer’, something to offer to non-beer geek friends: flavourful and complex yet not over-complicated. I give it a mark of 3+/5, and I’ll certainly drink it again if I see it in a pub.