We opened a bottle in the brewery at around 9pm, twelve hours into our two day brewing session. It poured a dark chocolate brown with an acne-yellow head. Look, I know that makes it sound unappetising, but that's the colour it was. Maybe it was just the weak light in the brewery office.
There was a dusty old ale aroma at first, followed by sherry, port, chocolate, chicory, and hints of leather and wet autumn leaves. And then, on the palate it went berserk. It did the whole lot - the sweetness and acidity of wine, a meaty umame taste in the middle and strong bitterness at the end. All these flavours got on with each other quite happily, united in a pleasingly smooth mouthfeel. Molasses and caramel were there, but only fleetingly. After the overture, a second mouthful brought out touches of honey, banana, cinnamon and espresso grounds.
Steve and Jo, who brewed the beer, hadn't previously tasted one as old as this. They were shocked at how dramatically it had developed since its youth as a mere barley wine.
John Keeling, who brews Fuller's Vintage Ale, talks about 'sine waves' in his beer, trying to explain how the character ebbs and flows over the years it ages.
I've no idea what kind of maths, physics, chemistry or plain old-fashioned juju is going on in Queen's Ale. But you can understand why it's perfect for a Christmas pudding. And why I was so upset about using it for this purpose.