Coopers Vintage Ale 2016

20160831_200730

disclaimer: I was sent the current release Vintage Ale by Coopers

If you’ve been reading for a while (as in … years) you’ll know that I’ve been incredibly lucky to be a guest at quite a few consecutive Coopers Vintage Ale launch lunches. Unfortunately, this year I had a forced hiatus. The lunch was held within 48 hours of a big work deadline. I had no choice but to decline. I knew that if I rsvped ‘yes’ come lunch day I’d be a wreck – torn between honouring that rsvp and the fact that I had so much work to do. I also knew that if I rsvped ‘no’ I would have wrapped up the work and be kicking myself.

Real life was actually somewhere between the two – but luckily for me team Coopers sent me some of the Vintage Ale to sample. Hard life.

So – here we are in the run up to Father’s Day. Yep – if you forgot – it’s Sunday. Eek. And if the dads in your life like beer – well, you can read my review of the Vintage Ale and see if it sounds like your dad’s thing.

If it’s not your dad’s thing, then this might be. Dr Tim Cooper, Managing Director and Chief Brewer, has turned 60 and, to celebrate, Coopers has released a limited run of Dr Tim’s Traditional Ale in 440mL cans – at the same price as the usual 375mL cans.

OK – on to how the 2016 vintage ale is looking!

The Vintage Ale

The beer is amber and really quite dense in colour. The bottle fermentation means that like Coopers’ other bottle-conditioned ales, there is sediment. If you prefer it distributed through the beer, it won’t be crystal clear in appearance.

The nose isn’t particularly strong – think subtle hoppiness and citrus. But in the mouth it’s a lot more forward. The extra alcohol (the beer is 7.5% abv) gives it extra weight and it has a lovely creaminess about it. If you’re a stout drinker, you’ll recognise the mouthfeel.

It’s fruity and citrussy but it has a lovely bitterness to it. In order to produce a beer that can age Coopers has to tread a fine line with the hops. If you like that kind of hoppy bitterness in a beer, then you will like the Vintage Ale but I definitely recommend you drink it young. Over time, those hops back off and the beer ends up seeming sweeter.

I’ve been privileged enough to try enough back vintages of Coopers Vintage Ale to know that I like them young. To me, the 2016 is almost like drinking a lighter bodied and flavoured stout. It’s very approachable and (I think – I like hoppy beer) delicious.

So if you do buy the dad in your life some – just make sure he shares it!

Coopers Vintage Ale Launch and Father’s Day Ideas

COOPERS - THOMAS COOPERS SELECTION SICK PACK (LOW)

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the launch lunch

One of my favourite events, and one I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to several years running, is the launch of Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale. The Coopers team (including the people at Corporate Conversation) might have been doing this for a few years, but every year they mix things up a bit and the lucky guests get some great insight into one of Australia’s most unique beers.

This year, lunch was held at Pirie and Co Social Club. As we were lunching downstairs there was no natural light and so my photos are worse than usual – but hopefully you can bear with me (and understand why I put a media image at the top of this post!).

 

20150707_125224

Coopers Clear poached chicken, with confit tomatoes, beetroot jelly, grilled asparagus, goats curd & bitter leaves

We started with drinks at the bar (of course) and followed that with a beer themed lunch. A chicken tenderloin poached in Coopers Clear was followed by an excellent blood orange sorbet served with a drizzle of Coopers Light. For me to say that is really something because I am not a big fan of orange at all. Our main was (an enormous) Wagyu scotch fillet with carrots and potatoes and a jus based on Coopers Sparkling and we wrapped up with a chocolate tart with honey mascarpone and served with a Coopers Stout wafer. This last is an excellent idea – Stout has such rich chocolate and caramel overtones that it works perfectly with desserts and incorporating it into a wafer is a great way of maximising that richness without concentrating any of its bitterness.

Our lunch was served with the 2015 and 2010 Vintage Ales side by side. David Medlyn, Technical Brewer at Coopers, took us through the tasting. Even the untrained eye could spot that the 2010 had darkened with age and the bitterness of the hops drops away over time, leaving a beer which is a lot more mellow and showing off Christmas cake and caramel.

Each year, the team at Coopers messes with the Vintage Ale mix so every year is slightly different, although the beer is always 7.5% abv. It needs that extra alcohol to help it age! The easiest way for the team to change the recipe is to change the hops that are used. This year, it’s Ella, Vic Secret and Melba. The Melba is a new hop which was developed for the Vintage Ale. The younger beer certainly showed of its hops – very crisp and refreshing and even though you will notice the high alcohol, it’s not overwhelming.

Of course, the Vintage Ale is not cheap. It’s a beer produced in limited quantities and in many quarters it has something of a cult following. But … if you’re still seeking a Father’s Day present (that’s this Sunday for anyone in Australia!) then keep your eye out for the cleverly put together Father’s Day Six Pack. Your father will get two bottles each of the 2015 Vintage Ale, the Celebration Ale and the Artisan Reserve and this will set you back around $25 and you’ll find them at independent retailers.

Pretty much everyone I know has their standard go-to Coopers beers (Andy’s is the Lager, my dad’s is the Stout and my uncle’s is Coopers Clear, I’m the flighty exception) so this is a great way to experience a beer you might not have tried before without committing to a six pack or case.

Coopers Celebration Ale

Disclaimer: Coopers sent me some of the new ale to sample. It’s a hard life …

As you may know, this year marks Coopers Brewery’s 150th anniversary. At this point in its history, Coopers is also the largest Australian owned brewery which is more than reason to celebrate.

And, naturally, the way a brewery celebrates is by releasing a Celebration Ale.

I was lucky enough to try some of the Celebration Ale thanks to Coopers, so rather than you bring you their tasting notes, I can bring you my own.

The beer is a dark amber in colour – almost reddish – so it looks quite different to Coopers’ other beers. As with many of Coopers’ beers, some yeast remains in the bottle so it can have a slightly cloudy appearance to it. So far – so good.

The nose is citrussy and hoppy, with a hint of spice to it. The beer actually makes use of three different hops: Pride of Ringwood, Nelson Sauvin and Centennial (that info is there for the beer geeks). Hops act as a preservative but also impart a distinct bitterness (as well as other flavours) to the finished product.

On the palate, this beer is more bitter than many other beers on the Australian market but that is definitely a good thing. The same citrus and spice found on the nose also appear in the mouth and the beer is not madly fizzy (don’t worry though – it’s not at all flat!). The slightly reduced fizz I think makes the beer eminently drinkable and the bitterness from the hops means it would pair really well with a range of foods. Coopers suggests chicken, seafood, tangy cheese and fruit based desserts – of these, I can definitely see the beer working best with sharp cheeses.

The beer is being released in 355mL bottles only (yep – that’s a bit of an odd one!) and is expected to retail for around $55 a carton. This is a beer I definitely recommend checking out – and if we all buy enough of it perhaps Coopers will keep on making it past the 150th celebrations …