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!).
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.