Coopers Vintage Ale Launch 2014


Disclaimer: I was a guest of Coopers at the lunch.

If you’re South Australian you’ll know that every winter Coopers launches its Extra Strong Vintage Ale. This is a beer that’s produced to age and every year Coopers’ head brewer, Dr Jon Meneses, plays around with the formula so no two years are the same.

Of course, any new product is always launched with fanfare and each year Coopers hosts a big wintery beer themed lunch to wet the new baby’s head. I’ve been lucky enough to go along the last couple of years and the lunch is always a generous treat, with the dishes matched to the current and back vintages of the beer.

This year, lunch was held at the Edinburgh Hotel in the Pavilion – a large room with floor to ceiling windows which overlooks the verandah and garden. Even though it was a pretty miserable day the room looked amazing: light filled, warm and inviting.

We started with five spice duck spring rolls served with a Pale Ale and lemongrass dipping sauce – and a Celebration Ale, of course. This was a lovely canapé but gave us no idea of what was to come.

Our first glimpse of the full menu came when we sat down. It was a hearty menu and each of the courses made use of a Coopers beer. We also had a tasting mat set out for our beers – this year comparing the current release with the 2012 and 2010 vintages.


We started with the new release 2014 Vintage Ale, paired with a huge bowl of Sparkling Ale seafood chowder. This was served with the most enormous chunks of bread I have ever seen (and given how much bread I eat, that is saying something!). The seafood chowder was incredible: tons of seafood (South Australian Spencer Gulf prawns, Kinkawooka mussels and squid), a rich, thick chowder and plenty of black pepper. It was no surprise that, at the end of the meal, the Ed’s chef said they were considering making it a permanent fixture on the menu.

A slight pause, a palate cleanser of pear sorbet served with a shot of Celebration Ale and then we were headlong into the main course. A huge (beef and Vintage Ale, of course!) pie with plenty of sides. The pie was lovely: the beef was soft and tender and the caramelised shallots added both sweetness and the most subtle crunch. I managed to polish off the pie but I was economical with my choice of sides … opting for just some broccolini and asparagus.


By this point, I’d realised it was extremely important to save some space for dessert. No beer this time – just an amazing Haigh’s chocolate tart.


Oh, but wait … I’m supposed to be talking about the beer! The 2014 differs from previous years in that this year Dr Meneses has upped the hops content to create a more bitter beer. The bitterness drops off with age and, as more people are keeping their Vintage Ales longer, the balance between bitterness and the fruit sweetness changes. That lack of bitterness is why the older vintages start to appear almost sherry like. Of course, the team at Coopers does have to produce a beer which is also drinkable NOW (not everyone is patient …). As someone who really likes more bitter beers anyway, I found the 2014 really enjoyable. In the short term the hoppy character balances out the alcohol and keeps the beer refreshing and I think it will be really interesting to see how this beer ages. It is very drinkable now so I wonder how many people will have some left in future years?

I’ve been lucky enough to attend three Coopers Vintage Ale lunches now and the 2014 has set the bar very high. The lunch was amazing but this year’s Vintage Ale is also pretty special too.

The Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale is available now for around $75 a carton.  Quantities are limited.

Ignite Unley – Craft Brewery Afternoon


fun in the sun in Unley

date of event:  Saturday 22 February 2014

I honestly can’t remember which of the many emails that rest briefly in my inbox informed me that there was a craft brewery afternoon coming up in Unley. It was obviously one that I read though!

Ignite Unley has actually been a council of programme of summer events, each with a different theme and each free. The events started back in November so I appreciate that I’m very much behind the curve here.

It happened that on Saturday (the ‘craft beer’ themed day) we needed to be out and about anyway, so timing things to drop in and see what it was about was almost no effort at all. The events are held at the Soldiers Memorial Gardens, on the corner of Thomas Street and Unley Road (next door to the shopping centre that is opposite the Town Hall).

We arrived shortly before the 4pm kick off but the market stalls were all set up, a ‘drinking’ area (complete with security guards!) was cordoned off and music was playing. There were plenty of games and toys and tunnels and tents for little people and, while there might not have been quite enough chairs in the bar area initially, staff were on hand to sort this out.

The breweries that had set up shop were Gulf Brewery (based in Hahndorf), Prancing Pony (one of my favourites, based in Mount Barker), Birbeck’s and Barossa Valley Brewing, showcasing a range of beers and ciders. Birbeck’s Captain is very popular with me – if it weren’t quite so fizzy and served quite so cold it would almost qualify as a good session ale. It’s also very low in alcohol so it was perfect for anyone driving on the day.


Birbeck’s Captain takes centre stage

As we were heading out for a curry (more on that later) we didn’t sample of any of the food on offer – but the toddler made good use of the play equipment (if you’ve never seen a three year old try to play badminton you should probably put it on your bucket list!) and we enjoyed sitting in the gardens and trying some new beers (well, that was Andy!).

It was a great use of public space and a really family friendly event. It would be lovely to see more councils put on events like this over the summer months: they’re a good way of fostering community spirit and a really obvious way for the council to participate in the lives of its ratepayers.*

The next Ignite Unley event is on Saturday 8 March – no food theme, but with a garden cinema from sunset. However, the Adelaide Fringe sees the same gardens host the Double Shot Unley Coffee Fiesta on Sunday 16 March (10am – 4pm) and on Saturday 5 April Ignite returns with wine and cheese.

I’d recommend checking out these events for yourself – even if you don’t live in the Unley area, the more successful they are, the more likely your own council will pick up on the idea!

*I’m aware our council rates pay for mundane, but very important, things like rubbish removal.  But seeing the money putting fun things in action is always good too!

Coopers Artisan Reserve


Coopers’ marketing people put together the best packaging!  The Artisan Reserve came in a box shaped like a book!

Disclaimer: Coopers sent me some of the new Artisan Reserve to try.

It’s been a very busy start to 2014 for South Australia’s Coopers Brewery. The family owned brewery ended 2013 having sold a whopping 72 million litres of beer, up almost 5% on 2012’s sales and a company record.

2014 will also see Coopers enter the booming cider market. The company has just signed an agreement with UK cider company, Thatchers, to keg and distribute Thatchers Gold (the second largest draught cider in the UK). Thatchers is also a family owned business and creates, in addition to its Gold, a range of single varietal and even vintage ciders. We all know that the Australian cider market is booming but unfortunately much of what is available is actually mass produced (see Max Allen’s excellent dissection of the cider market, published just before Christmas) so it’s great to see that Coopers has been able to enter the market by taking a different route.

And finally, 2014 sees the launch of Artisan Reserve. This is an unpasteurised pilsner, so it lines up well with Coopers’ bottle conditioned ales (such as Sparkling and Pale), which are also unpasteurised. I’m already a bit of a fan of the Celebration Ale so I was excited to try out this new beer.

Very generously, I shared one of my bottles with Andy, who is really the resident beer (rather than ale) expert in our household. Andy is already a fan of Coopers 62 (although he is not keen on the 355mL bottles!) and Coopers Lager is one of his ‘regular’ beers. However, his favourite beer of all is the Czech Budvar. As that’s a pilsner and Coopers has used Bavarian hops in producing the Artisan Reserve the Coopers offering was up against some stiff competition!

The verdict? Fortunately – extremely positive all round! The beer is dry, crisp and citrussy and, despite coming in at 5.5% alcohol, the beer is not dominated by the alcohol. We both thought it very similar to Czech pilsners such as Budvar and Urquell – which is high praise in this household.

The Artisan Reserve is widely available (cases of 355mL bottles retail for around $55) and you will see it in some bars on draught. During the week I spotted it at Regattas, where it was $6 for a schooner.

I know this, because I bought one!