On Tuesday my alarm went off at the unusually early time of 4:30am. I reached for it with as much ninja-like speed as I could, hoping to not wake my partner, but I’m really far too slow. Sorry honey. By 5:30am I was in a cab and on my way to the airport.
There are not many things I can think of that would get me out of bed at 4:30am but beer is indeed one of them. I was lucky to been invited to the Adelaide launch of this years Coopers Vintage Ale. Similar events were held on the same day in Melbourne and Sydney.
I arrived at Adeliade airport just before 11am, took a photo of the Coopers Alehouse bar at the airport and lamented the lack of craft beer at Perth airport, and set about getting a cab to Pirie & Co for the event.
After dawdling a little at the airport, checking my work phone and doing very important social media-ing etc, I arrived at the Pirie & Co about 5 minutes early. Just enough time to get a coffee …
… Though not quite enough time for me to finish it so I walked into the Coopers Vintage Ale launch with a take away flat white in hand and a sheepish look on my face. About 30 people were already there, most with a beer in hand. I downed the rest of my coffee and quickly disposed of the evidence via a friendly bartender who swapped my empty coffee cup for a schooner of Coopers Pale Ale. It went down effortlessly.
After a couple of beers and canapés we were asked to find a seat at one of three long tables set up in the venue’s Social Club, their underground speakeasy style bar below the main venue.
The lunch was introduced by Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director, who spoke of Coopers current standing, place in the beer market and, of course, their annual release Vintage Ale.
Coopers is 100% family owned and is the counties largest independent brewery by far. Cam was pleased to report that they are currently experiencing 4.7% growth, pretty good in a beer market that we keep hearing is in decline unless you’re a craft brewer.
Cam spoke positively about the growth of craft beer,
“It creates interest and engagement in beer”
Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director
Coopers seem to have a unique position in Australian beer drinkers minds.
“We are a gateway for those getting into craft and a welcome rest for geeks tired of a triple hopped beer,” Cam said. Coopers know they are not the small craft brewer with out-there beers or boundary pushing releases and nor do they want to be becuase in the same breath they are also not seen as the mass produced, corporate machine brewer.
Coopers Vintage Ale was first released in 1998 and this year marks the 15th release and yes, you’re right, that means they skipped a couple of years. The yeast used is always Coopers house strain but the hops are the key ingredient subject to change year to year.
The Coopers brewing team select the hops for the Vintage Ale by a process they call “hop idol”, rating each hop variety to find a winner, so to speak, though I don’t believe there is any singing involved.
The winner of this years “hop idol” was Melba, an Australian hop variety that is still relatively new. 100kg were used in the brew alongside Ella and Vic Secret hops. Styrian Golding and Cascade hops were used for dry hopping.
Dry Hopping: addition of hops post fermentation to add extra aroma
The result is that regular Coopers Vintage Ale drinkers may find this years release on the hoppier side compared to previous years and this is deliberate. Recognising palates have adjusted to bigger hop flavours and bitterness, the IBU on this years Vintage is a bit higher than previous releases, coming in at 60 IBU.
“60 is the new 40”
Cam Pearce, National Sales & Marketing Director
Generous samples of the 2010 and 2015 Vintage Ale’s were delivered to tables just before the mains were served. David Medlyn, Cooper’s Technical Brewer, introduced the two beers.
There is also a lot of crystal malt in this years release alongside some wheat for improved head retention. “With a good pair of snow shoes you could run across there,” Dave laughed.
Blood orange sorbet with a drizzle of Coopers Light
It was actually very surprising just how much difference there was between the 2010 and 2015 vintages. Colour wise, the 2010 was darker with a more red hue than its paler younger sibling. They are two entirely different beasts.
Side by Side Tasting of Coopers Vintage: 2010 on left, 2015 on right
2010 Vintage Ale: Packed with Christmas cake, honey, caramel and spicy red fruit aromas. Christmas cake follows strongly in the flavour alongside a faintly citrusy finish.
Coopers Vintage 2010
2015 Vintage Ale: Fresh passionfruit and citrus aroma; stone fruit, pithy citrus and grapefruit flavours dominate with a little spice that balances things out.
Coopers Vintage 2015
Wagyu Scotch Fillet with Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Smashed Kipfler Potatoes and a Coopers Sparkling Beef Jus
French Chocolate Tart with Coopers Stout Wafer
It was such a great experience to be able to attend this event, I have been holding onto a single bottle of the 2013 and 2014 Vintages and now with the 2015 I was looking forward to doing a vertical tasting however given what five years did for the 2010 I am inclined to leave this for a few more years.
Big thanks to Coopers and Corporate Conversation for inviting me to this event including paying for the return flights and cab charges to get from to and from Adelaide Airport. Not to mention the goodie bag we were sent home with and, as they have for the last three years, the media kit with three 2015 Vintage beers presented beautifully.