I’ve been the happy recipient of beer in the mail recently. Last week I received a parcel of O’Brien’s latest limited release, a couple of weeks earlier I received a lovely wooden box containing three bottles of Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2013.
When the Coopers arrived I opened the box excitedly and didn’t even touch the beers, just looked at them. They looked all snuggly and warm in their faux-straw beds I didn’t want to disturb them; it would appear that any maternal instincts I might have are translating weirdly.
It wasn’t until a fellow beer writer pointed it out that I realised the back labels of said bottles had been stuck on upsidedown. Perhaps this years vintage is channelling a little Mr Squiggle?
Sadly I didn’t have any 2012 vintage to do a comparison tasting and stores were all out too, well the whole two that I went to. I’ve therefore kept one of the three bottles in the hope of eventually having a concurrent set, that being 2013-2015. My partner used to work with fancy pants scotch and said he had a customer who would always buy three bottles of a scotch – one for drinking, one for keeping and one just in case. That is a theory I can get behind in this instance and as much as I’d like to do that with many other beers my bank balance couldn’t handle it. I also doubt my ability to resist that third “keeping” beer, damn my rubber arm!
So I have indulged in two of the three bottles of Coopers Extra Strong Vintage 2013.
The first was just to drink, no matching, just enjoying. I was surprised at how much melon flavour I got; there was a nice apricoty thing going on and a tartness at the finish. Fruity, boozy and not nearly as much up-in-your-face malt character as I had been expecting.
The second bottle I decided try to pair with dinner. I put the word out on Twitter for food pairings and The Quarie Bar + Brasserie suggested steak, stroganoff or stew – three suggestions I liked and not just for their alliterative efforts.
I decided to go with stroganoff and also, because apparently cooking one dish for dinner isn’t enough, did gnocchi with proscuitto.
Beef stroganoff was a simple and easy match richness and the beer easily cut through the dish. Sadly I went a little overboard with lemon in the dish so it was a little distracting.
My thinking behind the proscuitto was because of the melon flavour I had gotten from the first bottle and there’s something simply divine about proscuitto wrapped rockmelon. I hoped the combination would translate in the beer and gnocchi dish and I was totally right … well, at least half right. The salty prosciutto acted as a nice contrast to Coopers fruitiness and rich enough to stand up to the malt. The poor gnocchi however, the potato just didn’t stand a chance.
Thank you Coopers for sending me beer! Thank you very much!