Due to popular demand (i.e. one anonymous comment), this week Stu from Real Beer has been tasting some of the offerings from the Western Isle ...
Much like the brewing industry in New Zealand and the rest of the world, Australian brewing is dominated by a few multinational giants that specialise more in marketing brands than making great beer. Not at Cooper's Brewery in Adelaide however. Cooper's are one of Australia's leading lights, and definitely the oldest, in a slowly growing surge against that tide.
Much has been made of Cooper's steadfast independence, especially after Lion Nathan failed attempt to purchase the company during the last financial year. The greatest positive of this failed attempt for me was the retention of one of the best "house yeasts" in Australasia, if not the world. The same Cooper's yeast has been used for around a hundred years and has evolved characteristics that are completely unique to their beers. A buy-out could well have seen a move in brewing operations and the loss of that unique yeast.
Cooper's beers have a distinctive round label that most of you would have seen. The Sparkling Pale Ale (red label) and Best Extra Stout (yellow label) are deservedly famous, but I often find myself drinking a couple of the lesser-known family members.
Bright yellow gold, when poured off the yeast, the Original Pale Ale (green label) is crisp and displays some subtle lime and stonefruit characteristics on the nose. In the mouth it's dry and pithy with a grassy bitterness that cleanses the palate nicely. With the yeast it's muddy gold, slightly fruitier and more rounded on both the nose and the palate. With or without the yeast it's a lovely drop - your choice.
Pouring a deep chestnut colour, with brief light tan foam, the Dark Ale (brown label) exhibits lovely cocoa and coffee notes on the nose before unveiling a whiff of cinnamon and that stonefruit yeast character. It's softer in the mouth, than it's pale brother, but is still quite dry and clean. It's very light bitterness makes it a good drinker for those who are not used to beers that are a little left (or right) of the mainstream. I've only recently discovered the Dark Ale and think it's one of the best examples of a mild ale on this side of the world.
Both beers can be drunk all year 'round and suit any occasion from barbeque to black-tie events. The Original Pale Ale is widely available in supermarkets and bottle stores, while the Dark Ale is a worthy reward for the keenest beerhunters. All Cooper's ales are re-fermented in the bottle (hence the yeast sediment) and as such remain very drinkable for a couple of years. They even contain a "best after" date instead of the usual "best before."
It's best for us that they keep on brewing...
Slainte mhath Stu
LINKS: Ratebeer opinions on Cooper's beers
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