With the release of Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2015 today, the Coopers brewers have each nominated their favourites from the series.
Coopers brewing manager Jon Meneses, technical manager Simon Fahey, operations manager Nick Sterenberg and managing director Dr Tim Cooper have all been involved with vintage since its conception in 1998. They spoke exclusively with Australian Brews News ahead of the 2015 release.
Fahey said he had recently conducted a vertical tasting of 2010 through to 2014 and was impressed at the staying power of some of the older vintages.
“The 2010 still had a lot of hop spiciness,” he said.
But Fahey nominated the 2008 as his favourite, “just because I like the hops we used, Fuggles and Styrian Golding, I’m a bit of a Fuggles fan”.
“But the majority of the time, it’s the current vintage that is always the freshest and that’s the one that we’re probably the most excited about.”
For Meneses, 2014 and 2012 have been the standouts. “The reason why I like those is the longevity of the hop character that is still being shown,” he said.
“Over a period of time it develops a sweet caramel type of character, but to be able to still have bitterness and hop aroma close to 12 months and beyond, is a good indication of how good that particular vintage is,” he said.
There are no favourites for Nick Sterenberg, who said he just enjoys vintage ale at six to 18 months of age, “that’s my sweet spot”.
“After bottle conditioning here at the brewery for six weeks or more, all of those flavours are starting to come together, but they really do become a complete beer – in my opinion – after six months,” he said.
Sterenberg said vintage ales typically maintain their more robust hop character for about a year and a half.
“After that, the hop character continues to fall away and the malty characters start to dominate. Lots of people really like that, but for me it starts to become a little bit less interesting,” he said.
Managing director Dr Tim Cooper, meanwhile, has a particular soft spot for the 2011 release.
“The 2011 Vintage was brewed with malt produced from barley grown in the Clare Valley, but most significantly the flavour was enhanced with a potpourri of hops added late in the brewing process,” he said.
“The German hop varieties of Magnum and Perle provided a fresh herbaceous character, and Styrian Goldings (from Slovenia) added a spicy note. Finally, the hop bouquet was augmented by fruity notes of Kiwi fruit, pineapple, red apple and citrus fruits arising the addition of the hop varieties Nelson Sauvin (from New Zealand) and Amarillo (from the United States).
“Each year the Vintage has something of interest to offer, but I do have a reasonable recollection of this version of 2011 having an enticing hop character which was both broad in scope and intriguing in flavour and aroma notes,” Dr Cooper said.