We all have things that we look forward to each year. Many wine lovers feverishly anticipate the annual release of Penfold’s Grange, this year selling for more than $500 per bottle.
Me, I’m a man of much simpler tastes. I look forward to the annual release of Coopers Vintage Ale. It really is one of the highlights of my beer year. It’s a beer that I can generally enjoy upon purchase, but it is also a beer that I find ages wonderfully for several years. Whereas the Grange provides years of anticipation before, hopefully, the eventual enjoyment of drinking it, the annual Coopers Vintage provides years of anticipation that is paired with regular enjoyment.
I don’t suggest that any comparison can be drawn between the inherent quality of Grange and Coopers Vintage, it’s impossible to compare such different beasts. I also don’t know that Coopers would ever suggest that their humbly priced annual strong ale is the Grange of beers, but it is a beer that rewards the beer drinker now and into the future.
What’s more, at about $70 per carton, it is a bargain as a long term cellaring prospect. While you might consider the odd bottle of most annual releases, or even a six-pack, this is a beer that I recommend you buy by the carton each year and consume it slowly over a number of years, enabling you to enjoy a vertical tasting of vintages as the years go by.
Here’s how to build your own Cooper’s Vintage time machine:
- In the first year (2011), by a carton – leaving yourself a six-pack to enjoy during the year.
- Second year (2012), another carton – enjoy a couple of bottles of 2012 and a couple of bottles of 2011 during the year.
- Third year (2013), another carton – enjoying a couple of bottles of 2011, 2012 and 2013.
- Fourth year (2014) , another carton, this year a four year vertical tasting.
As each year progresses you have more beers to enjoy, so it becomes slightly easier to consume less from each vintage – assuming you can show some restraint! After four years you should aim to still have a six-pack of the 2011 still in your cellar to trot out one bottle a year for the following few years. It’s a fascinating experiment.
We have looked at cellaring beer before and also how beer ages on Brews News. There is no need for high-tech wine fridges, I have successfully used an old esky in the corner of the garage, up against the bricks on the earthen side of the house. This keeps it as cool as anywhere and also moderates temperature fluctuations.
I have often found the Vintage Ale to have a very course bitterness in the year of vintage, covered slightly by the rich malt profile of the 7.5 per cent beer. However, as it ages, this moderates and a wonderful caramel comes to the fore, developing sherry and Madeira notes after three or four years. As always it is very much a matter of personal tastes and preference as to when the beer reaches its peaI have personally found the Vintage Ales have reached their peak after around three years, but am still fascinated at seeing how they are developing which enhances the enjoyment that each year’s beer brings. The 2010 was a little different and I found it to have a much more moderate, gentler bitterness in its year of vintage that I feel may see it age a little differently the the previous few. It is drinking extremely well right now.
The 2011 is bursting with tropical fruit on the nose that carries through to the mid-palate and it carries a more assertive bitterness than the 2010.
I have often said that you can happily live a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget, and it is beers such as the Coopers Vintage Ale that make it possible.
Enjoy with rib on the bone with a blue cheese melt.
Coopers Brewery has released its 2011 Extra Strong Vintage Ale.
Launched today at a special event at the Coopers Alehouse in Adelaide, this limited release beer is the 11th vintage in the celebrated series.
Coopers’ Managing Director and Chief Brewer, Dr Tim Cooper, described the 2011 Vintage Ale as a “rich and sensuous” brew that pampered the senses.
“As the cornerstone for this year’s brew, we have used choice premium South Australian barley grown in the pristine region of the Clare Valley,” he said.
“We have sourced the best available hops from around the world including Styrian Golding, Magnum and Perle from Europe, Amarillo from the USA and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand.
“The pronounced hop aroma and distinctive hop flavours derive from the complex balance achieved from these complementary hop varieties.
“The beer can certainly be enjoyed now, and with careful cellaring the rounded, sweet caramel and toffee flavours will further develop with age.”
The alcohol content remains at 7.5% alcohol by volume, retaining Vintage Ale’s title as the strongest beer brewed by Coopers and one of the stronger beers produced in the wonderful world of brewing.
Coopers Marketing Director and Chairman, Mr Glenn Cooper, said the release of the 2011 Vintage Ale was once again timed to coincide with the colder months.
“The 2011 Vintage Ale provides a welcome shot of stimulant that acts as an antidote to the coldness of winter,” he said.
“This year, Coopers will only release 15,000 cases of the new Vintage.
“As in previous years, we expect that limited production and strong demand will see stocks go quickly.”
Dr Tim Cooper said that on pouring, the 2011 Vintage Ale displayed a thick creamy head suspended on a brew displaying a deep copper hue, similar in apparence to an aged premium muscat.
“The initial impressions on aroma are of freshly cut grass from the German hop varieties Magnum and Perle, as well as the spicy aromas that typify the attributes of the Styrian Golding variety,” he said.
“This is followed by the complex flavour of tropical fruity esters like kiwi fruit, pineapple, pear, red apple and oranges, which are associated with Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo hop varieties.”
Dr Cooper said the strong flavour of the 2011 Vintage Ale was best matched with warm wholesome dishes, containing either meat or poultry.
“It also complements sweet desserts and strong cheeses,” he said.
Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale was first released in 1998, with further vintages in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The 2011 Vintage Ale is priced from around $70 per carton, or around $20 per sick pack of 375ml bottles.
Tasting notes for the 2011 Vintage Ale are attached.
Brewer’s tasting notes for 2011 Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale
Vintage Ale 2011 continues the hallmark of the finest brewing tradition offered by the Cooper family. A rich and sensuous brew that pampers the senses, providing a welcome shot of stimulant that acts as an antidote to the coldness of winter.
As the prerequisite in previous years, the brewing team of Coopers have only used the highest quality ingredients in order to produce this complex Vintage Ale.
Coopers used the “pick of the crop” premium Australian barley grown in the pristine region of the Clare Valley as the cornerstone in this year’s brew.
Coopers also sourced the best available hop ingredients around the world to complement this product. After careful consideration, the brewing team used Styrian Goldings from England, Magnum and Perle from Germany, Amarillo from America and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. These contrasting and complementing varieties provide both hop aroma and intriguing flavour to this beer.
Pure water was used to formulate this brew from the brewery’s natural underground aquifers located on site. The mineral content was refined using a patented process to provide a composition that is suited to brewing Strong Ales.
Coopers own unique ale yeast was used for primary fermentation before applying a specialised technique of pre-conditioning the same strain to carry out the secondary fermentation and conditioning in the bottle, in such a way that the yeast within is maintained in a healthier state for longer. This is needed as the yeast inside the bottle is required to maintain freshness of flavour in the presence of strong level of alcohol of 7.5% vol.
The 2011 Extra Strong Vintage Ale was handcrafted with much care and without use of preservatives or additives and pasteurisation was strictly avoided.
On pouring, the 2011 Extra Strong Vintage Ale displays a thick creamy head suspended on a liquid displaying a dark copper hue, much like an aged old premium muscat in appearance.
The initial impressions on aroma are of freshly cut grass from the German hop varieties Magnum and Perle as well as the spicy aromas that typifies the attributes of the Styrian Goldings variety, followed by the complex flavour of tropical fruity esters like Kiwi fruit, pineapple, pear, red apple and oranges, which are associated with Nelson Sauvin and Amarrillo hop varieties.
The initial palate displays some citrus and orange peel overtones from the Amarillo hops, whilst the middle palate exhibits smooth and clean minty undertones, principally from the Magnum hops but also from the harmonious interactions of the other four hop varieties used.
Toffee and caramel flavours combine with the higher alcohol to provide a balanced warming fullness on the aftertaste. As this beer ages, it develops a more rounded flavour and aroma where the caramel and toffee notes starts to become more prominent and the after bitterness tends to be softened with the development of sweeter flavours.
Because of the strong flavour of this beer, it is a good match with foods that are wholesome containing either meat or poultry. It also compliments after dinner sweet deserts and strong cheeses or just by itself. To fully appreciate the complex interactions of aroma and taste in this Strong Ale, Coopers recommends serving this beer in a Snifter or Tulip glass.
Please enjoy the 2011 Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale, but you better be quick as it is only on limited release.