Tag Archives: Australia

48. Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale

This is the third and final one of the three beers in The Book to hail from the Adelaide-based Coopers Brewery, following on from their Sparkling Ale, and their Best Extra Stout. I happen to suspect that this one is a little bit special.

This is Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale. A few breweries put out a Vintage Ale, which will typically be a limited edition, once-yearly bottling of a strong, high quality ale. Each year’s vintage will tend to take on its own unique characteristics, and once in the bottle, will improve greatly for years to come.

This is one beer that I thought would be a challenge to get hold of—not least since these things typically become collectors’ items within weeks—until it silently and without fanfare appeared on the shelves of my favourite local boozeteria.

And knock me down with a feather if this isn’t the 2007 vintage, which was the first that was made available in the UK. The internet tells me there were only about 5,000 of these ever made. The bottle carries an oddly-specific “best after” date of 3:17pm on the 8th of June, 2007. No problem there then. It’s probably about time to drink the stuff.


Once again we see Coopers stock 375ml bottle, with a hefty dose of yeast at the bottom to allow the beer to continue to ferment and improve in the bottle. As with Coopers previous beers, there’s so much yeast in there that it’s impossible to pour the beer clear, even if you wanted to. Instead it pours a dark, cloudy ruby colour with absolutely no head at all.

I’ve very little idea what to expect from the flavour: my only point of reference for a Vintage Ale so far has been a couple of bottles of too-young Fuller’s Vintage Ale. That one is essentially a bottle-conditioned Barleywine, and there’s certainly a hint of Barleywine in the aroma of the Coopers brew.

There’s a lovely, spicy bonfire toffee note on top of that though, and I’m reminded strongly of Texels Bock, which is rich, sweet and thick, and tastes just like liquid Werther’s Original candy.

To taste, that sweetness is there in spades but it’s balanced with just enough bitterness to prevent it becoming cloying. The beer is still full of caramel and butterscotch, though, and the body is thick, rich and treacly.

At a nominal 7.5% ABV, the alcohol is warming without being overpowering, and I wonder if six years of bottle-conditioning hasn’t made it a little stronger than the label states. Either way, this is not an everyday beer by any means: it’s one to take time over and savour.

And it’s good. I’m not convinced that it’s six-year-wait good, but then I only bought it last week, so can’t have any complaints. Even so, I’ve a couple of bottles put aside in the Official 300 Beers Cellar—my kitchen cupboard—and I look forward to seeing how it performs with another couple of years behind it.

All in all, I have to admit that Coopers have single-handledly changed my perception of Australian beer over the last few weeks, a little like Brooklyn Brewery destroyed my prejudices about American beer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Coopers Brewery, Adelaide, South Australia
Style: Old Ales, Barley Wines and Vintage Ales
Strength: 7.5% ABV
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 375ml Bottle

45. Coopers Best Extra Stout

This is this blog’s second trip to the land of Oz, and also our second beer from Coopers, having enjoyed their famous Coopers Sparkling Ale a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I’ve also tried their Original Pale Ale once or twice, and found it to be most refreshing.

Truth be told, I’m developing a bit of an affection for this plucky Adelaide brewery, swimming as they are against the tide of flavourless golden lagers for which so many Australian drinkers have so much affection.

This beer is as far from your stubby of Foster’s as you’re likely to get Down Under: it’s a bloody great unfiltered, bottle-conditioned stout weighing in at 6.3% ABV.


Here we have Coopers signature 375ml bottle, and you know you’re in for something a little bit special when your beer has a “best after” date and no sign of a “best before”. This one’s label suggests it should not be drunk until after 9:12 in the morning on Boxing Day 2011. No problems there then. By my maths this one has at least a year and a half under its belt already.

That’s good, because being bottle-conditioned, just like the Sparkling Ale, there’s a good dose of yeast sat in the bottom of the bottle, helping the beer to ferment in the bottle, and to continue to improve year upon year.

While many brewers recommend that you let their bottle-conditioned beers settle upright, then pour carefully so as not to land the yeast in your glass, Coopers helpfully suggest a variety of rolling, twisting and agitating rituals, each one tailored to the specific beer, to reintegrate the yeast in to the beer before pouring. I just gave it a little shake.

Coopers Best Extra Stout pours as black as you like, as befits a quality stout, with a big tan head that sticks around tenaciously. The nose is all dark bitter chocolate, freshly-ground coffee and soot courtesy of the roasted malts. It’s a stout alright.

It’s reasonably full-bodied, though lacking the sheer velvet luxury of the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which I’m aware that I mention in every single review, or The Kernel’s magnificent Imperial Brown Stout.

That said, the Coopers offering is easier-drinking and more gluggable than those two hooligans, whilst still being a big, big stout. There’s a hefty, raisiny dried fruit flavour in there which reminds me, interestingly enough, of Bishop’s Finger and a massively dry, bitter finish that embiggens as the beer reaches room temperature.

This is a good stout and no mistake. In fact I suspect it’s the best stout being made in Australia right now, though I’d be delighted to hear of a better one. It’s still eclipsed by several British stouts, obviously, but it puts many of our weaker efforts to shame. Good stuff once again from Coopers.

We’ll be returning to Coopers Brewery one more time, and quite soon. Stay tuned, because I have an inkling that the third and final Coopers beer might just be something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Coopers Brewery, Adelaide, South Australia
Style: Porters and Stouts
Strength: 6.3% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 375ml Bottle

9. Coopers Sparkling Ale

This is the first of several visits we’ll be making to Australia, and I must admit to having been intrigued by this one since I laid my hands on it a few days ago.

Coopers Brewery was founded some 151 years ago by a Yorkshireman who made his way to South Australia, from whence comes this rather smart-looking and unusually-sized 375ml bottle. Let’s have a look.


There may well be a reason for the unusual size of the bottle, since about 45ml of its contents are pure yeast sediment. There must be an inch of the stuff here. It isn’t pretty, but it isn’t a bad sign. It does mean that there’s really no way to pour this beer clear, so I didn’t try particularly hard.

We’re left with a hearty glass of hazy blonde ale, which seems to have less sparkle than the name might suggest.

There is a slight effervescence, which contributes to a surprisingly light, refreshing beer, and helps to deliver a subtle yet pleasant hoppy bitterness direct to the tastebuds. Beyond that, nothing in particular about the flavour really jumps out, but it’s certainly drinkable stuff.

Whilst one doesn’t like to perpetuate stereotypes, I can see this being a good beer to be served chilled around the barbie, or perhaps enjoyed on the beach in a pair of budgie smugglers. More realistically for us Brits, Coopers Sparkling Ale would make a satisfying accompaniment to a good curry.

An enjoyable enough beer, and it’ll be interesting to see what else Australia has to offer as we drink our way around the world.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Coopers Brewery, Adelaide, South Australia
Style: Pale Ales
ABV: 5.8%
Found at: Waitrose, Whitecross Street, London EC1
Dispense: 375ml Bottle-conditioned