It was 150 years ago this year that Thomas Cooper brewed his first beer and gave rise to the brewing empire that would become Australia’s biggest (Australian owned) brewery, loved by South Australians, home brewers and the type of people who frequent pubs with band rooms and sticky carpet.
Now I love Coopers, both Coopers Green and Red have a special place in my heart and certainly helped me understand beer better before the wave of craft brewers came along and moved it to a whole new level. Coopers home brew extracts helped me to brew my first beers before I moved on (some would say rather unsuccessfully) to full grain brewing.
So I thought I should to celebrate their 150th birthday and they have made that very easy to do by releasing the ‘Thomas Coopers Selection Celebration Ale.’ One would assume this would be a special beer, with a huge price, a big bottle and it might even be designed to be cellared. Sort of a Crown Ambassador for people who aren’t knobs, or a Murray’s Anniversary ale for the mainstream. But that’s not how Coopers think, instead they have produced a standard 5.2% Ale sold in 6 packs for $17 at Uncy Dan’s.
I would like to tell you that this is a bargain and this beer personifies everything that is great about Coopers. But I can’t. In fact I have not been as disappointed in a beer for a long time as I am with this one. It basically tastes like not very good homebrew, it’s dirty, yeasty and funky, but not in a good way, more in a wet bread way. There is almost no hop character in it either, which is odd given they claims it’s hops driven. I just don’t get this beer, it’s not special in any way and so disappointing – Pot.
After the disappointment of this I decided I should treat myself to what I knew was a good Cooper’s beer so I pulled out one of the Coopers 2011 Extra Strong Vintage Ale from the cupboard under the stairs and I can confirm that this was indeed a very nice beer. It looked fantastic, a dark copper colour with a creamy head and tons of fine yeast sitting at the bottom of the glass. The mouthfeel was a touch on the thin side and the malt is definitely dominating any hops, which means this ends up being quite sweet. It is probably a little early to be drinking this, but it’s still a great beer and I look forward to seeing how it matures over time – Pint.
So Coopers, thank you for everything you have done for the Australian beer industry since 1862. I shan’t be drinking your Celebration Ale again anytime soon, but I look forward to you releasing 150 more vintage ales, by which time it’ll be 2162 and I will be more robot than man.