Lifestyle Food & Wine Coopers: Tall, Dark, Handsome
Coopers: Tall, Dark, Handsome
Written by Dr Sergio Starkstein & Dr Bradleigh Hayhow
Tuesday, 27 June 2017

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First an acknowledgement of bias: one of us was raised in Adelaide and baptised in the holy waters of the Coopers Leabrook brewery. The other is not biased (except perhaps in his exposure to most of the beers in Belgium) thus giving rise to one of our most divergent tastings yet…

The Beers:

Best Extra Stout (6.3%)

The Best Extra Stout is presented as a top-fermented beer, with maturation in the bottle which enhances the flavour of the finest barley malt, and with aromatic hops. This Stout has a rich, almost opaque colour, with a nose typical of a good stout. Taste was pleasant, creamy, with a smooth ending, and reminded us of coffee grounds and dark chocolate. We found this Stout gentle to the palate and more drinkable than Guinness. One of Australia’s best stouts. Score: 8/10

Mild Ale (3.5%)

First, we have to admit that one of us is against the mid-strength category (is that still a beer?). The Mild Ale is cloudy with some body, but not enough taste to make it worthwhile. Perhaps its market is those thirsty people looking for a beverage that looks like a full-strength beer, but won’t lead to embarrassment in public. At the very least, it is better than a mid-strength lager. Score: 3/10

Sparkling Ale (5.8%)

The Sparking Ale is presented as having a distinctive balance of malt, hops and fruity characters. Sparkling it is, with high carbonation a distinctive feature. Unfortunately, the head didn’t hold and the aroma was uninviting. Tasted like a mild Indian Pale Ale, with sweet notes. Not a bad entry point for ales. Score: 6/10

Premium Lager (4.8%)

This beer is presented as having a “refreshing 27062017---COOPERS---TIM-COOPER-2017-25flavour, with a good balance of malt and hop characters”. It is certainly a lager, but does little to distinguish itself from other common brands. It is a refreshing beer with a clean finish, but no hops were detected. Score: 4/10

Original Pale Ale (4.5%)

The Pale Ale is described as “fruity and with floral characters balanced with a crisp bitterness.” This ale has a good foamy head and a nice, cloudy, amber colour. Good nose and tasting of hops. Score: 6/10

Dark Ale (4.5%)

The Dark Ale is described as “starting fresh and creamy, finishing with a lingering coffee flavour.” This beer has a good threading of head on glass. It is malty, fruity with a slight taste of molasses. There’s still a little room for improvement in this promising younger cousin to the Best Extra Stout. Score: 7/10

The Verdict

Coopers offers a good range of beers for regular drinking and we’re big fans of top fermentation. We were most impressed by the dark offerings, but would never pit them against the splendid Belgian Ales. We did not have an opportunity to taste the Extra Strong Vintage Ale, which would at least have competed on alcohol content. Coopers faces a challenge in balancing its strong and iconic brewing tradition with a global demand for innovation and improvement – but its footings are sound.