Happy 150th Birthday Chimay and Coopers


It’s remarkable how the stars can align sometimes. With a remarkable, almost what could be referred to as biblical timing, it turns out that two of my favourite brewers are celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year. Both Coopers Brewery in Adelaide and Chimay – brewed by Trappist Monks in Belgium – both started way back in 1862. Both were also started by men of religion too. Thomas Cooper was a lay Methodist preacher, and the monks of Chimay were ….uhhmm …..Monks.

Coopers’ success has carried on through seven generations and it is now the country’s largest Australian-owned brewery, and third largest in scale behind Foster’s and Lion Nathan. They generally haven’t let their guard down too much in production, however Coopers 62 Pilsner is right up there on my  “Do Not Drink”  list (nice bottle though)

Cooper’s used to be laughed at for concentrating on ale, in particular cloudy ales. But the brewery has had the last laugh. It has broken out of its heartland of South Australia and is enjoying growing national sales. And I love the fact that they have resisted the lure of selling out to the big boys, and is now the largest Australian owned brewery, after all these years still remaining family owned. In fact when brewing giant Lion Nathan, owner of Castlemaine, Toohey’s and others, attempted to buy Cooper’s in 2005, 94.6 per cent of the 117 shareholders, mainly family members, turned down an offer worth $450 million. I guess you could say that they politely told Lion Nathan they couldn’t give a XXXX for its offer!

Where all this is going though is to let you know that the Coopers Brewery has marked its 150-year milestone by releasing a Celebration Ale.

I was lucky enough to sit down with my neighbour over a six pack of the new Celebration Ale, which came with tasting notes and a rather spiffy booklet too, but rather than just let you know what they think of it, I thought I should probably do my job and give you my notes….

The beer pours a dark amber colour, reminding me of the colour of wet Violet Crumble honeycomb. It looks quite different from their normal ales, closer in colour to their Vintage range of beers. As is the norm with Cooper’s beers, there is a cloudy appearance due to the secondary fermentation that happens in the bottle. 

On the nose it is very citrusy, there is a touch of spice, but the driving force is the hops. Apparently three different hops varieties have been utilised – Centennial from the USA, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand and Pride of Ringwood from Australia (that comes from the spiffy little book and not my tasting notes).

On the tongue it’s more bitter than most of the other beers on the market, probably not as hoppy as Fat Yak but getting somewhere close. There isn’t too much carbonation, but I think this helps the bitterness and spices come through. The head laces off pretty quickly too.

The slightly reduced fizz makes this super drinkable and the hop bitterness means it would pair really well with a range of foods. Coopers have always been more about taste and flavour rather than alcohol content which is just a product of the fermentation. In this case the Coopers Celebration Ale comes in at 5.2%, a little above their Pale which is 4.5%, below their Vintage at 7.5% but still above VB which is 4.6%.

Because of the strong flavour of this beer, it is a good match with foods that are spicy; contain meat or just matching with strong cheese. The beer is being released in 355mL bottles only (my only complaint with the beer really) and is about $55 a carton. If the anniversary brew proves popular enough, Cooper says it could become a regular brand.

My biggest tip with this would be that it should be had cold, but not freezing cold, in a large glass to really help get those aromas into your nose whilst you swallow your next mouthful. If you manage to find it somewhere on tap, then buy it by the jug!

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