Coopers of Adelaide is one of my favorite Aussie breweries. It is also possibly the only surviving 19th century brewery to remain in the hands of the original family. While the Malt Shovel Brewery tries to reinvent the brews of James Squire, Coopers has maintained many of its own original recipes and yeast strains. Here in Singapore, three of its brews are readily available: a stout ale, a sparkling ale and a pale ale.
The Best Extra Stout (ABV 6.8%) is the most exceptional, and has been noted as Australia's best beer on several occasions. It’s very thin for a stout, with negligible head, but offers a wide range of flavors in every sip. It typically starts with a burnt or toasted taste followed by notes of chocolate, coffee, toffee and black cheery. It’s marvelously complex. Although bottle-conditioned, it does not have an overwhelming yeasty taste. This comes in second for my favorite dark beer, right after MacAusland’s Oatmeal Stout from Montreal. It’s also my second-favorite Aussie beer.
The pale and sparkling ales are similar in make and taste – but the latter is more impressive, and has found praise from world-renowned beer hunter Michael Jackson. Cooper's claims that its Sparkling Ale (ABV 5.8%) is made according to the same recipe that it developed in 1862. Given that it is nothing like the filtered, pasteurized and homogenized brews that dominate the planet... I imagine that there is a great deal of truth in that claim. Whether it is cloudy or sparkling depends on the pour. For me, it is a cloudy. I tend to pour two-thirds of the beer, swirl the sediment in the bottle and pour the remainder. The result is a swirl of cloud with touches of dark yeast that settle in the glass like as if it were a negative-image snowglobe. The taste has been better described elsewhere:
Coopers Sparkling Ale pours to a very cloudy, opaque, pale blond color, with a dense white head, and a very vibrant and lively carbonation. Like with a good German hefeweizen, you want to roust the yeast and pour it in this beer. The nose on this beer is very inviting with zesty, lemony, sherbet like hops aromas, paired with fresh bready and yeasty aromas. The palate is firm with lots of crisp, tart, malt flavors, and flavors of fresh bread, that dance with some estery fruit on the tongue. Coopers Sparkling Ale finishes with more crisp and tart flavors up front, then ends with some nice grapefruit/lemony hop bitterness, that buzz on the tongue with a sting of carbonation.The Pale Ale (ABV 4.5%) is less impressive, and with good reason. I spoke with one of the brewery representatives who was in Singapore for a promotional tour. He said, essentially, that the Pale Ale was an attempt to lure drinkers of lower-alochol beers and lagers. It's decent, but compared with the brewery's other fare it is wanting. There's more to come for Australia week, and if any Australia-based bloggers care to contribute, do contact Alan.
A few months ago I posted about the names for beer glasses and noted that Australia has some of the most complex set of descriptors which change on a state by state basis. The other day I found this handy chart which explains it all so we that I thought I would
entirely igonre any copyright interest in it and share it with you.
Click on it for a large version that should explain itself. You may want to click on the original larger version for a supersized one depending on your browser. Why go for a middy when you can have a schooner, mate.
Although Australia's best known beer is justly condemned by foreigners and locals alike, the lucky country offers some of the new world's finest beers. Regrettably, this organ A Good Beer Blog does not (yet) have an Australian correspondent, leaving the task up to this Singapore-based blogger. Most of the continent's finest brews never get farther than local microbreweries and bottleshops, but thankfully recently passed free-trade legislation has allowed more of Australia's ales and lagers to flow into this city state - never again question that free trade is a good thing.
For starters, Sydney's Malt Shovel Brewery produces some of Oz's finest brews. Two are available locally in Singapore, the James Squire Original Amber Ale and James Squire Pilsner. The first is pleasant amber with a wonderfully creamy head, smooth mouthfeel and nutty finish. The brewery's website describes it quite well:
The first brew from the Malt Shovel Brewery is an amber ale, branded James Squire in honour of Australia's first brewer, who first brewed beer in Sydney in 1794. This premium hand-crafted ale is a unique brew of three malts and three tasmanian hops added late to the kettle plus an original 125 year old, top fermenting ale yeast, creating an easy-drinking, deep copper-coloured ale with distinct richness, creamy head, and a slightly utty finish.The pilsner is equally impressive – particularly given the regrettable adoption of the term by middling international lagers. MSB makes a pilsen with a long-lasting creamy head:
Brewer tasting notes: A blend of pale, crystal and carapils malts produces a distinctive coppery colour, rich malt sweetness and persistent creamy head. The flavour is very ale-like with a lingering slightly nutty finish. Willamette hops are added late in the kettle boil for a refreshing citrus (almost grapefruit) hop character.
The key to the distinctive flavour of James Squire Original Pilsener is the use of quality ingredients. Using a much higher hopping level than most Australian lagers, it's brewed with Czech Saaz and New Zealand Belgian Saaz aroma hops to produce the pronounced floral spicy finish and wonderful herbaceous aroma. A blend of pale malt from Tamworth and Munich malt from Ballarat,with no sugar, produces the rich mellowness and rounded palate to balance the hoppy bitterness. The colour is a distinctive golden brilliance.MSB also make a glorious porter. It is not yet available here - but anyone making a visit to Australia should try it.
The Sunshine Coast Brewery is less impressive, judging from the samples of Noosa Premium Wheat Ale and Robinsons Chilli Beer. Lisa sampled the 'wheat' beer – which was clearer in color than most other wheat ales, and incredibly light. Had it not come in a clearly labeled beer bottle, I may have mistaken it for water. There's a slight musty scent and it finished with a very, very, slight hint of lemon. The website notes:
This is a delightfully light and crisp wheat based beer that is easy to drink and a favorite for both the gents and ladies. We use the top fermentation process to achieve a clean crisp and very refreshing Ale that may be served with a slice of lemon or lime.To which Lisa commented: "Uh huh, it needs a slice of lemon to give it some flavor." Still, she noted that it was inoffensive and easy to drink... "I could drink a dozen of these, it's like water."
It's more or less like making love in a canoe. Consider it a 'girl' beer. Others who have sampled this one have called it an Aussie Corona. The chilli beer was, to be charitable, marginally better – if only because it did have some flavor. It wasn't much of a flavor, just a hint of chilli with an acidic aftertaste. Bleah. Clearly not the best Oz has to offer.
More coming tomorrow...
This week will see some posts here at A Good Beer Blog focusing on the scene in Australia, that warmer other Canada, the place to which the smarter cousins immigrated. Australia might win the award as AGGB nation of the year except they would probably win every year with stats like this:
Australia has always been a nation of heavy drinkers, but a new study has finally attached a dollar value to our thirst for alcohol – about $80 out of a family's budget every week. The research by Victorian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre Odyssey House claims a family of four – two parents in their 40s, a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl – would spend an average of $4135 buying the equivalent of 37 litres of pure alcohol every year. The consumption equals 883 stubbies of medium/full strength beer, 171 stubbies of low alcohol beer, 77 bottles of wine, 311 bottles of pre-mixed spirits, 8.4 casks of wine and 13.9 bottles of neat spirits.Holy Aussie-moly!! Put another way, by the newspaper The Australian, "over a year, a family of four spends about $4135 on alcohol, guzzling on average 44 slabs of beer, 14 bottles of spirits and 77 bottles of wine." What is a "slab" of beer? Whatever it is, it is a great name for it. And seeing as there are still at least 4,000 members of the Australian Temperance Union, that is a slab or two more for the rest of Oz. In terms of beer consumption per capita, Canada ranks 16th in the world which is well behind Australia at 11th - no average Czech...but who is?
Coming up over the next few days we will have some reviews and other stories from correspondents on the front lines. In the meantime here are some Aussie homebrewers on the radio and here is my quick note on the only Aussie real ale available here in Ontario, Cooper's Sparking Ale.
I was reading the news this week about another health related claim for beer:
- Alcohol-free beer 'stops cancer' says the BBC
- Non-alcoholic beer could help mice fight cancer writes Reuters
- Non-alcoholic beer may protect against cancer says The Australian
...researcher Dr Sakae Arimoto- Kobayashi said the study did not mean alcoholic beer had the same effect. "The total benefits and risks of beer with alcohol are still under consideration."The BBC also includes a caption from Dame Helen Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation: "We would not encourage anyone to drink more beer with the aim of preventing cancer."
Seeing as the stuff given the mice as described in the abstract (a dried powder mixed with water) is as distant from grocery shelf non-alcoholic beer as it is from real ale from the wood, it is odd that the warnings against taking this news as a recommendation all relate to the intake of alcoholic beer as opposed to both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Odd, too, given the indication in the abstract that the tests involved lager and stout style powder, that there is no support to the idea that maybe alcoholic beer is actually good for you...because I have never seen non-alcoholic stout.
In the end, these reports reveal the classic recourse to discomfort about science, health and beer (a 20th century phenomena) which is, sadly, much more about puritanism than science.
It's certainly a dilemma that I have, trying to record and describe the taste characteristics of beer objectively. Those familiar with British TV and with the wine journalist Jilly Goulden might be tempted to inject some of her spirit into the proceedings and use adjectives like 'rubber tyres' and 'sweaty socks' but for me such outlandish descriptions never quite work, so I was very glad to discover the Beer Academy's Beer Flavour Wheel. The Beer Academy, started by The Beer Education Trust, offers courses on a wide range of beer education topics:
"Beer is a wildly sensuous brew, but most drinkers fail to appreciate the massive range of colours, styles, flavours, textures, carbonations and abvs now available in Britain. This is something the Beer Academy is determined to help change.Over 100 different flavours, in beers from around the world, have been identified by flavour experts. These flavours have been arranged in the form of the Flavour Wheel. A sort of cross between a pie-chart and a list. I hope that, like me, you will find this a useful tool. The wheel can be found at the website of The Beer Academy.
These flavour terms are used by beer tasters internationally to describe the beer flavour and to control product consistency. In fact it was such a good idea that is has now been stolen by the wine and whisky industries who have developed their own flavour wheels!