Coopers needed to try something different. And the South Australian brewery’s attempt to break from the mould has been so successful it will soon be in the hands of more beer drinkers.
Amid concerns about whether the Coopers’ offerings were appealing to a more broader beer consuming market, the 157-year-old operation branched out with the release of an XPA at this year’s GABS Festival in Melbourne.
The event has become a reliable sounding board for local breweries wanting to test the market.
The response to the kegged XPA was so strong it has prompted Coopers to put the brew into distinctive purple cans that give the brand a funky new identity while retaining its traditional branding.
While at GABS, The Sip was one of the first consumers to try the 5.2% XPA and while it retains that distinctive Coopers taste – a result of the secondary fermentation – the new brew has plenty of fruity punch.
Coopers expects the new packaging to be on the shelves in a month.
XPA is a beer style that sits between an American Pale Ale and India Pale Ale. Coopers uses the American hops Simcoe and Lemondrop during the brewing process, providing bright citrus undertones with aromas of grapefruit, lemon and a hint of mandarin. It has an ABV of 5.2% and 37 international bitterness units (IBU).
Coopers Marketing and Innovation Manager Cam Pearce said XPA was still developing as a beer category and the brewery had released the beer to provide a high quality example of that beer style.
“The decision to only release XPA in cans reflects increasing consumer preference for this form of container,” he said.
“Coopers already offers Coopers Original Pale Ale, Session Ale and Mild Ale in cans, along with its lager beers Coopers Premium Lager and Coopers Premium Light.
“We are currently considering further expansion to this range.”
Ironically, Coopers was considered an almost rebellious alternative to macro lagers 30 years ago. But with the rise of independent breweries, the veteran operation was caught between being a big beer producer and not being crafty enough for those wanting new tastes.
As a result Coopers suffered a 9 per cent drop in sales last year – the first fall in 24 years.
However, the XPA and future beers that will push style barriers and appeal to a growing band of palate stretchers could help the brewery’s fortunes.