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How Coopers Vintage Ale saved grand final day

Coopers Vintage Ale 2013-15

The text message a few seconds after the final siren was enough to turn any man – or woman - to drink.

And many WA football fans did around the time the phone buzzed last Saturday afternoon. So, too, did one loyalist to a Melbourne-based AFL team, albeit for a different reason.

In this northern suburbs household, the only hope held for the AFL Grand Final was for Jimmy Barnes to pump out some old Cold Chisel. Collingwood was about as popular to the family as a dentist at a Magpies supporters open day and West Coast presented its own version of Japanese water torture as the constant media drips splashed a nauseating pool of Eagles news over everybody in Perth – whether you signed up for the program or not.

So when the Eagles landed the flag the feeling was akin to turning up to a rock band fancy dress party in a business suit. There was no sense of belonging.

Yet because you live on the west coast there is the chance you might barrack for the team of the same name. That was the guess of a good friend and senior brewer at a major beer brand in Victoria. His congratulatory message was appreciated in spirit and thought. In reality it was the tipping point.

There would be no celebration for this Hawthorn fan. No, stuff it. There would be.

And it would involve toasting success with a high-grade beer. One that was saved for future enjoyment.

Ignoring the calls from mates to join in the Eagles party there was a reach for the DVD catalogue. Like delving into the lucky dip the videos of the 2013 to 2015 AFL grand finals were miraculously drawn to hand.

What a coincidence those matches were won by the Hawks. Funny that!

To make the trip down TV memory lane more nostalgic, three beers were pulled from the cellar. Not too many brews can, like Alastair Clarkson’s triple treat of Hawthorn teams, stand the test of time.

Coopers Vintage Ale Stash

Coopers’ Vintage Ale can. At least it can in bottles. Similarly to the strategy of a good AFL talent scout on draft day, the annual release of the Coopers’ special requires one to be selected for today with another two to emerge better and bolder over time.

A disciplined outlook from a decade ago has filled the cellar with a stash of Vintage Ale from various years.

Like the physical challenge rugged Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge gave the meek Fremantle forward line on the big day in 2013, the Extra Strong drop from Adelaide was the best performed of the trio in the vertical tasting.

Despite the five years on the shelf hoppiness lingered like the silky skills of veteran Shaun Burgoyne, giving a pleasant aroma that proved age had not left the brew weary.

The 2014 Vintage Ale generated the feeling of Christmas Day, which was fitting because the Hawthorn victory over Sydney provided that year’s best present of all. One taste of that season’s brew conjured thoughts of the cake the family matriarch would prepare on the big day in December. Spicy with plenty of fruitiness, lashings of maltiness and a dip of honey, this was the pick of the grand final evening reviews.

That is not to say there wasn’t a lot to like to about the 2015. That year’s vintage was the 15th version of the brew and like the others it sat right on 7.5%. There was a stronger alcohol element in mouthfeel than they previous incarnations and the citrus foundation was still strong. But there was no doubt this beer would be even nicer with another year on hold. Fortunately, there are another couple where that came from.

In similar fashion to West Coast in that season’s premiership decider the experience would eventually be better a few years down the track. Yet it was Hawthorn fans that got to relish that sweet taste of success that spring. It still lingers.

The Vintage Ale releases are a credit to a great servant of Australian brewing. The concept of taking the finest possible ingredients to create a one-off release every year has been driven by Dr Tim Cooper since the concept started in 1998.

It was also a wonderful achievement for Dr Cooper to be appointed President of the largest global professional body representing brewers, distillers, maltsters and cider makers, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD).

The IBD is based in the United Kingdom and has more than 5000 members across 102 countries.

As Brett Heffernan, chief executive of the Brewers Association of Australia relayed this week, “Tim is a living legend, respected by all across the entire alcohol industry and he brings with him a wealth of experience to the leadership of IBD along with a dedication to excellence that will serve the industry well into the future.”

That sounds like the ethos of the Vintage Ale.

There were a few gaps years but now the Coopers Extra Strong beer has become one of the most keenly sought bottles every July – or August.

One of the reasons is the ability to reminisce when consuming the drops. Not too many brews offer that chance to get into the beer DeLorean time machine and compare past moments with the present.

Unfortunately, there must always be a comeback to the future.

But next year there will be another Coopers’ creation of crimson red colour.

Let’s just hope it goes well with a brown and gold jumper.


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