When you’re a beer reviewer you get some pretty cool stuff in the mail. Beer, obviously, but I sometimes get other handy bits and bobs. Like bottle openers and nifty glassware (the latter courtesy of the guys at James Squire).
One cool thing that arrived in the mail recently was samples of this year’s edition of Coopers Extra Vintage Ale. The three bottles came in a beautiful wooden case – which you can see in the photo above. It’s not cheaply made either; it seems sturdy and the hinges and clasps don’t appear likely to bust any time soon.
The box was a great idea because it really accentuated the specialness of the beers. And will serve as a handy storage container – I’ve already put a bottle of last year’s vintage and the current one in there and have left a space for the 2014 vintage.
The annual release of the Coopers Extra Vintage is a bit of a big deal on the beer geek calendar. The Adelaide brewery first made it in 1998 and made it for a few years in a row, then every second year before opting to make it an annual release from 2006. So the 2013 version is the 13th vintage. A large part of the reason for the beer geek love is the Extra Vintage is a limited-release beer especially designed for ageing. Quite a few geeks buy a case of it and will sample a bottle a month to see how the flavours change. Or maybe they’ll buy a case and not touch it at all (but I don’t get those people).
Normally I don’t get anyone who wants to cellar beer, but this year’s Extra Vintage has made me change my mind. It’s just so f…king great. I’ve already bought one six pack of the stuff to age a bit and plan to buy a second soon (I can’t quite come to spending $80 on a case of the stuff, hence the two six packs). I’ve had the last three vintages and, while I felt they were good, they didn’t bypass the rational side of my beer geekness. They didn’t make me go “wow!” as soon as I tried them.
The 2013 vintage made me do that. Clocking in at 7.5 per cent it tastes much smoother than that. What got me hook, line and sinker is the utterly wonderful balance between the rich maltiness and the fruity notes from the hops. Coopers has used Citra, Centennial and Chinook here (and some Styrian Goldings) which gives the beer a lovely tropical fruit and passionfruit aroma. Those flavours carry through onto the palate, making this a far more hop-driven beer than any of the previous vintages that I’ve had.
That fruitiness dominates the front palate before merging with the maltiness and the back, and the warming alcohol notes. It really is a spectacularly well-made beer and I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes over the coming months. That is if I can stop myself from drinking it all now.