A vertical of Cooper’s vintage ales — and an Asahi chaser

Most beer drinks best soon after release – brewers having provided appropriate ageing in their cellars. But some styles, like Cooper’s vintage ale, age well, the flavours altering gradually over time.

To see the changes, we put the new Cooper’s Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2011 to the test alongside the 2010 and 2009 vintages, supplied by Coopers, and the 2008 and 2007 from Schloss Shanahan.

The tasting revealed significant changes from youngest to oldest. The brisk, just-released 2011 leads with an assertive hoppy aroma and flavour hovering over the deep, sweet malt – a balanced but big, bold style.

The slightly deeper coloured 2007, still fresh and gassy, tells the malt story – toffee and caramel aroma and a rich, smooth, palate that brings in golden syrup as well. The hops, barely detectable in the aroma by now, show up in the bitter finish.

The other vintages sat between this hops-dominant to malt-dominant spectrum – all in great shape, particularly the exuberant 2008.

Cooper’s Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2011 375ml 6-pack $20
This is a classy drop – big, bold and idiosyncratic but not over the top. Pungent, resiny hops lead the flavour charge, backed by deep, sweet, generous malt and luxurious, smooth texture – finishing with a delicious, assertive, hops bitterness. It’s easy to drink now, but from experience the flavour evolves with age.

Asahi Super Dry 330ml 6-pack $18.99
What a contrast Asahi is to the big, bitter, malty Coopers vintage ale. It combines delicacy, flavour and lingering hops bitterness and suits both delicate and spiced food – the beer equivalent of dry young riesling. It’s imported by Foster’s and therefore widely distributed – a positive for a style that’s best consumed young and fresh.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2011
First published 20 July 2011 in The Canberra Times