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Brewery Review: Coopers

Every now and again I will review a brewery over the course of a week or two. The first in the series is the perinnial favourite of most South Aussies, Coopers!

Coopers Brewery is the last large family run brewery in Australia. It has to be one of the things that South Australians are most proud of. Coopers brewery starts with a man named Thomas Cooper who had worked in almost every trade there was before his wife got ill and he cooked up a batch of beer to help her feel better. It does need to be noted that he used her recipe to brew up his first batch.

So it was in 1862 what was to become a glorious family business sprung up.

Thomas Cooper had a strong dislike for publicans and pubs so he would only take his horse and cart to individual customers homes. Cooper also refused to put his beer into kegs or barrels instead he would bottle all of his beer with the signature live yeast in any bottle that he could.  In this time it was said that Thomas even supplied Dr. Henry Penfolds of the Grange Winery.

In 1869 the Coopers brand fell into some trouble as the quality of the beer was sinking. It was this year that the Family home and land was repossessed. The family moved into Kensington and Thomas being the stubborn son of a b*tch that he was got a small loan and started brewing again. In 1872 His wife died and left him seven children to feed. The brand however survived and when Thomas died his four sons took over and started supplying hotels and pubs. Dear old dad had died and so did his hatred of hotels.

When John Cooper died in 1935 he had been the head of the Cooper family for almost fourty years and had been guiding the brewery even longer! It was him who had planted the foundations of the growth of a successful family.

Today the Coopers still hold the majority of the shares of the brewery and since Lion Nathan tried a take over a few years ago have shored up the business to make it virtually impossible for an outside interest to own even a small share of this grand old group.

From 1990 doctor Tim Cooper returned to family business and in 1997 moved the brewery from Kensington, now call Leabrook to it’s current home in Regency Park where it has been for the last ten years.

The current Coopers range includes the following beers:

Coopers Pale Ale: A top fermented Ale with live yeast, a good intro to the Coopers Family.

Coopers Sparkling: The flagship of the Coopers Brewery, great if you are looking for something above the average, bottle fermented with live yeast, it defiantly doesn’t sparkle in the glass, but it might just sparkle in the eye of an eager Coopers fan.

Coopers Best Extra Stout: A good roasted malt stout, more then satisfying.

Coopers Dark Ale: hidden behind the bigger brands the dark ale still sits upon most of it’s domestic dark ale competition.

Coopers Clear: A new low carb beer

Coopers Lager:  Recently re-badged the Coopers lager is unfortunately like almost every other lager brewed in Australia.

Coopers Mid: a reasonable mid strength beer for those behind the wheel.

Coopers ’62 Pilsener: this clean crisp pilsener is another new addition to the family, not bad but not something I would pick up on a regular basis.

Coopers light: I try to stay away from light beer, sorry Coopers!

Coopers Vintage: An annual beer in it’s tenth year. Extra strong alcohol percentage and brewed to be cellerad up to 5 years. The tenth anniversary is supposed to be a beaut so get onto it. I will be reviewing the 2008 batch that I opened today in the next post. Definatly something every beer drinking should get into.

Coopers Birell Ultra Light: A non alcoholic beer, a fermented malt drink, okay if you have a liver condition I suppose.

Coopers marketing is currently pimping out their new online community, the Order of Coopers which has some cool features especially if you are a home brewer. You can keep a record of what you are brewing as well as tasting notes, there is even a design your own label for your home brew.

http://www.coopers.com.au is the place to head to learn more, also thanks to Keith Deutsher and his amazing book “The Breweries of Australia: A History.” It is a great help and valuable resource if you want to know about beer history in this country, unfortunately very hard to find.

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