July 8, 2015 by 250 Beers
Well, wasn’t I surprised to be invited along to attend this year’s Coopers Vintage Ale launch in Melbourne! I must have some sort of Beery Godmother looking out for me. The last time she waved her magic wand was last year when I ended up on a long weekend to Byron Bay to be a part of Stone & Wood’s Stone Beer brew day. I’m a lucky bugger that’s for sure and I’ll never take it – or my Beery Godmother – for granted.
The day trip to Melbourne for the lunchtime launch meant an early start for this blogger. My alarm echoed around the bedroom at 3.30am. Those that know me are well aware that I don’t do early starts and will understand that for me to have been sat on a train at 4.30am was a miracle in itself.
It takes an hour and a half on public transport to get to Brisbane airport from 250 Beers HQ. As planned, I waltzed through Virgin Australia’s bag screening and security area bang-on 6.00am. Three hours after lifting my greying head from my pillow, I was airborne and Melbourne bound for the second time in seven weeks. Good Beer Week being my previous excuse, er, reason.
Once I’d made the journey from Melbourne airport to the City I decided to head as near as possible to the launch venue. This meant that I could settle in nearby with a few choice ales to whet the ol’ whistle. I had two hours to kill. Why the hell not? When in Rome and all that. As luck would have it, Coopers launched the 2015 Vintage Ale at Panama Dining Room & Bar in Fitzroy literally 450 metres up the street from Forester’s Hall – a bar with 50 taps pouring 32 of the craftiest brews in town. Go me!
It was closed.
So too was The Rainbow Hotel in the opposite direction.
My mid-morning, pre-beer launch beers morphed into a flat white coffee in a (s)wanky Fitzroy backstreet. My pit-stop enabled me to make a start on this blog post. I know what you’re thinking…did I only write four paragraphs in two hours? Yes, I did. I would’ve written more but I figured intimate tales surrounding the type of cookies I had on the plane with my mid-air cup of tea would bore those that have read thus far. Thinking about it, the oatmeal, coconut and raisin biscuits were quite possibly the tastiest crunch I’ve ever eaten.
Panama is a tidy venue hidden from street level on the third floor at 231 Smith Street. It was perfect for the 60 or 70 that were seated for lunch. Think comfy dining room at your grandmother’s place circa 1982. Trendy but in a kitsch, retro manner without being too tosser-hipster.
The event was opened by Melanie Cooper who welcomed and thanked guests for coming. Mel is one of the Coopers family and on the board of directors. She came across really well. I managed to have a chat with her after the formal part of the lunch – once we’d all retired to the bar. I liked her. We’re meeting up for beers next time she’s in Brisbane.
The lunch itself was a delicious four course affair with each dish incorporating a different Coopers beer. Smartly done.
In between the first few courses, Coopers brewing manager, Jon Meneses, stood up and addressed the room and went into the more technical, brewing side of the 2015 Vintage Ale release. He explained that the IBU has been ramped up to 60 from 40 and that Melba – a hop variety known for its citrus and stone fruit characteristics – had been thrown in aplenty along with Ella and Vic Secret. The beer was also dry hopped with Styrian Goldings and Cascade. My goodness Melba is dominant.
We were treated to a vertical tasting of 2010’s vintage next to 2015’s. Of course, the five year old lacked much of the original appeal but still came armed with a boozy punch that the annual limited editions are synonymous with. The 2015 version packed a hoppy bitterness that I’ve never experienced in such strength in a Coopers Vintage before. I enjoyed it. A lot. But then again I’m a hop head and I don’t take much convincing where bitterness is concerned.
It’s a lot paler in appearance than before too and I have a feeling that whilst this latest Vintage will appeal to a new audience I fear that many of its mainstay fans might be put off by this and the bitterness. I hope I’m wrong.
A funny thing happened during the service of the two beers. A waitress carrying a tray of glasses each full of 2015 Vintage tripped and dropped at least eight glasses down the back of one of the guests. There was an awkward, momentary silence around the room as the miniscule amount of heat from the waitresses blushes worked away at drying the poor bastard’s clothes. It was a futile attempt as were the dozens of tea towels that appeared from the young lady’s concerned colleagues. I know this fact because that bastard was me. I had Thomas Coopers’ latest invention trickling down my arse crack and in a strange beer geek kinda way I felt honoured. Humbled in fact.
Boarding the plane back to Brisbane with a beer soaked jacket and smelling like a pub would prove interesting to say the least.
After the formalities of lunch were out of the way, the open bar tab was seized upon by those remaining. A good half of the original throng had to go back to work which made me realise that the room wasn’t bursting with annoying blogger types. It wasn’t even chockers with media folk either. Aside from James (Crafty Pint), Matt (Brews News), Rory (Courier Mail), Scott (The Age), Rick (Rick Besserdin) and I guess me, there was a heck of a lot of venue owners and publicans – people from the trade.
I got chatting to a few lads that run The Rochester Hotel – a nearby pub. The name rang a bell. It was only when they started to describe their venue that I realised I’d been in there during Good Beer Week. The one thing that stuck in my mind about that place was that it wasn’t full of dicks. There was a steady flow of decent beers as well as a steady flow decent folk during my brief stay that Saturday night back in May.
After a few Coopers Sparkling Ales at the bar with my new pals – including the legendary Rick Besserdin – it was time to get my beer stinking ass (literally) out of there and back to airport…with a six pack of Vintage Ale and a matching chalice glass.
I can’t decide which was more traumatising – the fear of that glass smashing at some point during the 1,700 kilometre return journey or the look of disgust on the faces of my fellow passengers having caught a whiff of me.
Disclaimer: Apart from my coffee, the entire trip was paid for by Coopers Brewery. I’m extremely grateful and flattered with their kindness. If anybody from Coopers reads this (as if) – thank you.
Also, cheers to Lauren from Coopers’ PR firm for letting me share her taxi.
Also, Mel and I probably won’t meet up.
The full 2015 Vintage Ale media release from Coopers can be found HERE.