Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coopers, and time..... Response from the brewery

Some time ago I emailed some questions to Cooper's about the aging of their beers. The original blog post is here.

After a bit of back-and-forth, I have received an email from Nick Sterenberg, Cooper's Operations Manager.

AussieBeerBlog: Your FAQ mentions that “The best after date was introduced to ensure that the minimum two weeks required for secondary fermentation has expired before the bottles are distributed for sale.” Does this specifically mean that the beer was brewed 14 days prior to the Best After Date ?

Nick Sterenberg: Best After Dates :- This information is provided on the package to ensure the customer is aware that the product has completed the natural conditioning secondary fermentation process in package and the product is not released for sale from the warehouse before this date. The course of the secondary fermentation is assessed by quality control checks and flavour evaluation prior to being released for sale and hence there is no specific defined interval for this part of our process.

ABB: I drink Sparkling Ale at a local club, where in the one sitting will get different best after dates (e.g. six months difference). I detect in the younger beers a more noticeable spicy, herbaceous attribute of the hops. The older beers seem to have this characteristic subdued, but have a more English pale ale malt profile. Is this what Coopers expects of the Sparkling Ale ? What is the maximum age you recommend before the ale would be considered (in all likelihood) ‘past it’ ?

NS: Sparkling Ale:- The change in flavour that occurs in all beers as they mature is less evident in strongly flavoured, naturally conditioned ales like Sparkling Ale due to the masking effects of the beer flavour and the low levels of oxygen in package as a result of the yeast fermentation. The changes in the beer flavour profile that you describe are typically what would be expected as beer matures but the actual rate that this occurs at depends on the transport, storage and dispense conditions the beer encounters once it leaves the brewery. Individual consumers vary in their appreciation of these flavour changes across a wide spectrum so it is not possible to give you a generalised answer as to when the beer might be “past it”; there is too much variability in the possible handling of the product and individual flavour preferences to be definitive.

ABB: You also recommend that the Stout and Vintage ales will benefit from some aging. In the case of the latter, I have tried different vintages at different ages (including, recently a 1998 and 1999). There is of course great bottle variation, but the general experience (from those that have survived the trip) is of preserved fruit, sherry, nuttiness. Carbonation may have all but gone, or still remain in decent quantity. So there is quite a variation. Do you have a profile of how you expect the vintage ale to appear after 2 years, 5 years, etc ?

NS: Vintage Ale & Stout:- The above comments relating to the development of aged character in Sparkling Ale apply even more so to Vintage Ale and Stout. We do not have flavour profiles available for these products at the ages you request but have evaluated them in an informal manner from time to time and have not found any instances where the packages have lost carbonation. There is variability in the development of the different Vintage Ales over time because each year they are brewed to a unique recipe and this is not repeated; it’s part of their unique character. The preference for aged Stout over fresh Stout is again a matter of individual preference.

ABB: Other breweries have taken a leaf out of Cooper’s book by extolling their ales as being age-worthy. The newly minted Endeavour brands spring to mind. When I tasted these beers, I disagreed. There did not appear to be the body, the hops, the alcohol that one would assume would be necessary for a beer to be considered cellarable. What components of the beer does Cooper’s believe contributes to aging ? Is it the preservative qualities of the hops, the yeast, the alcohol ? Or is it having enough gravity to allow post-secondary fermentation to continue slowly over time ? Or a combination of these ?

NS: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery:- We also note that other brewers are following where we have led with varying amounts of success; as the pioneers in this area there is a common theme with all our Vintage Ales that you are obviously clearly aware off, they have a LOT of flavour! The development of this type of beer requires maintaining a careful balance between all of the contributors to final beer flavour; the selection of malt and hop types, brewing and fermentation temperature profiles (primary and secondary) and careful attention to best brewing practices throughout the extended production process. No individual characteristic should be predominant and the total intensity of flavour is much increased without the drinkability being impaired. We hope you enjoy the 2011 release which is imminent and we are already planning the 2012 edition which will be a celebration of Coopers 150th anniversary.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beer Review: Holgate Hopinator

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Holgate Hopinator   Double India Pale Ale 7.0%
B+ / 3.98  look: 3.5  smell: 4  taste: 4  feel: 4  overall: 4
Bottled on 1 March, 2011.

a) Pours a rich, russet/chestnut hue. Creamy offwhite head, very faint fine bead.

s) Big caramel hit first up, with resinous followup. Floral, honeycomb, savoury biscuit like vitawheat or bbq shapes (nice).

t) Pine resin is noticable, some licorice/molasses, toffee. Big flavour, hint of alcohol. Good assertive bitterness.

m) Lightly syrupy. Long, cloying back palate, good length.

d) A great autumnal beer. Rich & rewarding. Would limit it to two pints max, or 4 halves, which would be the ideal way to drink it.

Serving type: bottle

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Beer Cartel

Some while back I arranged a cross-link with www.beercartel.com.au. You can see it to the right =>

It was with some delight to recently learn of their acquisition of the Porter's outlet in Reserve Rd Artarmon (Sydney).

On the way home from work today, I dropped in to see what was happening. It's slightly hard to find, amongst the light industrial units of downtown Artarmon. But, even at this early stage, worth the effort of discovering.

Imagine my surprise to see a variety of esoterics, such as Burleigh Black Giraffe, Holgate Hopinator, Hunter Brewing beers, and Kooinda Pale. These are generally hard-to-find Aussie beers, and certainly unique to the north shore of Sydney.

Also, there were some single offerings from a range of significant international brands:  Nogne O, Mikkeler, Southern Tier, Anderson Valley.  And a Bourgogne des Flanders, one of my favourite tipples in the nearby Epoque Belgian Beer Cafe.

I had a quick chat with one of the principals, Geoff Huens, who graciously received my unannounced visit. It's their intention to grow this business into a leading retailer of Aussie micros, as well as top-notch internationals. They're in the process of creating more shelf-space, by relocating all that boring fermented grape stuff.....

And Geoff also mentioned Sierra Nevada, which I know will arouse at least two of my readers...

** EDIT ** And he also mentioned a growler service....... Now I'm aroused.... (please refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_bottle#Growler before getting the wrong idea).

He showed me a recently arrived palette of Aussie micros. Don't ask me to name them all, but I saw Hargreaves Hill (recently reestablished after the Victorian fires), and Bootleg (from WA). The Beer Cartel club members get first dibs at these, but whatever's left is available to all.

Although still in ramp-up mode, I applaud the direction of the Beer Cartel, and look forward to following their progress.

The Beer Cartel (Porters) can be found at Unit 9 / 87 Reserve Rd Artarmon, NSW.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Franck Evers - Heineken Master Pourer

I recently received an invite to a lesson in the "perfectly poured Heineken", given by Franck Evers, their Global ambassador.

Unable to attend the sessions, which sounded like good fun, I took the opportunity to "interview" Mr Evers by email instead, via the PR company responsible for his visit.

I offered four questions, to which he responsed as follows:

AussieBeerBlog: Heineken is available in many formats: draught, DraughtKeg, bottle, cans. Do you vary the pouring approach depending on serving format?

Franck Evers: The Five Star Pour is a draught beer program, so the approach is applied mainly to draught beer in the on premise environment. However, well-served and presented beer is important no matter what format the beer comes in.

ABB: I have used the DraughtKeg for Heineken and Sagres beers. I believe it is a significant advancement on other 5L keg systems. What other beers in Heineken’s portfolio can I expect to see in the Draughtkeg, particularly in Australia ?

FE: The Heineken DraughtKeg technology differs significantly from that of other small ‘kegs’ you will see in the market. It is a fully pressurised draught system that ensures the beer stays fresh and carbonated for 30 days after opening. The Heineken DraughtKeg is a permanent [stock-keeping unit] in Australia and we recently trialled a short run of Sagres through our Dan Murphy’s stores, which sold very well. There are no immediate plans to import other brands from the Heineken portfolio at this stage, but we will continue to investigate opportunities.

ABB: The “Brewed under License” methodology has many advantages, such as freshness and the reduction in transport costs. However, it is a popular opinion in Australia that they are not to the same standard as the original. This is not just for Heineken, but other brands that are brewed under license in Australia. Does the local Heineken recipe undergo “continual improvement” to try and attain an identical match to the original, or has the recipe been locked down ?

FE: Heineken’s recipe is unchanged since 1973 and there is no variation on this, regardless of brewing location. The ingredients used and the brewing process is exactly the same as that in Holland and a Master Brewer is employed at the local brewery full time to ensure each brew meets Heineken’s taste specifications. In addition, samples are sent on a regular basis for testing by our Dutch Master Brewer Panel, who have confirmed every month for the six years we have been locally brewing that they do not detect any difference in taste between Holland-brewed and locally-brewed Heineken. Any difference in taste detected by drinkers is likely because imported Heineken is generally older than locally-brewed product, because it takes 12 weeks to arrive by ship from Holland.

ABB: What has been the market response to the new Heineken bottle ?

FE: Our new K2 bottle has been filtering into the Australian market only since late April this year, but feedback from trade and consumers alike has been overwhelmingly positive. The tactility and grip of the bottle embossing as well as the slimmer body reaffirm Heineken’s quality and give the brand a more contemporary look.

Thanks to Franck for his replies, and to Rory O'Connor at Hill and Knowlton for coordinating this.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beer Review: Ekim After Battle Pale Ale

An After Battle redux......

I reported on this excellent ale back in early April. As you may recall, I enjoyed this very much, but felt it was still a bit of a clumsy adolescent.

I emailed the brewer, Mike Jorgensen, about letting it cold-condition for a little bit. He said it wouldn't hurt, so, two months later, here we go. (Incidentally, I didn't keep some back.... very hard to do in my house... I just revisited Brookie cellars today and they still had some 1/4/11 batch in the fridge).


Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Ekim After Battle Pale American Pale Ale 5.5%

A- / 4.18 look: 4 smell: 4 taste:4.5 feel: 3.5 drink: 4

This is my second attempt at reviewing Ekim After Battle Pale. My first attempt was 8 days after bottling (1 April 2011), and still seemed a bit unsettled. A bit more cold conditioning, and this review is of the same batch, 2 months later.

a) Reasonably clear, bright, light amber, with golden highlights. Pale beige, foamy head, which reduces to a thick slick after a couple of minutes. Reasonable bubbling.

s) Citrus notes were evident several inches away from the glass. Getting the nose closer, one gets tropical fruits such as guava, or passionfruit seed. Perhaps a faint hint of tobacco leaf, and a toasty note as it warms in the glass.

t) Excellent balance between the aroma notes, plus an additional cara/toffee component. Pineapple more noticable now, plus dried apricot, and bitterness is medium. Late aftertaste is of an English pale. I'd like to compare this with a Timothy Taylor Landlord.

m) Medium to light up front, a touch dextrinous mid-palate, but finished fairly abruptly.

o) The IPA is described as hybrid American-English. I would go as far as to the say the same for the Pale. The hops are definitely New World, but the malt profile and overall experience flahses me back to a pint glass somewhere in East Anglia.

For such a tiny op, Ekim beers are of excellent quality, and I recommend grabbing them when you can.

Serving type: bottle

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beer Review: Mad Abbot Tripel

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Mad Abbot Tripel Tripel 9.5%

B- / 3.45 look: 3.5 smell: 3.5 taste:3.5 feel: 3 drink: 3.5

Picked up at Carrington Cellars, Katoomba.

The label has "Cellar Release" overlaid, and best before DEC 2012.

Pours murky marmalade orange. Nice tight and dense white head, which I defile by pouring some yeast residue onto.

Strong bubblegum aromas, backed up by some faint banana. Touch musty. Warms to a waxy fruity perfume.

Banana flavour, and noticable alcohol, and perhaps some pungent spice like szechuan pepper or musk. A very late hint of dessert wine, maybe apricots or marmalade.

Slight astringency at the front, followed by some later dusty bitterness at back. Late after-feel that seems a bit rough.

I think it could actually use some time; I am more aware of the parts than the whole, so think it could settle and integrate some more.

Serving type: bottle

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