This entry from Diary II is unique (so far), in that it contains absolutely no tasting notes. Coopers bloody-lovely Pale is something I’ve had umpteen times before, but had never given its own entry; the Diaries were never about recommendations for other people, originally, and I knew this well enough that I didn’t need to write about it.
And then, Dr. Tim Cooper himself — the latest heir to take the reins of the brewery — paid our little country, our little town, and our little pub a visit. My first proper bar-tender geek-out was when Richard Emerson — another heir to another eponymous brewery — visited the Malthouse on one of my first few shifts. I’ve had a few such borderline-fanboy reactions to meeting other beer industry folk since, but none as acute as this, for a while.1
Tim was in town for a bit of a shindig to celebrate the new-ish mass-importing of his beers into the Little Country; we’ve had several kegs of Sparkling, Vintage and Stout on tap already. And he seems to be an utterly lovely chap. A semi-regular customer — a Suit who is occasionally-bothersome, but harmless enough — insisted on shouting a round, and Dr. Cooper elected for a Pale (apparently his favourite go-to of their range), so I joined him, and then revelled in my unashamed nerdery by asking him to sign the bottle.
Verbatim: Coopers Original Pale Ale 23/9/10 at work, bought by the same random occasionally-bothersome suit who shouted the above. (And I do mean ‘shouted’.) This round was precipitated by the appearance of Dr. Tim Cooper himself. There was a bit of a do for the new imports and such. And he seems like an utterly lovely chap. He picked one of these for his in this round, so I joined him, then wrote this, obviously. And just as I was thinking a photo would be lame, I got him to sign my bottle. Now that makes for a photo opportunity. [Heh; no tasting notes.]
1: The pairing is really rather apt. Emerson’s Bookbinder was probably my first proper local microbrew; Coopers Sparkling was my first Australian — and both are members of my All Time Favourites and were therefore written-up together for my contribution to the Malthouse Beer Blog. Coopers & Emerson’s would also have to be acknowledged as leading the proper-brewing trends in their respective countries — though the former takes the gong by a hundred years, and the latter makes up for tardiness by being much more experimental.
The weekly blog on the Malthouse’s website has a semi-regular feature called ‘The People’s Blog’, where regulars and hangers-on and (occasionally) staff are invited to / dragooned into writing a little blab about their “two favourite Malthouse beers”. I was one of the “volunteers” for the second edition of that, and so this probably rates as my earliest, most-official piece of Rambling About Beer:
It’s chronically unfair to ask me for my “two favourite” Malthouse beers since I’m a fairly fickle and promiscuous drinker with tastes that vary pretty wildly depending on the weather, the plan for the evening (or morning…), what my previous beer was and general whims. But okay. Let’s play along and pick two enduring favourites, at least.
Emerson’s Bookbinder (Dunedin, 3.7%). Absurdly flavourful for its moderate weight, Booky serves brilliantly as an after-work restorative (and actual book-binding is damn hard work, I can assure you) or as a sessionable fuel for long hours of talking nonsense with friends and generally laughing asses off – which won’t leave you too blurry in the small hours, or too hungover the day after. It’s a reminder that, if you’re clever enough, you don’t have to climb to boozy heights to make a tasty beer, and that often there’s merit to be had for finding that perfect balance between your malts and your hops. Both factors run nicely contrary to some frequently-silly fashions, and are worth celebrating. So raise a glass. Then another.
Cooper’s Sparkling Ale (Adelaide, 5.8%). My first good Australian beer, upon which I luckily stumbled while beer-shopping for an Australia Day while off at university in a forty-degree Canberra summer. Hardly “sessionable” at 5.8% (not that that stopped me…) but a truly gorgeous golden ale with a wonderfully easy, fruity, lively and lingering taste that can be a great way to ease lagerheads into other styles, or to bring those who don’t consider themselves “beer drinkers” (maybe because lagerheads just offer them lager…) into the fold.
With its optional ritual of rolling the bottle to kick up the sediment, it’s also a great introduction to the joys of natural, unfiltered, bottle-conditioned (and so, arguably, “real”) beer. It’s effortlessly delicious.
After the Silage Debacle, this was an incredibly-welcome change. The third Yeastie Boys release was a charmingly un-fashionable mild — great big hop-fueled high-booze things were very much in fashion, so the Yeasties staked their claim to being Plural-Tricked Poniesvery early on.
It is weird that we got to the point where mildness could be a vaguely revolutionary thing, but this stuff was too enjoyable and mellow and good for any sort of complaint about the state of craft brewing in general to bubble very far up the brainstem. That’s what these things do, when they’re done well; they shut you up. Or at least, they shut up anything overly-animated and just let you sit and quietly talk nonsense with your friends. Like you should do more often, whoever you are.
Verbatim: Yeastie Boys ‘Kid Chocolate’ Mild 25/3/09 staffie at Malty $8/pint 3.6% The third YB, and a mostly forgotten style. Sessionable brown ale. Lovely chestnut colour, almost no hop presennce, as per style. Nice smooth malt-driven quaffer. Slightest nudge of choc. Another oddly-named good thing.
This made for a nice finish to a civilised and therapeutic afternoon / evening of good beers and good books, and is still my front-runner for Beer of the Summer ’08/’09.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: I really do love this beer to bits. It’s in the Diaries a fewtimes, and the arrival of several kegs of it at work this weekend considerably helped my Calm in the face of the impending nonsense of the Rugby Sevens. Though it’s easily the daftest few days of the year here in the City, if you ask me, we somehow dodged a bullet this time round and had a surprisingly manageable few days. Only one person was ejected from the bar all weekend, which is astonishing for a bog-standard Friday or Saturday, nevermind ones as busy as these were — it was our busiest weekend ever on Courtenay Place — with their oodles of costumed weirdos flooding into town.
Myself, I’m putting it down to the civilising power of all that Three Boys Golden Ale we had stacked up out the back. This could quickly turn me into a superstitious oddball, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather have as my own peculiar rabbit’s foot.
Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’. Again. The previously-promised photo in “proper” glassware. Actually, I cheated a bit and upgraded my after-work glass to the ever-so-slightly-bigger version than what I was strictly-speaking supposed to. All in pursuit of a wee bit more Bookbinder, so totally justified. The Booky-book — or Wookie-book, if you’re Amelia — is always worth another visit, and has long-since had a place on the All Time Favourites list.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: A year later, it was one of two beers I wrote about for the Malthouse blog, and so it was still happily on that Favourites List. And now, a year after that, it still is. We need some kind of Lifetime Achievement Award around here.
Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’. With a book to read, naturally. Easily one of my favourites, again. (And I’ll have to get another one to photograph, since we’ve just recently gotten in some neat branded Emerson’s glassware. The sacrifices I make.) A classic English-style bitter ale, at session strength. When people come to our bar and are disappointed to learn we don’t have Sassy Red, they leave having met the Bookbinder, and being Better People for it. It’s got assertive, but still mild, hoppiness and maltiness and is just the sort of all-around beery awesomeness that a person could drink until the Universe goes pfft. And I intend to.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: The beer is still a favourite. And so is that book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. That was George’s copy, which I borrowed and absolutely adored. It’s purest genius. And rather oddly and coincidentally, I just finally bought my own copy the day before posting this entry and writing this note. Peculiar.
Verbatim: Invercargill Brewery ‘Pitch Black’ Stout. Again from the hand pumps at Old Malty, and in many ways one step further down Black Beer Boulevard from the aforementioned (and aforedrunken) Tuatara Porter. Bigger, darker, and stouty, basically. But still (I think) fairly accessible. Something of a favourite for a few of my female friends. But that might just indicate my peculiar taste in female friends. Who knows?
Afterthoughts, November 2010: Here’s a very-minor example of a common rebellion, with me; I’ll have absolutely no part of this frequent talk of what might be a ‘girly beer’. I just know too many exceptions in both directions (girls who drink “non-girly” beer, and non-girls who drink “girly” beer) and am too-easily bored by blokey sexist blahblahblah to tolerate it much.
Also, the whole question of what divides ‘stout’ from ‘porter’ is a controversial one, despite my breezy invocation of a commonly-understood difference, above. I’ve always had it in my head that stouts will tend to be drier and coffee-ish-er, while porters will tend towards the sweeter and chocolatey-er end of the spectrum. Apparently, though — just like all other putative distinctions — that’s not really very historical of me. Martyn Cornell has written a pretty damn definitive account entitled ‘So what IS the difference between porter and stout?’, which — spoiler alert — basically concludes: there isn’t one.
Beer history is tricky like that. And I’m just going to keep on using my non-historical terms anyway. I’m stubborn like that.
‘Rogers’ is another fantastic session beer, down at 3.8% booze. (Even if it does, like the Cooper’s beers, have apparent apostrophe issues.) It’s a charming ruby brown, with light hoppy- and malty-ness. Sits comfortably beside an Emerson’s Bookbinder, but isn’t so ‘English’ (somehow), as fits the climate of the place it’s made.
Incidentally, Toby is in the background there preparing Steak Tartar, which was a smashing success. And to re-balance the universe after making a meal out of raw steak, he busied his barbeque by making Pavlova on it. Which was, if not a smashing success, at least vastly better than anyone thought it’d be. He’s like some sort of Domestic Mad Scientist.
Verbatim: Little Creatures Roger’s. 5/10/08 $3.5 @ South Melb Markets. Gorgeous sunny day. And a nice basic session beer. At 3.8%, you’d happily drink it all night. Nice ruby brown, light hoppy + maltiness. Akin to a Booky, but not so English.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Matt Kirkegaard (of BrewsNews.com.au) wrote to inform me that there was more than one Roger, so their seemingly-odd use of the apostrophe is just fine. It’s Rogers plural, not possessive. Since I’m as much Typography Nerd as I am Mad Keen Creatures Fan, that news cheers me greatly.