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We get a lot of questions about stout, and hear some misconceptions fairly often. Many people's experience with the style is limited to Guinness, but in fact there are many variations of the stout style, with Guinness being just one: Irish Dry Stout. Other stout styles include Milk/Cream Stout, Sweet/Tropical Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Oyster Stout, Imperial or Russian Imperial Stout, Foreign/Extra Stout, English Stout and a relative newcomer, American Stout. Foreign/Extra Stout is brewed bigger, with higher alcohol content and richer/roastier malt flavors than the variety you're most likely to encounter (Irish Dry Stout). Similar to the genesis of India Pale Ale from Pale Ale, Foreign/Extra Stout was brewed bigger so that it would better survive the long journey to foreign territories in the export market. Now, this may have many people thinking "woah, bigger than a Guinness? That must be super strong!" Truth is, the Guinness you generally find on tap at your local bar is a mere 4.2% ABV, which is actually less than Budweiser (5.0%), and the same as a Bud Light—which should help settle the popular misconception that dark beer is always stronger than paler beer… simply not true, there's no steadfast rule relating color to alcohol strength (or body, for that matter).
Coopers Best Extra Stout is a true-to-style beer that offers an aromatic nose; look for bold notes of espresso, black licorice and black currants with a faint yeasty mustiness. Expect the coffee-like aromas to become even more pronounced in the flavor profile, especially as it warms, with high levels of roastiness and a touch of vanilla and licorice. The hop presence works with the roasted character to enhance the overall bitterness, but there's a low level of hop aroma/flavor, letting the malts take center stage. Finishes roasty with a touch of sweetness kicking in very late. With its deep chocolate flavors, this brew is great with chocolate cake, especially a chocolate cake made with the beer, or a hearty beef stew. Cheers!
The Coopers Brewery was founded in 1862 just outside Adelaide, Australia, in the town of Leabrook. This respectable outfit is the last stronghold of the historic family-owned breweries on the Australian continent. Thomas Cooper, a Wesleyan preacher from Yorkshire, England, immigrated to southern Australia and founded the brewery at a time when big breweries dominated the local colonies. Unfortunately, that fact hasn’t changed much in Australia, and the Coopers Brewery has faced multiple threats of hostile takeover from the big boys.
Thomas Cooper’s brewing career was initiated much by accident when his ailing wife requested that he make a restorative ale—from an old family recipe—to be used as a tonic. Turns out the ale was well received not only by his wife, but by locals for whom he provided samples. Appreciated for its taste and perceived medicinal attributes, demand grew enough for Cooper to start his famous brewery, which today remains as the sole independent brewery in Australia to survive the entire 20th century.
Interestingly, as a Wesleyan preacher, Thomas Cooper felt that pubs were sinful places (though he wisely saw no evil in beer—after all, it was the tonic that aided his wife's health). Thus, for most of its history, the brewery owned no pubs, and today they own only one, the Earl of Aberdeen, in the old center of Adelaide. A brewery with no pubs, while commonplace in the US microbrewery revolution, is a very rare scenario for established overseas breweries. This apparent lack of an "automatic market" seems to have been critical in avoiding takeover bids during their history. And we like to believe that Thomas Cooper would have been a fan of our beer of the month clubs for this very reason—no pub necessary to enjoy these fine brews, right?
We're major fans of Coopers and their true-to-style beers, and admire them for sticking to their goal of being a family-based business. Back in 2005, a competing brewery (a conglomerate really) launched a hostile takeover bid. Coopers, while family-run, does have shareholders, and if a majority of them approved the deal, it would have been adios to independence. Thankfully, the Coopers family (and their shareholders) were ready for the fight, rejected all bids, and have proudly maintained their independence as a family-owned and operated brewery. Join us in lifting a pint to their continued independence!
For more information about the brewery and its rich history, check out their website at www.coopers.com.au.
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