Five Foods to Pair with Beer as It Ages
It's a pretty decadent process — as flavours deepen and grow bolder, look to richer eats.
August 25, 2017
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When it comes to cellaring alcohol, it's important to remember that wine isn't the only player in town. 'Aged like a fine beer' might not be a common expression, but it's a helluva true one, and with the 2017 edition of the Coopers Vintage Ale, you'd be hard pressed to find a finer, tastier or more exciting place to start.
Coopers' iconic limited release ales are a unique and hotly anticipated annual fixture for beer enthusiasts, and this year (for the first time in a decade) they've revised their distinctive grist recipe to produce an extraordinary crimson-red ale with an enriched malt flavour. Even better, thanks to the seeding of live yeast, the longevity of this fine ale is not only assured, but recommended. The Coopers Vintage Ale 2017 is designed to mature with time and evolve with distinctly different flavours. This isn't about the creation of new tastes; it's about change — the gentle fade of the initially prominent flavours in favour of those that grow bolder over time. So when and how should you enjoy the many stages of the Coopers Vintage Ale 2017 journey? Let us count the ways...
YEAR ZERO: BAR SNACKS
We're always being told to live in the now, so the first rule of cellaring beer is that at least one bottle should be consumed immediately after purchase. Not only does this have the obvious benefit of enjoying a fresh brew, it also gives you a baseline against which all your future tastings can compare. For the Coopers Vintage Ale 2017, that initial taste is going to be a tantalising combination of the bitter, aromatic hop varieties Denali and Calypso, which deliver a delicate spectrum of fruity aromas in these early days. That's why the intensity of a bowl of hot chips, stacked nachos or, even better, a full plate of poutine with chips, cheese curd, bacon and the works are the perfect balancing points for the beer's initial strong and vibrant characteristics. Enjoy these in the comfort of home or head out to one of the pubs currently offering the vintage ale on tap.
YEAR TWO: INDIAN FOOD
Flavour isn't fixed; it's constantly evolving, which is why the cellaring experience is such a joy. Early in its life, the ale boasts distinct pineapple and pear characteristics, alongside pine and citrus notes that all finish with a respectable level of bitterness. But after two years in the vault, that bitterness will have eased off just enough to make an Indian dish the perfect meal with which to partner it. That's because hop flavours blend so seamlessly with Indian staple spices like tamarind and coriander, at first amplifying them, then helping to ease.
YEAR FIVE: MEXICAN EATS
Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, by year five Coopers' 2017 vintage will be well and truly in a state of transformation. Its early, fruity, estery flavours and initial bitterness have at last begun to mellow, giving way to rich, sweet, caramel-like characters, and it's that very caramelisation of malts that works so perfectly with a hearty Mexican dish heavy on the meat. Why? Because Mexican dishes are basically the beer's food equivalent: they're a delicious blend of caramels and citrus that deliver light and dark flavours all at once. It's hard to go wrong with Mexican, but we'd suggest pairing your drink with pork or beef tacos with extra chilli, coriander and queso fresco, then drizzled with a little lime.
YEAR EIGHT: CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE
Sometimes pairing food with a drink is all about counterpoints and balance. Other times, it's about complimenting and amplifying. At the year eight stage of the vintage beer's maturation, there could be no better time to indulge in the rich malt, honey and dry nutty characteristics arising from its special blend of caramalt. From that blend, Coopers Vintage Ale 2017 not only gets its bold malty flavours, but also its fine and creamy head. Nothing could go better with flavours and feel like that than decadent desserts of toffee, chocolate and cheese. For starters, try pairing it with ginger-spiced chocolate truffles, allowing the malt to accentuate the caramel of the milk chocolate and the hops to intensify the spice. As for cheese, an aged Gouda will bring out the best of the beer's rich malt, dried dark fruit character and deep caramel flavours.
YEAR TEN: RED, RED MEAT
The time has come. The sands have emptied from the hourglass, and at long last the vintage ale you cellared in 2017 now celebrates its big tenth birthday. What began as a bitter, full-bodied hop profile now has a mature, enriched malt flavour running deep with notes of caramel and toffee. This is no time for snacks and finger food. The time has come for firing up the flames and getting your grill on, because now all that can match the glory of the ten-year-old Coopers Vintage Ale 2017 is a big, fat, juicy steak. The caramelised crust on the meat will accentuate the beer's matured taste, while the now diminished hop and bitterness will subtly complement the meal's savoury side.
A limited number of the 2017 Coopers Vintage Ale cartons have been released, so get to stocking your cellar quickly. Otherwise, you can find the vintage available on tap at a few key venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and beyond. Find your closest pub serving the brew here.