Sunday, 28 August 2011

Coopers Stout

Coopers Stout has a story to tell. About how things might have been. About a parallel beer world.

I knew all about Coppers beers before I moved to Australia. Hell, I'd even drunk some of them.And pretty damn nice they were, too. If a bit on the strong side. Not sure what I would have done without them during my time in Melbourne. Drunk a lot more wine, probably.

At the time, I didn't see how Coopers connected with British beer. But I knew a lot less back then. Less than I realised.

Last week, on the very last page of the Whitbread Gravity Book I came across a handful of American beers. Various Ales, including a couple from the legendary Ballantine. Take a look at them:

American beers in 1938
Year Brewer country Beer Style Acidity FG OG Colour ABV atten-uation
1938 Ballantine USA India Pale Ale IPA 0.05 1019.2 1077.6 16 7.63 75.26%
1938 Ballantine USA XXX Ale Ale 0.04 1016.1 1056.8 11 5.28 71.65%
1938 Burke USA Ale Ale 0.05 1013.7 1055.2 11 5.40 75.18%
1938 Dawes Canada Black Horse Ale Ale 0.04 1006.4 1050.6 12 5.78 87.35%
1938 Feigenspan USA Amber Ale Amber Ale 0.04 1013.3 1059.1 14 5.97 77.50%
1938 Foxhead USA Old Waukesha Ale Ale 0.05 1016 1061 19 5.85 73.77%
1938 Frontenac Canada White Cap Ale Ale 0.04 1010.6 1053.9 14 5.65 80.33%
1938 Hoffman USA Ale Ale 0.04 1016.6 1060.7 33 5.73 72.65%
1938 McSorley USA Cream Stock Ale Stock Ale 0.05 1011.6 1060 14 6.32 80.67%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Can you guess what struck me most about them? How strong they are compared to British beers of the period. Ballantine IPA, at 1077.6º is around 20 points stronger than any British IPA. The weakest beer is over 1050º.

Back to the story. The tale these beers are telling. About how different British beer could have been, had 20th-century history taken a different turn. Because Cooper's Stout and the 1930's American beers hadn't changed to become so much stronger than British beers. It's British beers that had changed.

Cooper's Stout. It's what British Stout might have been without WW I. Actually Stout. Another reason to love it


Matt said...

I've drunk Coopers Pale Ale but not the Stout.

My brother-in-law's going to Sydney and Melbourne on a business trip next month. I was thinking of asking him to bring me back a few bottles, I presume it's not too difficult to find it in those cities?

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, dead easy to find in Melbourne.

Korev said...

Try to get a Sheaf Stout as well

Oblivious said...

Its really available over here

Gary Gillman said...

Good points and this is because as sometimes occurs, the products made in an outpost distant from the mother country, or ex-mother country, but under its influence, stay integral to the original approach while things change at home.

Good examples in the stout area are Cooper's Stout, Sinha Stout (Lion Stout in many markets), various strong stouts in the West Indies, and Guinness FES both there and in parts of Asia.

Cooper's Stout was one of the first craft-style beers I tasted, it was an early import to the U.S. and it lasted the trip well in a time of slow boats and long warehousing. It is still very good and mercifully has been kept free of coffee or chicory and the like. :)


Craig said...

I wrote about Cooper's Stout in a post I did comparing Tropical Stouts, back in June. It's good stuff, very plum-like and bitter sweet.

beer guru, jr. said...

ron, a minor correction. i'm sure this is due to software, not you. the foxhead beer was named 'old waukesha'. waukesha is a small industral satellite city of milwaukee, just west of the big brewing town. foxhead was brewed in waukesha. for a time, anyway.

also, even as american ales in that period were retaining fairly high gravities, overall, lagers were beginning to drop. ditto for lager hopping rates. ale was fighting a losing battle with lager for sales; had been doing so for nearly a century by that point. by the 1940's, ale was seen as a pre-prohibition old man's tipple. as they died off, so did ale. until the craft beer revolt.

Joe Stange said...

Just a bit more context for post-Prohibition U.S. and beer strengths: Beer companies were not legally allowed to post alcohol contents of beers on their packaging. Lager was popular before Prohibition of course, but I wonder if part of its total dominance afterward can be credited to people being able to drink more of it because it was lower in alcohol... although perhaps few people would have realized it. If alcoholic content had been posted on beers, it's likely that more people would have made it part of their decision-making and gone for more bang for the buck. Which of course is exactly why the government banned such information in the first place.

A relevant note: Most U.S. light lagers are 4.2% strength. Few dedicated light lager drinkers actually know that. And they are the most popular beers in America.

Martyn Cornell said...

I'm many thousands of miles from my sources right now, but Burke's, IIRC, was the Long Island City brewery that later brewed Guinness in the US.

Martyn Cornell said...

Oh, and Cooper's Extra Stout is fantastic - you can sometimes find it in the UAE, it's a genuine world classic.

AEC said...

Hey, two of those beers you list from '38 -- Dawes and Frontenac -- are actually Canadian. And despite what most people think (except those stubborn Canadians), Canada isn't part of the U.S.

Ron Pattinson said...

AEC, thanks for the correction. They were mixed in with a group of American beers and I assumed they were also American. I should know better than to go around assuming.