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Has Coopers cracked the Session Beer code?

In the wild, there’s a few things nature has given to animals to warn others to stay away.

There’s the Puffer Fish’s ability to pop into a floating pin cushion, the Cobra’s hood that spreads out until it’s a mini flasher… and Tony Abbott’s laugh.

Every one of them is a clear sign that something is very, dangerously, wrong.

With beer, those warnings are usually on the label. “Export” means someone doesn’t want it sold anywhere near them, “Premium” usually means it isn’t and lately, “Session” has become a catch-all tag for a beer nobody can really classify, but what the hell, there’s a big market for beers that don’t knock people on their arse and we’ve made it anyway so let’s add this word and hope people buy it.

The idea is the Session beers are supposedly stronger than a mid (which are usually undrinkable garbage) but not as potent as full strength so you can neck a few in a row and still beat the booze bus.

In reality, they’re about 4% ABV so drinking three or four and then driving is about as smart as drinking from the toilet, so you’re better off cracking open a big-boy beer and calling an Uber.

And it’s left us with a fridge full of undrinkable “session” IPAs, Pales and Ales most drinkers nod knowingly at as they reach past for a can of anything else.

Which is why the arrival of Coopers Session Ale this week left me worried.

I love Coopers beers. I grew up in Adelaide and thought all beer was supposed to be as fruity, full-flavoured and mind-bogglingly dangerous as their Sparkling Ale, as sharp and refreshing as the Pale and as beautifully burned as their stout.

Even Coopers Clear has a place in my heart. It’s great for filling slug traps.

But a Session? OK, let’s ignore that warning and give it a crack.

For a start, this is only ever supposed to be poured from a tap, but the samples arrived in a can so I’ll give it a bit of leeway.

The tin pops and there’s an immediate bitter fruit smell, but nothing overpowering. It pours cloudy gold, with a solid white head – large bubbles in the foam, not as thick as a usual Coopers ale – and there’s loads of bubbles in the glass. Loads. Like an aquarium aerator is running full bore in the glass.

First sip… it’s not bad! It’s a bit thin, and the bitterness is down on the usual offerings, but it comes in at 22 IBU here so it’s no pushover and there are some shy citrus and fruit undertones trying desperately to get out.

Second sip… the flavour profiles are starting to come to the front and it’s making an impression. The bitterness is building and the hops (Galaxy and Melba) are making themselves known. One or the other (possibly) both was used in dry-hopping this brew so there’s a peppery aftertaste I’m starting to like by now.

Halfway down the glass and the carbonation is all but gone though, the head’s (thankfully) under control and it’s now just a thin layer and some nice lacing to show where I’ve been.

Like Coopers’ best this has gone through the natural conditioning that means things get interesting in the keg as well as the tanks so I probably should have given the can a roll first to mix things up, but the bitterness is hanging in there and those hidden flavours have finally decided to come out to play.

One tin down and the second (with a roll this time) is going down a treat. Time to read the blurb that came with the cans.

Oh dear.

The majority of the information is clearly aimed at publicans rather than drinkers with the emphasis on dollar share, triple digit growth in the style within the craft segment and high impact innovation.

And then there’s this line: “Our brewers have used pale and wheat malt and a combination of Galaxy and Melba hops along with a “secret ingredient” to brew Session Ale”.

A secret ingredient. Is it love? I hope it’s love. That’d be a lot nicer than finding out it’s crushed ants or old teabags.

OK, so back in the real world with hyperbole and secret ingredients aside, the second can is still making an impression and that thin feeling from the first sip is all but forgotten.

So, what’s the verdict? Would I drink this again? For sure, it’s a solid drinkable beer without a knockout ABV.

There’s bags of bitterness and enough flavour gets through to satisfy (most of) the craft crowd without scaring off the lager brigade.

In short, it works. Hope it sticks around as part of the range, even if it’s only every summer.

The biggest problem I have with this is it’d be a great beer to throw in the esky for a park or beach, but it’s only going to be on tap.

This is definitely lighter than a regular Coopers Pale or Sparkling, but it’s certainly a step up on most of the Summer or Session beers on offer and would be easy to pour down fast on a hot day, something I’ve never been able to say about Coopers Sparkling no matter how much I love it.




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