The winter blues seemed a thousand miles away as Coopers Brewery and the Rob Roy Hotel served up seemingly endless winning combinations of bountiful beer and fabulous food on Wednesday night, 14th June.
A journey into the past, present and future of beer awaited punters through the doors of the Rob Roy’s function room and, greeted with a deliciously bold amber ale, it was clear this was going to be a pilgrimage to remember.
Paired with a balsamic prawn and tomato crostini on arrival, the ‘Family Secrets’ Amber Ale served to amplify the seafood flavour while delivering its own sweet, malty delight on the palate.
The canapes were followed by an entrée of pork belly, potato mash and apple garnished with pureed, spiced capsicum.
Served alongside the pork, the ‘Brew A’ IPA is the brewery’s tribute to its founder, Thomas, and is a twist on his first ever brew circa 1862.
‘Brew A’ proved a fruitier, perhaps more session-able drop than its predecessor, complementing the sticky pork crackling and carrying a less complex savour.
Drinks continued to flow as the ales were introduced, and we were treated to stories of the brand’s trademark cloudy ale look, as well as the tale of Thomas Cooper, his two marriages and his 19—nope, not a typo—children.
Well, that’s one way to lay the foundations of a sustainable empire!
For the main course, two identical ales of different age were presented to accompany a wet aged scotch fillet steak on a bed of roast potatoes, herbed beans and topped with crispy onion rings.
The Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale, 2013, and its younger brother, the current release 2016, attested to the fact that a little time can affect a great deal of change.
The 2013, poured from the very last keg of its kind, offered up a range of anomalistic flavours including toffee, caramel, walnut and even hints of some flavours akin to the products of a vineyard rather than a brewery.
Its spritelier sibling conveyed a bitter, slightly less rich taste, while still boasting similar, full-bodied flavours.
Not to be outdone by its liquid counterparts, though, the steak exploded on the palate in a mouth-melting moment of euphoria – salty and playful enough so as not to detract from the sweet, heavier notes from the beer.
As always, the time of night came around when one is so well fed that one dreads the dessert to come; however, a collective sigh of relief could probably heard outside on Halifax Street when the final course appeared.
Cheese platters rolled out, daintily and elegantly arranged with Maffra Cloth-wrapped Cheddar and La Vera Adel Blue cheese with walnuts, lavash, dried apricot and slivered pear.
Then came the biggest treat of the evening; dessert was paired with the eldest brother – the 2009 release Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale.
If the 2013 tasted different, the 2009 brought ‘different’ to a whole new—and possibly superior—level.
With daring aromas of chocolate, coffee and tobacco on top of all those from the two younger vintages, as well as enough sediment to feed a small family, the 2009 certainly earned its place as the dessert beer for the evening.
A mouth-watering, thick, sweet and soothing drop was the perfect way to finish a winter’s evening and provide enough warmth to last the cold journey home.