What’s the first thing that we did when we arrived in Adelaide? We went to the Coopers Brewery for a tour, is what we did! No shit… It’s because Coopers are celebrating their 150th birthday and we wanted in on the action.
The Coopers Brewery in Regency Park opened in 2001 and is the most energy efficient plant in Australia. It has a cogeneration plant onsite that has been operational since 2002. It was developed by AGL and produces two forms of energy – electricity and steam. The cogeneration plant is 80% efficient, which is 2.5 times more efficient than conventional power stations, and produces less greenhouse gasses and nitrous oxide pollutants.
Coopers Brewery was established in 1862 by Thomas Cooper who emigrated from England 10 years earlier. He started off as a shoemaker and eventually became a dairy farmer before he started to dabble in brewing. His first batch was made on the 13th of May 1862 and a year later, he sold his dairy business to focus on beer. In his lifetime, he had two wives and fathered nineteen children.
We were keen to learn more so we purchased two tickets to the brewery tour. All proceeds go to the Coopers Brewery Foundation, which supports Australian charities such as the St Vincent De Paul Society, Anglicare, the Julian Burton Burns Trust, Foodbank SA, Multiple Sclerosis Australia and the Alfred Foundation, just to name a few. Over the last year, the Foundation has distributed over $400,000 of funds to charitable projects, which we think is absolutely fantastic. It’s really great to know that Coopers not only cares for the environment, but for the community as well.
The Basic Ingredients
1 – Malted Barley
Malt is the superstar of beer and is made from a variety of grains – rice, maize, barley, wheat. Coopers purchase SA-produced barley malt that has been designed to produce the maximum amount of maltose and other sugars when mashed.
Coopers use three different types of barley malt to produce different types of beers. Pale malt is used in all Coopers beers and produces a light coloured beer. Crystal malt is used for ales and stouts while roasted malt is used for stouts and dark ales for a rich, dark colour.
Malting involves soaking or steeping the barley grains for two days before germination begins, which allows the grain’s enzymes to break down the tough casing of the endosperm. Germination is halted by kilning, which dries the malted grain over a 24 hour period. This process preserves the enzymes and the starches in the grain.
2 – Hops
Hops are flowers that contain alpha acids and it’s the hops that create the bitter, tangy flavour in beers. Coopers add hops to their brew when boiling the wort.
3 – Yeast
Yeast turns sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the yeast is separated from the beer after fermentation, about half of the yeast is kept to be used again.
The yeast used by Coopers Brewery today is of the same strain used in 1910!
4 – Water
Because beer has to be wet!
About 11 tonnes of malt is ground into flour and combined with water to make a massive amount of porridge that is stirred in a mash tun. This method provides almost 100% extraction as enzymes break down long chain carbohydrates into simple sugars like maltose. The porridge is heated to 72 degrees, which produces the desired level of fermentability and the filtered liquor that comes out at the end is called wort.
All the spent grain that is left over after the beer-making process is sold to farmers as stockfeed; it contains mostly protein.
Cooled wort is transported to huge fermentation tanks that hold about 170,000 litres each. The wort is combined with yeast so more enzymes can work at turning the malt starches into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The fermentation process last for about four days and in that time, the yeast multiplies fourfold.
After fermentation, the beer is pumped through a centrifuge at 600 litres per minute to remove the yeast. From there, the path splits between ales and lagers – ales and stouts undergo a second fermentation in the bottle for 3-4 weeks while lagers go into cold storage for about a week.
The final product is packaged on the fastest bottling line in Australia – it caps almost one carton of stubbies every second.
Coopers is now the largest Australian-owned brewery and is the largest home-brew kit producer in the world! To mark their 150th birthday, Coopers have released a new beer called Celebration Ale, which we got to sample during our tasting spree in the museum.
- Clear – 4.5% Full strength low-carb beer with a very light taste, crisply bitter and refreshingly fizzy.
- 62 Pilsner – 5.0% A medium-bodied flavour, yeasty and a little hoppy,, this beer was almost sweet.
- Mild Ale – 3.5% A full flavoured mid-strength beer. Malty with hints of caramel and a hoppy finish. Really good for a mid-strength and it was one of our favourites.
- Dr Tim’s Traditional Ale – 4.5% Hoppy with a slightly dry finish – very much the same as the Pale Ale, maybe a little smoother with less sediment.
- Sparkling Ale – 5.8% Malty, hoppy and fruity. Arguably better than the Pale Ale…
- Celebration Ale – 5.2% Malty, crisp and a little bitter with a fruity aftertaste. A little nutty and some caramel hints too. Really enjoyable.
- Dark Ale – 4.5% Full-bodied and creamy, the roasted malt gives this beer plenty of personality. Great coffee flavour to finish.
The Coopers Brewery Tour is $22 per person and are run at 1pm sharp Tuesdays to Fridays. The tour takes approximately an hour and all proceeds go towards Australian Charities via the Coopers Brewery Foundation.