Beer has never been great at defining terminology. Even the most basic terms such as ‘beer’ and ‘ale’ can lead to confusion when thought about in much detail; styles such as ‘stout’ and ‘porter’ overlap so much that picking one from the other can often be an impossible task; while asking 100 people to clearly define ‘craft ale’ will likely give you 100 different answers.
But perhaps the beer term that causes more blurring of boundaries than any other is ‘Pale Ale.’ How exactly, for example, does a ‘Pale Ale’ become an ‘India Pale Ale’? What precisely makes an ‘American Pale Ale’ American when it’s brewed outside of the USA and uses hops from New Zealand? And whoever allowed the term Dark IPA to even exist?
The first use of the term Pale Ale dates back to the beginning of the 18th century, when brewers started using smokeless fuels to roast their malts. Prior to that, burning wood was the main heating method, which not only imparted a smokiness to the malt’s flavour but also darkened its colour.
By the late 18th century, ‘pale ale’ was a commonly used term but early the following century it went through its first re-naming, increasingly becoming known as ‘bitter.’ The style also started on one of its many divergent paths, with India Pale Ales developed in the brewing mecca of Burton-on-Trent.
Skip a forward a few decades to 1862 and Thomas Cooper started brewing beer in Australia. Although he initially brewed for home consumption, word of his prowess with malt and hops began to spread and before long the Coopers Brewery was a fully fledged business. They still produce beers today that are based on the fledgling brewery’s original recipes, bottle conditioned as they always have been, and with one of them simply named ‘Original Pale Ale.’ No reinterpretations, no confusion – simply an ale brewed with pale malt, water, yeast and hops, in the way it was originally.
So when you drink a Coopers Pale Ale today, it’s best not to compare it to a modern hop-loaded IPA, or a fruity New World APA. You should consider it a pale ale brewed along on classic lines, with both the malt and hops given equal billing for a full flavoured but easy to drink, refreshing beer.
Tucking into a couple of bottles now, we appreciated the grainy flavours of the malt, accentuated by a slight earthiness to the gently bittering hops. And the yeast helps to pull out some fruitier flavours, with notes of banana prominent – so make sure you pour at least some of the yeasty sediment into the glass.
This is a classy pale ale, just like they used make them, before we all got confused about just what a pale ale is meant to be.
Brewery: Coopers Brewery, Australia
Beer Name: Original Pale Ale
Read our piece on Australian beers
For more information on Coopers beers or for trade enquiries please visit www.world-beers.co.uk
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