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PALE COMMONWEALTH BEER
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Overall Impression: A well-balanced, pale, highly-carbonated, and refreshing ale suitable for drinking in a hot climate. Fairly bitter, with a moderate herbal-spicy hop and pome fruit ester profile. Smooth, neutral malt flavors with a fuller body but a crisp, highly-attenuated finish.
Aroma: Fairly soft, clean aroma with a balanced mix of esters, hops, malt, and yeast – all moderate to low in intensity. The esters are frequently pears and apples, optionally with a very light touch of banana. The hops are earthy, herbaceous, or might show the characteristic iron-like Pride of Ringwood nose. The malt can range from neutral grainy to moderately sweet to lightly bready; no caramel should be evident. Very fresh examples can have a lightly yeasty, sulfury nose.
Appearance: Deep yellow to light amber in color, often medium gold. Tall, frothy, persistent white head with tiny bubbles. Noticeable effervescence due to high carbonation. Brilliant clarity if decanted, but typically poured with yeast to have a cloudy appearance. Not typically cloudy unless yeast roused during the pour.
Flavor: Medium to low rounded, grainy to bready malt flavor, initially mild to malty-sweet but a medium to medium-high bitterness rises mid-palate to balance the malt. Caramel flavors typically absent. Highly attenuated, giving a dry, crisp finish with lingering bitterness, although the body gives an impression of fullness. Medium to medium-high hop flavor, somewhat earthy and possibly herbal, resinous, peppery, or iron-like but not floral, lasting into aftertaste. Medium-high to medium-low esters, often pears and apples. Banana is optional, but should never dominate. May be lightly minerally or sulfury, especially if yeast is present. Should not be bland.
Mouthfeel: High to very high carbonation, giving mouthfilling bubbles and a crisp, spritzy carbonic bite. Medium to medium-full body, tending to the higher side if poured with yeast. Smooth but gassy. Stronger versions may have a light alcohol warmth, but lower alcohol versions will not. Very wellattenuated; should not have any residual sweetness.
Comments: Coopers has been making their flagship Sparkling Ale since 1862, although the formulation has changed over the years. Presently the beer will have brilliant clarity if decanted, but publicans often pour most of the beer into a glass then swirl the bottle and dump in all the yeast. In some bars, the bottle is rolled along the bar. When served on draught, the brewery instructs publicans to invert the keg to rouse the yeast. A cloudy appearance for the style seems to be a modern consumer preference. Always naturally carbonated, even in the keg. A present-use ale, best enjoyed fresh.
History: Brewing records show that the majority of Australian beer brewed in the 19th century was draught XXX (Mild) and porter. Ale in bottle was originally developed to compete with imported bottled pale ales from British breweries, such as Bass and Wm Younger’ Monk. By the early 20th century, bottled pale ale went out of fashion and “lighter” lager beers were in vogue. Many Australian Sparkling and Pale Ales were labeled as ales, but were actually bottom-fermented lagers with very similar grists to the ales that they replaced. Coopers of Adelaide, South Australia is the only surviving brewer producing the Sparkling Ale style.
Style Comparison: Superficially similar to English Pale Ales, although much more highly carbonated, with less caramel, less late hops, and showcasing the signature yeast strain and hop variety. More bitter than IBUs might suggest due to high attenuation, low final gravity, and somewhat coarse hops.
Commercial Examples: Coopers Sparkling Ale