Almanac Beer: Coopers Sparkling Ale – it’s just a shot away



When I think of Coopers Sparkling Ale (and this probably happens way too often) many metaphors present themselves concerning kings and empires and black and white cricket footage, and the launch of exquisite super-yachts, but the Rolling Stones feature prominently in my vivid imaginings, and more particularly the opening track of their heralded 1969 release Let It Bleed.


I speak of “Gimme Shelter” which opens with Keef’s ominous, storm clouds-a-gathering, open-tuned guitar, and one of the most iconic, menacing riffs recorded.


Sparking Ale and “Gimme Shelter” are both instantly recognisable, demanding of your attention and have rightly earnt a place in popular culture. If I drew a Venn diagram of these two joys, I’d colour the overlap with a thick red 4B pencil.


There’s a story that Keef played an Australian-built guitar while recording the song and so vigorous had the sessions been that on the final note, the entire neck fell off, onto the studio floor.


This brings me nicely to Coopers Sparkling Ale long necks. For this correspondent, it’s the finest way to enjoy this fruity, zesty ale, and one of the few beers that isn’t superior out of a keg. A frosty 750ml bottle and a large glass and if you peer into the middle distance you can hear God. Or maybe Keef: mountain craggy and skinny and puffing endlessly on a dart, conjuring the devil with his rhythm axe.


Iconoclastic Kapunda publican Peter “Puffa” Jansen was a single-minded advocate for beer in cans as he reckoned, “they travel better” particularly on his spontaneous and legendary lunch trips, which could stretch over half a week. But I’m unconvinced and with all of this pretext and subtext in mind bought a six pack of these newly launched, hipster-friendly red cans earlier in the week.


So, what is my considered and probing view?


I’ve enjoyed Sparkling Ale in London, Edinburgh, Singapore and New York, and despite the often eye-watering frequent flier points these beers may have earnt jetting about our blue-green planet, I found these to always be a treat. Along with my twangy accent, I saw them as a foamy badge of Croweater honour.


I resisted all urges to tip the can into a trusty Southward mug, not because of the seemingly warlike combination (like wearing a Crows scarf and Power beanie at the same time), but as I imagine this is how these will generally be consumed. I slurped away at my metal tube.


I found the trademark Sparkling Ale aroma and bold, arresting citrus notes were largely absent, as though they’d been shut down by the can, like a curmudgeonly deputy principal. Like a Boggo Road inmate who’d been in solitary for a month there was blinking uncertainty and confusion at its place in the world. It seemed muffled, as though I was hearing “Gimme Shelter” on a Goldstar tape player through an uncooperative bedroom wall.


It was a big Coopers beer, but I mourned the lack of visual delight: the rich, soupy hue in a front bar pint or backyard cup. Instead, a dullish, bashful red tin, which was apologetic rather than assertive, unlike a Andy Warhol long neck on a laminated kitchen table.


Doubtless, our bearded craft beer cousins will love ’em, but I’m unlikely to buy more tins. In this highly competitive market of targeted demographics and business plans, where boutique brewers have sprung up like boy bands, I’m sure these will be a commercial success, and they’ll march out the door of your local boozer.


However, I’ll be the old bull at the counter with a couple long necks in paper bags, heading home to my back patio, a large glass and with Keef in majestic, gnarly delight, Let It Bleed, snarling at volume.


Read more reviews (of pubs and other important things) from Mickey Randall HERE



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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Your local friendly hipster would tell you of that hipster friendly beer, Mickey, do not drink it out of the tin unless you have no other reasonable option. Not surprising it is less enjoyable when you lose the visual aspect and the aroma. Without that you are just drinking an unreasonably strong beer. As that formally great SA institution, Australian National Railways, used to say in their ads, getting there is half the fun!

  2. roger lowrey says

    From a self confessed white bread beer drinker Mickey ( think here CUB) this is a great read. Love your work.

  3. Angaston Hotel circa 1977 after a (very) big night at Maggie Beer’s Landhaus (before she WAS Maggie Beer). Been pretending at civilised tourist in front of MrsB Mk1 (she was warned) but can longer keep pretending. Mine host asked for a hangover cure presents a Red long neck and a steaming bowl of hearty broth. The Coopers Red even seemed darker and richer than the soup. I was an immediate convert and asleep by 3 after 2 long necks (it’s how strong?) Etiquette – early on I thought men shouldn’t waste a drop and revelled in straining the yeasty dregs through the front teeth gap that the dentist (obviously) left for that purpose. More civilised these days.

  4. Steve hodder says

    I was 17 and reading Michael Jackson’s ‘World Guide to Beer’. Coopers Sparkling was one of only a few beers to receive the full five stars. I was determined to find this ale and finally did so at liquor store called ‘San Remo’ in a far flung suburb. I grabbed a box of 12 bottles. “How old are you?” demanded the bloke in a beige shirt and brown tie. “What’s your birth date?” I tried to be deceitful but ended up blurted out my real birth date and I was a few months short of the legal age to buying beer. “Hmmm, I was going to give you a discount for buying by the box.” He charged me full price which I think was about $1.35 a bottle. Back in those days, if you lived in Melbourne and bought Coopers you knew your bottles would still be in the bathtub at the end of the party. People could see the pick handles, or whatever it was, on the bottles and say “No bloody way am I drinking that stuff”. I’ve stuck with Coopers ever since.


  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    My late grandfather CP Schwerdt used to drink his Coopers Ale with ice. He got onto it when he was stationed at Port Lincoln as a young copper, because it was the only beer that survived the boat trip across and/or kept its flavour etc if stored for a long time unrefrigerated.

  6. Has the Coopers story been written?

  7. Real beer comes in glass. Real beer is drunk from a glass.

  8. Dave- agreed. A large, frosty glass is best. Cans just don’t work. A bit like the Crows’ forward line.

    Thanks Roger. Appreciate it.

    PB- a sparkling ale longneck and a bowl of broth? That’s two serves of soup right there.

    Steve- that’s a good yarn. Many over here claim that taking Southwark to a party would also guarantee you’d keep all your beers.

    JTH- good question. Unsure. Their original Kensington brewery was just around the corner from Marryatville High where I taught, and some days if the weather was right, and the wind was kind, I could smell the hops and beer when on yard duty. Most inspirational.

    Rabs- Yes. Mater semper certa est.

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

    Swish- I suspect CSA has a considerable half-life.

  9. Mickey.
    Love it.
    And I’m happy and bound to report that I have a 375ml red on the go as I read this. And now write.
    It began as 375ml stored in dark brown glass.
    If we’re talking stubbies, why the long neck on the stubby?
    Why don’t other manufacturers follow the VB “hand-grenade” model? Squat, low surface-area-to-volume-ratio… surely the grenade is a better option for keeping the liquid cool.
    There’s often a stubby holder story. And as it happens, this afternoon’s stubby holder says:
    “Hotel Brunswick – Brunswick Heads” with a phone number.
    Unsure why the phone number is included on a stubby holder. But that is a lovely pub in a lovely town north of Byron Bay.

  10. Well done Er. That’s a lovely idea on a Sunday night. Speaking of stubby shape: Coopers used to come in a more squat bottle: a hand grenade but these were an abandoned for a sleek, more contemporary model which I’m sure was about marketing and not function.

    When I lived on the state’s West Coast I set myself the goal of collecting a stubby holder from every pub out there and got pretty close but as you know stubby holders accidentally and deliberately walk out of parties and BBQs. Now, I have three left!

    Thanks for that.

  11. My Mother might not be certain Mickey, but my Grandad (the son of an Adelaide publican) always was.

  12. John Butler says

    Mickey, when do your thoughts not run to the Rolling Stones?

    Have always been partial to a drop of the Sparkling. Sometimes more than a drop.


  13. Rabs- it would make my week if you were able to confirm that the pub in question here is the Exeter (Rundle Street, not Semaphore).

  14. JB- That’s a fair observation. Indeed, I read some articles and lists recently and some had Sticky Fingers at the top as the Stones’ greatest album. With Moonlight Mile, Dead Flowers etc I reckon side 2 is superior, but of their big four rank it behind Exile, Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet. However, no doubt in my mind that it’s a Bradmanesque (or maybe Steve Smith-like) run of form; unsurpassed, even by the Beatles.

    Thanks John.

  15. John Butler says

    You can throw Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out into the middle of that run. I doubt any band has had a better five album run.

    FWIW, I would vote Sticky Fingers number 1. But all are superb.

  16. Mickey, he ran the Norfolk Arms Inn, Rundle Street. Long gone now. Before that, the Nhill Hotel, and before that teh Rising Sun, South Melbourne. I wish my family did own the Exie – I seem to spend a lot of time there (or the Brit). You may also be interested in this – maybe we should organise a summer pub crawl? There’s only 20 pubs (and a shorter walk than doing Port road)

  17. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Mickey, only one of those Exeters was the site of our wedding reception. Just sayin’

  18. Rabs- that looks a fine undertaking for a late spring or early summer afternoon. Is the Newmarket still trading? I think I read that it’s shut! It’s been too long since I popped into the Exeter. I found this podcast on the recent history and culture of the Exeter to be excellent-

    Swish- Semaphore’s Exeter is a good lunch pub. Nice indoor playground which the boys have enjoyed on a winter’s afternoon too. I’m sure the photos of your reception would tell a good story.

  19. Terrific read MR, as usual. The storytelling, the turn of phrase, references and the deep-seated passion. Love it man. Not sure if you remember, but there used to be a joke about SA beer. And this is coming from West Australians! Basically, as a young ‘un you just wouldn’t even try SA beer such was its reputation. When I finally did (I reckon I was 20 or 21 and it was back in 83) it was a Sparkling Ale. And I was a convert there and then. It taught me a lot about beer and stereotyping and life in general but mostly about beer.

    Oh and tell Butler he’s dreamin, Exile it is. While the inclusion of Sway on SF makes it almost a tie, Rocks Off and Shine a Light, oh and Sweet Virginia are the difference.


  20. Rick- thanks for that. I reckon side two of Exile is one of the great sides- Sweet Virginia, Torn and Frayed, Sweet Black Angel, Loving Cup. For me it’s exhibit A in the argument that the Stones were always a superior album and not singles band despite the popularity of Satisfaction, Start Me Up etc.

    My cousin swung by yesterday with his chainsaw to chop down a pesky tree for me and of course his payment was a dozen Sparkling Ale longnecks. Outstanding currency.

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