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Published October 29th 2014
Sampling favorite beers is an opportunity too good to refuse
Imagine the challenge of being locked in Australia's largest family owned brewery for 90 minutes and not being able to taste any of the product for that long. The thought consumed me, so I booked on one of the tours of Coopers Brewery, and sought to achieve this personal challenge.
Tours of Coopers Brewery at their Regency Park brewery are conducted every Tuesday to Friday at 1pm and take around 90 minutes. Tours cost $27.50, of which $25 is donated to the Coopers Foundation which is ultimately distributed to numerous local charities. The remaining $2.50 is forwarded to Canberra as GST. The Coopers Foundation also receives the proceeds of any sales of scrap or byproducts from the processing plant, and to date has returned in excess of $2.6m to South Australian charities.
The tour starts in the history room with our well informed tour guide, Frank. Frank jokes that he used to be assigned to the Coopers complaints hotline, but got bored so he started to run tours of the brewery. The Coopers brand was started in 1862 by Thomas Cooper who began brewing beer as a tonic for his wife. The locals soon got hold of this tonic and it became so popular that a whole brewery was opened.
Frank takes the tour group through everything there is to know about the beer as he takes us through the brewing and bottling processes. While some of these processes are scientific (chemistry and physics) when describing the lifecycle of the malt and ingredients, Frank offers a well-rounded view of what goes into making a bottle or can of beer.
We pass the giant silos and Frank tells us that the "happy smells" coming out of them are the odours released in the yeast fermentation process. We then head inside the brewery to view the large vats containing hundreds of litres of dark, frothy beer being whirled around. The hi-viz vests and closed shoes are necessities inside the Brewery due to the risk of potential of injury, but staying close to Frank minimises our risks.
The bottling plant is up next where thousands of bottles of beer are filled and capped before our eyes. It is here that we learn that Coopers introduces the hops to their beer processes at the beginning, which allows the flavours to form earlier and creates a naturally delicious beer, which is different to other Australian brewers who have the hops added at the end of the brewing stages for colour and flavour. Today the first processing line is filling 375ml bottles at the seemingly incredible rate of 1,200 per minute, while the second line is filling long necks (750ml) at the slower rate of 500 per minute.
Before we know it the 90 minutes was up, and we headed towards the bar area for some tasting samples. Smiles suddenly appear on the faces of all visitors as we are provided with a glass that says "I've done the Coopers Tour". Inside the glass is poured some tasting samples of Coopers products starting with the low-carb Light and Clear products before tasting the Lagers including the Australian brewed Carlsberg for which Coopers has the license. We then moved on to the much loved Pale Ale, which is still Coopers' most popular beer. But it is when the Coopers Vintage is brought out that the smiles appear on all the visitors. This iconic premium beer is sure to become legendary in years to come.
The tour is now officially over, and I can say that I know a lot more about beer than before I started. The tour has been great, and Frank has been such a well informed and engaging tour guide. And I feel happy that I have helped put some money in to the coffers of some South Australian charities.
Coopers Brewery Tours suit individuals, tourist groups or even Corporate groups who are looking for something different, or perhaps even a bunch of girls or guys on their hens/bucks nights. Further information on the tours is available from their website or their facebook page.