Nick Carr on April 6, 2016 3 Comments History of Australian Sparkling Ale Australian Sparkling Ale is Australia’s only native born beer style. Interestingly its origin and rise in popularity parallels the story of two of America’s own native styles; cream ale and California Common. Australia’s sparkling ale was an innovation pushed by environmental factors and aggressive competition. Australian brewing practices pre-European colonization is, sadly, completely lost to history. There is little doubt some sort of brewing was taking place and, we can surmise, on the face of Australia’s remoteness, that indigenous grains and other fermentables, such as honey, where used extensively. But, any early techniques and recipes have been consigned to that deep dark well known as the unrecorded past. Australia’s brewing history after British settlement in 1788 is better documented. Though rum seems to have been the libation of choice for much of the first century of settlement, brewing was also highly supported. The government looked at brewing through a lens clouded by its success back in England. They saw it not only as a less intoxicating alternative to the harder spirits that where all the rage, but in a light of an economic boon for the young colony. Unfortunately, undependable supply lines and the hotter environment took perspective brewers to task. Trying to brew English style ales in this environment, before any type of refrigeration, was too big an obstacle for brewers to overcome. Inevitably, Australian beer soon fell under the stigma of a subpar product and despite heavy government support the burgeoning industry faltered. Many of these young breweries closed after only a few short years. Dodgy practices, such as adding tobacco, copper sulphate, and cocculus indicus, on the part of brewers more interested in wealth then their product quality further blackened the reputation of colonial beer. Cocculus indicus is a bitter poison which adds some bitterness to the brew and a stronger feeling of intoxication to the drinker. Needless to say, settlers were soon choosing imported beer over the local stuff. Such was this demand that it seems it influenced how Burton-upon-Trent named and advertised some of their beers, as seen in this piece by beer historian Martyn Cornell. By the mid 1800’s, this heightened demand brought a new beer style that was taking mainland Europe by storm… the lager. The hot Australian climate played to the lager’s strength as a light and very refreshing brew. Much as cream ale and California common were made in response to the popularity of lagers in America, a new ale would arise in Australia, answering the challenge of this same thrown gauntlet. This new ale was lighter in color and body than the British ales Australian brewers were trying, and in large part, failing to duplicate. Learn More About Australian Beer It was bottle conditioned with much higher carbonation than usual, which likely was the subject of the “sparkling” qualifier in its name. The higher carbonation helped the feeling of lightness, while the roused yeast kept the body medium and added some smoothness. Unfortunately, this ale could not stem the tide of lager popularity in the Australian colonies and by the beginning of the 20th century only one brewer still produced it. Cooper’s Brewing was first founded in 1862 and the recipe is said to have been provided by his wife who was the daughter of an innkeeper. This British recipe, no doubt, transformed over time by brewing conditions and economic pressure to that of a sparkling ale. This beer style has certainly continued to evolve to some degree over the intervening years, but even after over 150 years the brewery still cranks out what has become the standing example of Australia’s only beer style. Style Profile & Characteristics Quick Characteristics Color Range: 4-7 SRM Original Gravity: 1.038-1.050 OG Final Gravity: 1.004-1.006 FG IBU Range: 20-35 ABV Range: 4.5-6.0% Appearance: Range from golden yellow to copper amber; Large foam head with excellent retention; Superb clarity, if poured gently. Aroma: Balanced & clean; Hop aromas will resemble herbs, earthiness or resin; Malts will range from sweet to grainy with no caramel notes; Esters will range from apple to pear, possibly bananas; May have slight yeast or sulfur aroma. Flavor: Low to medium maltiness with no caramel flavors; Hop bitterness & flavors range from medium to moderately high with no floral notes; Fruity esters will range from low to somewhat high; Dry finish. Mouthfeel: Medium to moderately full body; High carbonation; Crisp & spritzy; No residual sweetness; Possible alcohol warmth. Serving & Storage Temperature: 45-50°F Shelf Life: 1 to 3 Months Suggested Glass: Pilsner, Tulip, Nonic Pint or Mug Food Pairings: Battered sea food, Spicy fried chicken, Asian or Tai dishes, Lamb chops, Salads, Brie, Light fruit tart. The guidelines for the Australian Sparkling Ale beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what an Australian Sparkling Ale should represent. The BJCP classifies the Australian Sparkling Ale beer style as a “Pale Commonwealth Beer” and it can be found in their guidelines as category 12B. There are a total of three styles listed in this category, with the other two being British Golden Ale (12A) and English IPA (12C). Appearance: Color can range from a marigold-like yellow golden to a more light coppery amber. A large head of tiny bubbles with good retention will form. High carbonation makes for an effervescent drink experience. Clarity will depend on how it is poured. If decanted it will be brilliantly clear, but if yeast is roused from the bottom of bottle — as is typical — it will pour cloudy. Aroma: Very balanced across the spectrum with an even mix of hops, malt, yeast, and esters; each playing their part. Hops often show herb-like, earthy, or even resiny character. An iron-like bite is common to the oft used Pride-of-Ringwood hops. Esters are often of apples and pears though light banana may also appear. Yeast will be more noticeable in fresher examples and give a yeasty possibly sulfur-like profile. Malt aroma can range from a lightly grainy to lightly sweet, but may also throw low bread-like tones. Mouthfeel: Medium to moderately full body, with a fuller body expected if the yeast is roused before the pour. Carbonation will be high, lending a crisp zippiness to the mouthfeel. Should have no residual sweetness, but stronger examples may have a warming alcohol edge. Taste: Low to medium malt qualities, showing as a grainy roundness, with mild bready to slightly sweeter malt profile. There should be no caramel flavors. Hop bitterness will balance with a medium to moderately high presence. Hop flavors will be on the same scale as the bitterness with possible earthy, resinous, herbal, peppery, even iron-like notes. No floral qualities should be present. The hop flavors can run into the aftertaste. Moderately low to somewhat high esters of apple and pear, possibly banana. If banana is present it should never dominate. Body may be quite full, especially with yeast present, but the finish should be dry with afterthoughts of bitterness. Minerally, sometimes sulfur-like qualities will be distinguishable, especially when yeast is roused. It should not be a weak or watery experience, this is a naturally carbonated ale best enjoyed fresh. Serving: For best presentation and greatest appreciation, a Australian Sparkling Ale should be served at around 45-50°F in a Pilsner, Tulip, Nonic Pint, or Mug. They are best stored at cellar temperatures and enjoyed 1 to 3 months from time of bottling. Food Pairing: Batter fried sea food such a tempura or calamari pair nicely. Also pairs extraordinarily well with any spice dish such as Southern-style spicy fried chicken, spicy sausages, or certain Asian and Tai dishes. Red meats such as lamb and beef also find a friend in this style, especially if barbequed and grilled. Most salads also work awesome pairing and playing with the crisp zippy feel on a hot day. Stick with creamy cheeses such as Brie and for dessert go with a light fruit tart. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Examples of the Style Examples of this style aren’t easy to find, that is unless you live in Australia. The style isn’t recognized yet in the Great American Beer Festival or as its own style in the World Beer Cup; and it’s not a popular style in the U.S. Your best bet is locating a shop that gets Cooper’s imported, though Laughing Water from Scarlet Lane Brewing looks promising. Sparkling Ale from Cooper’s Brewing Company (Leabrook, Australia)Available: Year Round; imported to the U.S. Original Pale Ale from Cooper’s Brewing Company (Leabrook, Australia)Available: Year Round; imported to the U.S. XXXX Gold from Castlemaine Perkins Brewing Company (Milton, Australia)Available: Year Round. Laughing Water from Scarlet Lane Brewing Company (McCordsville, IN) Available: Summer Seasonal. Nail Ale from Nail Brewing Company (Bassendean, Western Australia)Available: Year Round in many parts of Australia. Three Sheets from Lord Nelson Brewing Company (New South Wales, Australia)Won the Australian Beer Challenge in 2009 : Available: Year Round. Tips to Brewing Australian Sparkling Ale Really, it is only the ingredients’ origins and bottle conditioning that differentiates this pale ale from many other pale ales. Click Here to View All Australian Sparkling Ale Ingredient Kits Grain Bill: If going for the authentic, you’ll want, at the very least, to try and track down some Australian base malt. The base malt can either be Pilsner/lager malt like Joe Whites Pilsner malt or pale ale malt like Joe Whites Traditional Ale. I believe Cooper’s use’s imported English pale malt, which would have been traditional to some extent in colonel times, this too is an option for the homebrewer. The base can make up as much as 80% to 90% of your grain bill. Some sort of caramel malt is added proportionally (if using Pilsner malt as a base up to 10% is a good starting place and less than 5% if a Pale Ale malt is the base). Proportions will also depend on the color of the crystal malt. Crystal malts from Joe White malting are a good choice, but Simpsons and Crisp also produce high quality cara-malts. A small amount of wheat malt is also used to help with mouthfeel and head retention. Use in proportions of up to 10 percent. In colonial times some raw form of sugar, such as cane sugar, was often also added. Though it is not necessary, if you do decide to use cane sugar or even possibly honey, I’d keep it below 5% of the fermentables. Extract Brewing: For those extract brewers, Cooper’s sells a complete homebrew kit for their sparkling ale. Hops: Often only a single bittering addition is used and no additions for aroma or flavor. Australian hops should definitely be employed. Pride of Ringwood is traditional but Super Pride, Topaz, Galaxy, or Australian Cascade will also work. If you just can’t find Aussie hops both Galena and Cluster have been substituted for Pride of Ringwood, but try to get the real thing. The Mash: A single infusion mash at the lower end of the brewer’s window (148-150°F) will work just fine. This will give you the highly fermentable wort needed to create this crisp style. Hold this temperature for an hour then raise it to 168°F for mash out. You may also try not doing a mash out at all. Sparge as you normally would. Yeast: Remember this beer style is often bottle conditioned, so the easiest way to get good yeast for a sparkling ale is to harvest it from Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. Plus, you get a beer to drink while brewing! Harvesting is simply done by sanitizing inside of the bottle opening and pouring all but maybe an inch of the liquid into your glass without rousing the yeast. At this point you can rouse the yeast by swirling the bottle, pour a couple inches of your cooled sparkling ale wort into the bottle, cover the top with sanitized aluminum foil, and let it sit for 24 hours at 75°F. After the 24 hours is up pour the reactivated yeast into your fermentor. Another way to do it is roust the yeast and pour it into a prepared yeast starter of around 1000ml of cooled wort at 1.040. Cover the top with sanitized aluminum foil and let set for 2 to 3 days. Note: Using two or three bottles of Cooper’s will increase your likelihood of success. Recruit some beer drinkers if you need some help emptying multiple bottles. In addition to this route, White labs makes an Australian Ale yeast (WLP009) and looking at dry yeast — Safale S-04 and Danstar Nottingham or Windsor — should work well. I’d stick to English strains just because that’s the origin of Australian strains, but that isn’t to say some American strains won’t do just as well. Fermentation: Ferment at a temperature between 65 and 68°F. Primary will be finished after about 4 days, but let it go another day at least to allow for acetaldehyde levels to drop. Bottling: Use can sugar to prime for bottling. You will be looking at producing around 3.5 volumes of CO2 and can use an online carbonation calculator to determine how much sugar you need to get this volume. Condition your bottles at slightly colder than room temperature for about a week and they should be ready to drink. You may let it mature for a few weeks, but don’t be afraid to break one open and give it a try. Australian sparkling ale is meant to be enjoyed relatively young. So by all means… Enjoy! Cheers!