Quaffers

Quality ... This year's Coopers Strong Vintage Ale and Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager.
Quality ... This year's Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale and Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager.

Ten thousand individually boxed bottles of Australia's most expensive beer hit Australian retail shelves last week. Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager 2013, the sixth vintage produced by CUB, has a recommended retail price of $99 for a 750ml bottle.

CUB produces the beer just once a year, coinciding with the Myrtleford, Victoria, hop harvest. Galaxy hops from the region, hand harvested and added to the kettle within 24 hours, add to the brew's distinctive character.

The 2013 vintage was brewed from 100 per cent Australian malt and hops. A portion of it was matured in French oak barrels, and the final product weighs in at a chubby 9.6 per cent alcohol. The high alcohol content and significant level of hops both add to the beer's cellaring ability.

Brewers make most beers for current drinking. But the two reviewed today can evolve with bottle age.

Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager 2013, 750ml, $99, ★★★★½

Crown Ambassador pours cloudy and caramel-amber, topped by a dense, persistent foam. It's fruity and pungently, florally hoppy, with deep, sweet, malty notes. The opulent, malt-sweet palate finishes hop-bitter with alcohol sweetness and warmth - the alcohol at present taking over the finish.

Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2013, 355ml, 6-pack $25, ★★★★★

Cooper's vintage ale lurches strongly towards hops in 2013. Their pungent aromas leap from the fresh-poured glass; their flavours dominate the palate; and their lingering bitterness complete the hoppiest vintage to date. However, the high alcohol (7.5 per cent) and rich, sweet malt largely offset the hops, suggesting a long flavour evolution in bottle.