The Cooper Cooler
How to chill with dignity
Most Americans agree, the words “beer” and “cold” go nicely together. Then again, most Americans’ attitude toward beer can probably be summed up by a gadget that made prime-time television earlier this spring: Atlanta inventor John Cornwell’s beertossing refrigerator, which dispenses frosty Miller Lites via a spring-loaded arm to a couchbound consumer with the click of a remote. Respectful?
Hardly. Imagine such jostling indignity being perpetrated on a decent Bordeaux.
Over the last hundred-plus years, artificial refrigeration has been a boon to brewers, but it has also made possible the onslaught of weak, watery light lagers that currently dominate the beer aisle of your average American supermarket. Unlike a complex Real Ale, these beers simply don’t taste good unless they’re frosty. To add insult to injury, the age of refrigeration has made it tough to find a good ale served at the proper temperature: usually a nice, cellarish 50 to 55 degrees, cooler than room temperature but well above the icy extremes of a refrigerator. Most bars and pubs will cater to the lowest common denominator, keeping their draught kegs at the taste-bud-numbing lows required by mass-marketed light beers.
But while it may be sacrilegious to subject a fine Stout or a full-bodied Doppelbock to the indignity of near-freezing temperatures, there’s nothing wrong with a crisp, cold glass of good Lager. And even an anti-refrigeration die-hard will admit that there’s an upper limit to the “room temperature” a beer can endure and still be quaffable: Upwards of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit—regularly exceeded by your average city apartment in a heat wave—is too much for even the most fortitudinous of Barleywines.
The fridge is fine for keeping a cache of lighter brews like lagers and Pilsners on hand, but bottle-conditioned ales are better off stored in a dark cupboard, even if you’ll want them cooled off for serving later.
A refrigerator makes a lousy rapid-cooling device, and it has only one setting: freaking cold. Enter the Cooper Cooler, a handy gadget that claims to be the fastest beverage-chiller on the market.
The Cooper Cooler works by thermal transfer, rotating a single can or bottle in a chamber rapidly while spraying it with cold water from an ice bath. The rotation doesn’t cause carbonation to come out of solution the way shaking does, so though the liquid gets moving pretty quickly, it doesn’t foam over upon opening. It has a slower “no-spin” cycle as well—good for brews you’re really adamant about not agitating, or for preserving bottle labels.
The device chills a can from 77 degrees Fahrenheit down to a fridge-ish 43 degrees in just 60 seconds. A 12-ounce glass bottle takes 3.5 minutes; a full-size wine bottle, 6 minutes. If you substitute hot water for ice water, it doubles as a bottle warmer as well.
While getting the temperature just right isn’t an exact science, it’s easy to cool a beer down a bit without making it overly cold, just by using a shorter chill time than the one recommended for the bottle size. The cooler comes with a chart for gauging the chill time necessary to achieve proper wine temperatures, which would translate fine for a typical 750 ml Belgian Ale bottle. The device is designed to handle a wide array of bottle sizes and shapes, from an 8-ounce can up to an average-size wine bottle.
At about $90 for the tailgater version, the Cooper Cooler’s admittedly a bit pricey. If you’d rather splurge on a bottle of Utopia than a newfangled gadget, the fastest way to cool down an overheated beer bottle is to harness the same laws of physics that the Cooper operates on: Put the bottle in a bath of cold water for a few minutes—or a clear mountain stream, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your backyard. ■