31 August 2009

Epic Armageddon IPA Oak Barrels tasted after ocean voyage

Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Company tries the first sample of Epic Armageddon IPA from the oak barrels that spent 6 weeks on the Interislander ferry that travels between the North & South islands of New Zealand.

The barrels crossed the Cook Strait 126 times. The beer was sampled at the public festival Beervana, on the 28th and 29th August 2009, to very positive feedback from the public.

The barrels were named Pete & Melissa after UK based beer writers Pete Brown and Melissa Cole.

The inspiration for this idea come from Pete Brown's book Hops & Glory

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08 August 2009

Armageddon a taste for hoppy beers by Bruce Holloway

The end is ni…ce!
("The end is ni…ce! by wasabicube, on Flickr")

Put the paper down and go and write these beer names in your diary now: Epic Armageddon and Maximus Humulus Lupulus.

Because anyone interested enough to be reading a beer column, or possessing even a vague appreciation of hops, should make a special effort over the next few months to try and hunt out these two exciting limited-release hop-monster beers brewed in Auckland.

Armageddon is a hop-crazed, supercharged mutation of Epic Brewing Co’s Pale Ale – effectively a walk on the wild side well beyond Epic Mayhem -- while Maximus Humulus Lupulus (the Latin translates as "greatest hops") is Hallertau Brewery’s equally robust interpretation of a double India Pale Ale.

These beers are a hop lover’s dream, and, to be fair, quite possibly a garden variety lager drinker’s worst nightmare, given their unfettered accent on flavour rather than a marketing department’s brand imagery.

In the past few weeks Armageddon and Maximus have been the stars of the West Coast IPA Challenge, in which they have gone head to head and hop to hop in a contest to find New Zealand’s champion super-hopped beer, before packed houses of beer buffs in Wellington (The Malthouse) and Auckland (Brew on Quay).

Here drinkers were invited to vote for their favourite hop monster with their wallets.

Armageddon, fuelled by cascade and centennial hops, is perhaps the more commercial of the brews. It’s filtered, pasteurised, and more stable.

Numerologists will appreciate how its 6.66 per cent alcohol by volume also ties in nicely with its biggest, baddest "end of the world beer" theme. It has huge floral and citrus aromas – I swear I could smell it from the door of the pub -- and a resinous, piney tang, though the powerful taste of hops actually creates an illusion of a far less intoxicating beverage.

By contrast Plowman’s Maximus seems more raw, exciting and alive. It was every bit as botanical as its name, with layer after layer of hops evident, and a satisfying dry finish. It features Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe hops and weighed in at 6.8 per cent.

It was standing room only in Auckland, as beer boffins enjoyed a rare opportunity to enjoy two extremely hoppy tap beers side by side.

"This is the greatest beer I have ever tasted," Seattle-based beer hunter Nick Keefe told me, in drooling over an Armageddon.

The bloke on the other side of me disagreed. "Not even the best beer in the challenge," he sniffed.

They could both have been right. It was that sort of event.

Epic certainly won in terms of pints sold, was smoother, and it had a name punters could pronounce. But Maximus was perhaps truer to the pioneering spirit of the challenge, with its big boldness and rough edges.

However to judge a beer by turnover is an absurd proposition, particularly in New Zealand, where it is almost a rule of thumb that the bigger selling a beer is, the more likely it is to be complete rubbish.

Both beers evolved after Epic brewer Luke Nicholas and his Hallertau counterpart, Steve Plowman, travelled to California last April, where Nicholas was judging at the World Beer Cup.

They sat in on the 2500-strong American craft brewers conference, came under the influence of boffins pushing the boundaries with extreme-hopped beers and suffered a craving to create their own monsters.

Plowman is a laid back unflappable Westie. By contrast, Nicholas is like Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear -- an eloquent, engaging frontman for his product, and one who loves to win just as much.

In the final analysis my wallet voted for his beer more. But Plowman has given us the most memorable Maximus since Russell Crowe starred in Gladiator.

Only 1000 litres have been brewed of Maximus, so it is a collector’s item, and only available in take-home supplies from the brewery in Kumeu.

Armageddon is in 500ml bottles, and available through the New World supermarket chain and speciality liquor outlets, for anywhere between $10-12.

This article appear over the weekend in The Press (Christchurch), Dominion Post (Wellington) and The Waikato Times (Hamilton)

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05 August 2009

Hops over the top, but not the price by Geoff Griggs

Last week, I wrote of how, in an attempt to mimic the arduous six-week sea voyage endured by the original India Pale Ales, Auckland brewer Luke Nicholas recently filled two oak casks with his new beer, Epic Armageddon IPA, and sent them criss-crossing Cook Strait on the inter-island ferry.

Although those barrels will not be tapped until next month's Beervana tastings in Wellington, the bottled version of Epic Armageddon IPA is now available at selected outlets around the country and, I'm glad to say, a few cases have made it to Blenheim.

Armageddon pours a bright amber colour with a deep off-white head. Hopped exclusively with American varieties, the beer almost jumps out of the glass as it assaults the nose with a massive hit of citrus zest and sweet, lollyish, tropical-fruit hop aromas.

A first sip confirms the intensity of the hop attack and, despite some cushioning sweet maltiness, in the end, the inside of the mouth is left dry with a coating of hop resin. After a glass, you'll likely end up with a fixed hop grin.

Armageddon isn't quite the end of the world, but it is certainly brash, intimidating, full on and over the top in other words, just as an American IPA should be. I love it.

Full Story

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