#359 Epic – Message In a Bottle

Michael, the book, the beer and I.

Name: Message In a Bottle
Brewery: Epic (Akl, NZ)
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.5%
Source: O’Carrolls Freehouse

On Wednesday night I attended the loveliest, rowdiest book launch I’ve ever been to – the unveiling of Michael Donaldson’s “Beer Nation” at O’Carrolls.

Telling the story of beer in New Zealand, and that’s what this book does, is a heroic task if you ask me.  I get nervous of getting some fact wrong and upsetting somebody every time I hit Publish, so to put out an entire book which covers so much and will be scrutinized by plenty of beer geeks – that takes balls.

And while I’ve only had time to read passages, it seems Michael nailed it.  It gives in-depth (yet easy to read) coverage of both the history and the current state of beer in NZ, and is loaded with lovely old photographs of brewing legends (with bonus comedy moustaches!), breweries, newspaper articles and advertisements. Beer geeks will love it, but so will anyone with an interest in New Zealand history.

(And because this blog happened to coincide with Michael’s research period, I even made it into the Women in Beer chapter! It seems I said some strange things when he interviewed me last year, like “women drink beer differently to men” and “I try not to eat too much junk food”, but I was glad to see a great quote from my Mum made it in, immortalized in NZ beer history forever.)

In my experience, most book launches serve sauvignon blanc or Heineken with brie, but clearly that wasn’t going to fly with beer people. For this one Epic brewed a special beer – to Michael’s brief – which is based on the beer Kiwis brewed “before industrialisation, prohibition-pleasing law reform and rationalisation turned beer into a one-dimensional mass-produced commodity”.  Apparently that was based on the IPAs being shipped over from the UK, and so we have a slightly meta situation of a beer based on beer based on beer.

I  think Luke did a great job. I didn’t actually take notes because I was too busy yakking, but I remember it had a subtle hop aroma, an almost burnt caramel, roasty malt flavour with quite a lot of hop bitterness at the finish. It came across as really well-balanced, super drinkable and totally secretive of its high ABV.  I don’t expect it will be as popular as Epic’s massive hop-forward IPAs, but those who prefer English style IPAs might like it best of all.

Today’s thanks goes to Epic’s Luke Nicholas. Luke not only increased my initial pageviews by about a million times by putting this blog on the Realbeer site, he’s had me at the HQ for some incredible tastings, agreed to be my Beervana Media Brew partner… Even arranged my one-time awkward stint on TV. Thanks Luke!

Buy Beer Nation here. 

Published in: on August 3, 2012 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

#295 ePICO – Zythogeddon

Name: Zygthogeddon
Brewery: ePICO
Style: IPA
Source: Epic Brewery

OK this is cool – it’s an ePICO beer which I can only assume was some very early trial version of Zythos, which of course we can all go out and buy. I feel like I just found the original recipe for Coke!

Sorry to keep repeating myself but in case anyone is new round here…  ePICO beers are Epic’s homebrews: mini batches that they make at the headquarters to trial out hops and stuff. Zythos is an American hop blend, and it’s also the name of Epic’s latest beer. Beer is the reason we’re all here.

It’s been a while since I had one of Epic’s Zythos beer so I’m not sure how close this was to that – but this was delicious either way. It had a massive aroma of tropical fruit – ripe pineapple and mango – as well as some citrus, and a sturdy backbone of juicy caramel malt.

I had this with Olivia who goes spazzy for IPAs and is a huge fan of Zythos, and she loved it. In fact, between her guzzling it and the heartbreaking amount that gushed down the sink, I didn’t get to drink much of this 750ml bottle at all. 

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

#196 ePICO – Dr. Rudi

Epico Dr Rudi

Name: Dr Rudi
Brewery: Epico (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: ?
Source: ePICO Brewery

Last week when I was at the excellent Mule Tasting at Epic HQ, Luke and Kelly kindly loaded me up with a few bottles of ePICO beer to take home.

ePICO beers are basically Epic’s home-brews. Small, experimental batches that they make at the HQ (essentially a large garage below Kelly’s flat), some of which will go on to be heroes like Hop Zombie, others which, well…

I’m very grateful to be able to try these beers anyway, and I do hope they’ll forgive me for saying a couple of rude things about this one.

The first is that this is hands down the worst-looking beer to appear on the blog so far. I’m sorry, but it is. It was brown and sludgy, like a river after a storm, with a silky muddy sediment that settled at the bottom of the glass. It’s hard knowing what it was supposed to look like because I’m not sure of the style, but still.

On the nose things were much more promising. It had loads of aroma – and actually a very familiar one, though I couldn’t quite place it. I wondered if they used the same hops in this in another Epic beer… the Larger perhaps? Anyway it was very fruity (tropical, passionfruit), with a little malty brown bread and a vague hint of something a bit harsh… like nail varnish. Overall though, a great smell.

In the mouth it was a bit of a donut. I don’t mean it tasted like sweet fried bread (how good would that be!?), but that it had a hole in the middle. The nose was great – the aftertaste was lengthy – but in the middle on the roof of my tongue, it somehow disappeared.

This was not, by any stretch, a bad beer, I think I’m just being extra harsh because I know it was made by two brilliant brewers. Possibly it was meant to be brown and sludgy because it was a brown bread wheat ale or something I’ve never heard of, or maybe they don’t worry about clearing the ePICO brews, but for now I’ll just feel comforted by the thought that even those guys don’t get everything right.

Speaking of those guys – I briefly mentioned before that Kelly Ryan is leaving Epic (like, on Friday) to move to the Tron and work as Head Brewer a new brew-pub. It’ll be a shame not having him around Auckland because a) he is the most knowledgable beer geek I know and b) a bloody nice guy, but on the flip side I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in his new role.

Also (and lets face it, we’re all thinking it), it will be nice to finally have a reason to stop in Hamilton.

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm  Comments (9)  

#193 Epic – Armageddon

Epic Armageddon

Temporary borrowed photo until my sister emails me mine. (Hurry up Olivia!)

Name: Armageddon
Brewery:  Epic (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.6%
Source: O’Carrolls Freehouse

I know what you’re probably thinking.

“Uh… Duhhhh Alice, you’ve already done the Armageddon.” Amirite?

Well guess what? I actually haven’t! But because it’s such an obvious beer to blog about and I’ve done all the other Epic’s so far, you’d be forgiven for assuming I had. Hell, I actually thought for some time that I’d already done the Armageddon, which is partly why it’s taken so long.

I’ve had the Armageddon so many zillions of times now that I actually find it very hard to say what it tastes like – it simply tastes like Armageddon to me, like Coke just tastes like Coke.

But because that wouldn’t be a particularly great description for the blog, I spent some time at O’Carrolls on Friday night sniffing and sipping this with a screwed-up face (to the despair of my company) trying to go back in time to my first taste.

The first thing to say is that its obviously very hoppy. I think this was one of the first big hop beers ever produced in New Zealand (along with the Hallertau MHL) and is probably responsible for turning more than a few New Zealanders into the big hop heads that they are today.

The hops are American and give a typical citrus, pine aroma, as well as sweeter fruits like mango and peach, and a little hint of cat pee (which honestly is not a bad thing in this context).

In the mouth the hops are big, flavorful and fruity, with an underlay of bready or biscuity malt. As well as those fruits mentioned, I get a kind of lemon/limey flavour that I find distinctive to the Amrageddon, although I may not be picking that quite right. It feels smooth and medium-bodied in the mouth, and has a bitter finish with a lengthy hop aftertaste.

The Armageddon (on tap especially) is an excellent drop, and a good secret weapon for converting people to craft beer. In fact – it was this on tap at O’Carrolls that made my Mum declare: “I’ve crossed the divide. I’ll never drink Steinlager again.”

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm  Comments (1)  

#138 Epic Epicurean – Fig & Coffee Oatmeal Stout

Epic Coffee Fig Stout Name: Fig & Coffee Oatmeal Stout 
Epic Brewing Co. (Auckland, New Zealand) 
Style: Stout
ABV: 8%
Epic  Brewing Co.

Ever since I started this blog I’ve been wondering what beer I might drink on Christmas.

I thought I’d either have something ridiculously lavish and expensive, like Pliny the Elder, or go the other way entirely and just drink a Steinlager (which is red and green, after all).

And then a couple of weeks before Christmas, just as I realised I was broke and heading begrudgingly toward Steinlager, this beautifully bottle of Fig and Coffee Stout arrived in the mail.

We had it for breakfast with glazed ham and freshly baked bread rolls. (And, admittedly – Heinz tomato ketchup. It’s a tradition.)

This is the first time in about 15 odd years that I haven’t had bubbly with breakfast, and the first time I’d ever had a stout in the AM, but dammit, if it didn’t just work. 

It worked wonderfully well as a breakfast beer (better than any official ‘breakfast beer’ that I’ve tried), because it tastes predominantly like fresh espresso. I guess it’s probably caffeinated too, which might me why I felt surprisingly perky after drinking it. Then again that might have been the 8% ABV.

It worked as a Christmas beer because it was special – intensely aromatic (espresso and chocolate-covered hard caramel), with a smooth, full mouthfeel and satisfying bitter finish. I can’t say I could properly distinguish the fig and coconut flavours, but I’m sure they added something.

Oh! I just remembered. Someone else has already done a way, way better job than I ever could of writing about this beer. If you want to know the ins and outs of this brew (literally, there is a strangely satisfying video of the figs being pulled out of the brew kettle), then read Epic co-brewer Kelly Ryan’s post on his blog beeRevolution.

And then come back to my blog! Because I’m heading to Mexico in three hours and shit’s about to get LOCO up in hurr!*

*note that by loco I mean posts will generally be shorter, more intermittent, and badly written due to tequila and chilli intake. Not more fun. (But then again they might be.)


Published in: on December 26, 2011 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

#128 Epic – Larger

Epic Larger Name: Larger
Brewery: Epic (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: Imperial Pilsner
ABV: 8.5%
Source: Epic

“Wow, fuck that’s a flavoursome beer.”

“It tastes like sunshine.”

“I feel like I’m on a picnic on a clifftop with my lover.”

Three very accurate quotes from three friends who I (somewhat begrudgingly) gave sips of my Epic Larger to.

I’m probably too drunk to be blogging right now because I drank most of the 8.5% bottle myself, but I’m feeling kinda excited about it and wanted to share my feelings with the rest of you RIGHT NOW.

As I’ve said, many many many times before, I’m not a fan of lager – very rarely even a fan of it’s hopped up alter-ego pilsner. I also try to avoid super alcoholic beers because I’m small and get drunk stupidly quickly. In other words – an Imperial Pilsner is the last thing I would ever order at a bar.

Or so I thought.

As soon as I took the cap off this, my nostrils were assaulted with the massive, hoppy, happy smell of it, which got intensely fruity (heaps of passionfruit in particular) as I got closer.

In the mouth it was fantastic – a big malt presence that balanced out the hops perfectly, producing loads of flavour but without so much of that hop bitterness that I’ve been grumbling a little about lately. The mouthfeel was full and oily but the finish clean and crisp, and the hops left a lovely herbaceous aftertaste.

Like the Hop Zombie, I think the secret to this beer is it’s perfect hop to malt ratio. It’s intense without being aggressive, it’s fun (like sunshine) and exciting (like a picnic with your lover on a cliff) and god dammit if it isn’t flavoursome.

If you’re in Auckland, I highly recommend heading along to the official launch of Larger at O’Carrolls tomorrow, where it will be on tap. (And if you do, please keep an eye on me and stop me from having any more than two!)

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm  Comments (5)  

#86 Epic – Flying Nun 30 Year Ale

Name: Flying Nun Records 30 Year Ale
Brewery: Epic brewing Co. (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Source: Epic

I may as well just be honest now – I was negative five, if you can be such an age, when Flying Nun formed in 1981. I wish I could talk about the good old days in Dunedin – wearing my leather jacket and listening to The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, and so on – but I was too busy, you know, being a baby at the time.

It doesn’t matter though,  lots of other qualified music writers will be publishing pieces on Flying Nun at the moment so I can leave that to them.  For those outside of NZ, you just need to know that Flying Nun is the most iconic, and probably most important music label in New Zealand, and this month it’s their 30 year anniversary.

For “Nunvember” (not the smoothest thing to say, is it?) Flying Nun teamed up with Epic to produce this commemorative beer, the 30 Year Ale. (I was worried when I saw that name. I thought it might be like Moa’s Ten Year Beer and require 30 years of cellaring. It doesn’t.)

The first thing I want to say about it is that the label is kick-ass – so kick-ass that I attempted to make the photo look nice for once – and was designed by a clever Auckland artist, Henrietta Harris. In case you can’t tell, it’s round (like a record baby), and the black part is actually ribbed a little, like real vinyl. Neat huh?

The aroma was, I think, a distinctly ‘Epicy’ one. By that I mean a medley of bright, punchy hops – a bit fruity, a bit floral, some citrus and herby notes, with a little malt softness underneath.

The first thing I noticed when I sipped it was how crisp it was. Very refreshing, very clean. The fruity hop flavours are there with a soft, sweet malt background – but it’s sort of restrained somehow, not intensely fruity like say, the Armageddon. The finish is bitter and dry, but not too bitter, just a little zing. Just enough.

Overall, I think this beer is exactly what it should be. A lot of people who buy it will probably be Flying Nun fans first and foremost, rather than regular Epic drinkers, and this is a nice way for Epic to say hello. It’s a hell of a lot more interesting than your stock-standard lager, but it’s not so hopped-up that it’s scary, if you know what I mean.

The regular Epic fans should enjoy it too. I’d love to drink this throughout the summer – but it won’t be around after November and I don’t think the three in my pantry will last long. In fact, I’ll probably just drink them all in succession on the next hot afternoon. (With food people, with food.)

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm  Comments (2)  

#78 Epic – Barrel Aged I.P.A

Epic Barrel-Aged I.P.AName: Barrel-Aged I.P.A
Brewery: Epic Brewing Co. (Auckland, New Zealand)
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.25%
Source: Epic Brewing Co.

I’m trying to write this post while I drink but I keep sipping and sipping and at this rate I’ll be too drunk to write anything but gibberish soon…

Both hands on the keyboard Alice!

The photo is a bit crap/backwards because I had to take it from my computer (phone is dead, charger lost – again) but I can assure you that beer is definitely not crap. Not even a bit.

I’ve always been a fan of buttery, oaky chardonnays, so it’s not much of a surprise that I should love oak barrel-aged beers just the same. The aroma of this beer appeals to me on the same level – it has that rich, toasty oak smell, along with sweet honey, peach, vanilla and grapefruit notes.

Oh god – I’ve nearly finished the whole bottle now so typing becoming more difficult. Must power on!

In the mouth the oak is even more prominent and there’s a really nice sweet/bitter balance which carries the flavours beautifully. It’s medium-bodied, and the finish is bitter and dry.

I’m feeling more than a bit tipsy now so maybe it’s the beer goggles… But I think this might actually be my favourite Epic beer yet. That’s a big call, and I’d probably have to line up all the others alongside it to be sure… But it’s definitely right up there with the Hop Zombie, Mayhem, Stout, Portamarillo… Oh God don’t make me choose.

I should also mention that while I’ve been drinking this beer/writing this post, I’ve eaten half a wheel of Kapiti Ramara washed-rind cheese which is very delicious and an excellent match for the I.P.A.

Now I’m going for a jog to compensate for this extravagant afternoon tea… By which I mean a walk to the bottle store to buy another bottle of this beer.

Published in: on October 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm  Comments (2)  

#67 Brauerei Heller – Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Aecht Schlenkerla RauchbierName: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock
Brewery: Brauerei Heller (Bamburg, Germany)
Style: Smoked
ABV: 5.1%
Source: Epic Beer HQ via “The Mule”

You can probably tell instantly that this photograph – with it’s perfect composition and notable depth of field – wasn’t taken by me.  No, I had to steal this one from the internet, because the only actual photographic evidence that I have of me drinking this beer is this:

Luke with Rauchbier

That’s not me FYI (I’m not that photogenic) – that’s Luke from Epic doing his best ever cute-face with the Rauchbier.

My memories of the beer are unfortunately about as hazy as that photograph. It was actually the last of many, many beers I tried on Friday afternoon at one of Epic’s “mule tastings” – which involved trying lots of incredible beer that their friend  (The Mule) had bought back from America. Probably the best form of ‘research’ I’ve ever witnessed:

Before I got to the Rauchbier...

I picked the Rauchbier to be the star of post #67 because a) it was the last one I tried and so can kind of remember it and b) because it was the one that stood out for me as being the most delicious.

I’ve had a few different smoked beers before and always loved them, but this was the first one I’d ever tried from the home of smoked beers, Bamberg in Germany. I think this one might even be the most famous example of the style – so it’s no wonder then that it was f***king delicious.

As I say my memories are hazy – but I do recall that it was incredibly meaty – like smoked ham hock in a glass. It had a creamy mouthfeel and a lovely caramel sweetness that carried the campfire/meat flavours beautifully. I only had a small glass as there were quite a few of us splitting it, but if I come across another bottle I’m not going to share it with ANYONE.

Cheers to Luke, Kelly and The Mule for all the great beers. Happy to help with the research any time!

Published in: on October 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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#64 Epic – Mayhem

Epic MayhemName: Mayhem
Brewery: Epic Brewing Co.(Auckland, New Zealand
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 6.2%
Source: Epic Brewing Co.

Hey look! Remember these?

Maybe it’s just me, but I had more or less forgotten about the Epic Mayhem until I was given this one to try. I’m not entirely sure why… it’s just never really jumped off the shelf and said buy me.  

I think it’s because Epic’s other beers have more obvious identities – a pale ale, a lager, a hop bomb or a stout. But Mayhem to me was just always the ‘other’ one. The one with the orange label. The one that I’d never tried…

Until now. (dun dunnnnnnn)

You can see it pours a lovely deep reddish orange, crystal clear and with a decent off-white head.

The smell is fantastic, a bit like an APA I reckon… There’s orange peel, peaches, and pine and as well as a rich honey-like maltiness. It’s got real character and depth, and I love how it’s completely different from the fruity hop smell that I associate with other Epic beers.

It tastes similar, but the flavours aren’t as obvious on the palate. There’s citrus and caramelly malt, but it’s dominated by an intense hop bitterness  that lasts until well after I’ve swallowed. It’s clean and refreshing and pretty damn easy to quaff.

Overall I think it’s interesting and enjoyable – definetely undeserving of my years of neglect – although I think I would have liked it even more had there been a bit more malt to cushion the hops and bring out the flavours. I’m turning into quite the little fuss-pot, aren’t I?

In other beery news, it’s less than two weeks until the Hashigo Zake Pacific Beer Expo in Wellington! I managed to miraculously nab some cheap flights and will be at the Saturday session, probably getting over-excited and drunk on loads of great beers that I can’t remember and won’t be able to write about. Should be heaps of fun. Come!

Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm  Comments (4)