Epic Armageddon IPA amazing hat trick of trophy wins

Armageddon Best IPAThe stuff of fantasy” to quote Michael Donaldson. And he would be right. I am some what lost for words (which some would say is rare), and not sure how to comprehend what it means to win BEST IPA at three different beer competitions, in three different countries (and with three different batches of Armageddon IPA).

In the last six months Armageddon IPA was judged against nearly 400 IPA entries from over 35 countries.

What are the chances of this beer winning the BEST IPA three times?

An interesting quote from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) “American-Style India Pale Ale was once again the most difficult category, with less than a 1% chance of winning a medal ” – 336 IPA entries from US only breweries.

The competitions also reflect Epic Brewing Company’s three largest markets.

  • BEST IPA – New Zealand Beer Awards
  • BEST IPA – Australian International Beer Awards (second largest international beer awards)
  • BEST IPA – Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival, Sweden

A good question came up recently “how come Armageddon IPA has won BEST IPA all of a sudden, and it has been around for years”.

Well it’s easy to forget that this beer has an impressive history of awards and accolades. First bottled in 2009.

2009 – Best IPA – NZ Beer Awards
2010 – Best Barrel Aged Beer – NZ Beer Awards ( Armageddon IPA, aged in a barrel)
2011 – Best IPA – NZ Beer Awards
2012 – Best Beer in New Zealand – Beer & Brewer Magazine
2013 – Best IPA – Systembolaget, Sweden
2014 – 2 x Silver, 1 x Bronze (a tough year for hops, substitutes for some varieties running short)
2015 – 3 x Best IPA in NZ, Australia & Sweden

I’m really proud of these awards, especially when looking at the craft beer market.

Craft beer sales are up 42% in New Zealand. Within craft beer, IPA makes up over 25%* of total sales. To win three trophies it’s both a blessing and a curse. Demand has been greater than we can keep up with since winning at AIBA, and now we look to be struggling to make enough for demand this side of Christmas.

Over the last few years we have exported more Armageddon IPA than has been sold in New Zealand. Since the Australian win, we have had export orders from Australia, Sweden and USA. This increased demand has resulted in the recent purchase of a new triple batch fermenter at the brewery (first batch will be November 2015). This tank makes me a little scared but also puts a smile on my face when I think about the amount of dry hops that will used will be 350kg per batch.


For now Michael Donaldson’s article has some more background on the origins of Armageddon IPA, and Hallertau Brewery in 2008. If you want to read an old page with some fun old videos and background on Armageddon try http://armageddon.epicbeer.com this page will be updated, at some stage in the future. 😉

Also check out the photo gallery that shows the journey of discovery of IPA in California 2008, the inspiration (cheers Chuck Silva & Tomme Arthur), the creation of the beer at Hallertau Brewery, and the release of the beer at the inaugural West Coast IPA Challenge 2008

I have to give a huge thanks to Steam Brewing Company (that won Champion Manufacturer at the 2015 NZ Beer Awards). These guys have put in huge effort for ever increasing quality, and have had to put up with my consistent pushing, nagging, and surprises.

Craft Beer Is Booming In New Zealand 2015

ANZ Craft BeerThe ANZ Bank has come out with the most detailed report on the New Zealand Craft Beer industry ever. (if you want to check it out go HERE to download the .pdf file ). Craft Beer is booming in New Zealand in 2015

Here are the highlights from the report.

  • NZ Craft Beer 13% of total beer sales. (up from 9% in 2013)
  • Off premise craft beer sales up 42%
  • Total beer volume down 12% since 2008
  • 80% of craft brewers were in business to follow their passion, compared to 25% of those in other industries
  • NZ Craft Beer exports to Asia have more than doubled in the past two years.
  • China represented over 50% of NZ Craft Beer exports to Asia in 2014
  • Number of breweries has grown to 111 today from 37 in 2009 (per capita that is the same as the US having 7900 breweries)




Craft Beer VS Wine in New Zealand

2012-01-13 16.14.31When Epic Pale Ale was launched nearly 10 years ago it was possibly the most aggressively hopped beer on the market. Huge hop aroma and huge hop flavour.

After 18 months of doing tastings, and sampling I got a clear message from the market that the beer wasn’t like what people’s expectations of beer was. Beer drinkers were going straight to the fridge and looking for the green bottled premium lager that was on special for $19.99 a dozen. They were only loyal to the price point and not the brand.

The interesting observation I made at the time was a lot of feedback from people was “I use to be a beer drinker but I drink wine now because it has a range of flavours”.

Now 10 years on I can see a turning tide. The wine drinkers are returning to beer, this time its craft beer. Why? because it offers flavour, and a diverse range of styles.

So we are now entering an age where it will be craft beer vs wine. Craft beer seems to sit closer to flavours offerings than the mainstream industrial beer, making it easier for wine drinkers to change beverages.

2015-08-13 20.36.26This is potentially a threat to wine sale in the coming generation. Similar to what has happen over the previous 20-30 years where beer has lost out to wine.

Extrapolating this out maybe the wine industry, which is a mature market now in NZ, should look at craft beer. Maybe for inspiration but possibly for acquisition. If you look back to the 1980’s and 90’s the two large brewers in NZ bought up wineries and wine brands to make sure they had a portfolio of beverages to reflect the changing market.

How much will craft beer affect wine sales in the coming years?

Will wineries look to acquire craft breweries to balance the effect of loss in sales from wine?

Beer Writer of the Year 2015 – Bartlett and Corfe

jono corfeAfter my recent attention grabbing headline “Beer Writer of the Year 2015 – Martin Craig” which not only drove a large amount traffic to Beertown.nz , but also gave me a bit of feedback to reflect on.

On reflection, I admit the headline was designed to grab attention, but also brought attention to a great blog, which most people that visited got value from.

Secondly I realise I was remiss not to have considered other blogs, the first of which jumps to mind is Bartlett and Corfe. This blog written by Messrs Ned Bartlett and Jonathan Corfe is in a slightly different style, but still very informative and topical, written with passion and intellect . It’s a great read and you should definitely consider subscribing.

I’ve decided that the reason I missed this blog (and maybe others, or even other writers who don’t publish online) was I don’t get an email update each time they post. I have been playing around with RSS feeds, and trying to work out the best way to get updates from local blogs. Obviously email has been the winner recently. I’m going to consider this some more and work out a way to get updates all in on place. (I’ll report back once I have found a practical solution)

ned bartlettIf Beer Writer of the Year is still an award, then it is going to take some serious skill and consideration to pick a winner this year.

Oh, one other point that has been raised by a number of people, is it is nice to have these people blogging about the good, and the positive that is happening in our beer community in New Zealand. It’s great to celebrate the successes of those small businesses out there trying hard, putting it all on the line, and bring joy to the New Zealand beer drinker.

Sometimes it seems some people get a bit pretentious and precious about beer. They forget that it is a beverage that can taste great, have its merits discussed while enjoying the company and conversation of friends. Beer doesn’t go out to hurt people, it wants to be your friend.

Good beer is best enjoyed with friends.

Question: How much ethanol can you get from yeast slurry?

brewtroleumYou may have seen DB in the news recently “saving the world” with Brewtroleum

Can someone explain to me, as I’d love to know, how you get 30,000 litres of ethanol from 58,000 litres of yeast slurry?

The way I understand it, there would be beer left in this slurry, lets be generous and say 50% is beer. Lets assume it is high gravity beer, pre dilution, so maybe 8% abv.

50% of 58,000 litres x 8%abv = 2,320 litres of 100% ethanol.
100% of 58,000 litres x 8%abv = 4,640 litres ethanol.

How do you get 30,000 litres of ethanol?

Maybe I’m wrong, and have misinterpreted the information they have presented, or totally misunderstand the process. I’d love to think this isn’t another marketing stunt.

If they can extract this much ethanol, how cost effective is it? and will this be an ongoing process to save the world?

The media haven’t presented more than the original press release, with a celebrity (haha, Green MP), and line of cars waiting to get this gas. Were all the cars driven by DB employees?

Beer Writer of the Year 2015 – Martin Craig

Martin Craig2You should check out the new blog BeerTown.nz by beer writer Martin Craig. He only kicked this off about three weeks ago, but if he keeps writing like this he definitely deserves to be the New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year 2015. His writing is informative, thoughtful and in-depth, and he is prolific. Sign up to receive emails.

It’s posts like Brewing hub plans for Upper Hutt that give you the scoop on what’s happening at a local level. Information like this you just wouldn’t know about, but thanks to Martin for writing about it.


About BeerTown.nz and Martin Craig (from his blog)
Beertown NZ is an enthusiastic, subjective, opinionated and independent celebration of New Zealand beer and brewing.

It’s managed by me, Martin Craig, a freelance business journalist and marketeer based in Wellington, New Zealand.

I wrote my first craft beer article in 1993, profiling Anchor Brewing in Porirua, NZ. Since then I’ve written for the Listener, North & South, Consumer, ProDesign, NZRetail, Fish & Game, Beer & Brewer, Pursuit of Hoppiness and others. I have also editedPursuit of Hoppiness and business magazines.

My personal beer career has involved indifferent home brewing and 20 years living within a short walk of the excellent Regional Wines in Wellington. I have judged for Consumer, SOBA, the West Coast IPA Challenge and other events.

All up, Beertown NZ is about good beer and good writing. Enjoy!

Contact me through Twitter @BeerTownNZ



2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest

2014-03-10 10.30.47The 2015 New Zealand Hop Harvest was completed in the first week of April having started in the second week of February.

By Doug Donelan

The New Zealand Hop harvest commenced this season with the traditional northern types of Fuggle and Styrian Golding arriving into store in the second week of February. Early New Zealand varieties such as Pacifica and Motueka commenced soon after with all picking operations in full swing by the start of March and concluding with the final bales of the later varieties Rakau and Green bullet weighed across into cold storage by early April. During the growing season the spring was unseasonably cold, especially the overnight temperatures, which held the plants back considerably and slowed development until well into November. The region’s famous summer finally arrived with the New Year and it persisted solidly throughout, right up till and into April. It brought with it long sunny days with plenty of heat units all interspersed with good levels of warm coastal rain.

By the time harvest arrived most of the districts plants had developed into what appeared to be an above average crop but one that finished only slightly ahead of grower production estimates. The weather conditions during harvest were for the most part ideal, although some severe northerly winds and torrential rains did occur mid-point as part of the aftermath of category 5 tropical cyclone Pam which did impact harvesting in some gardens.

First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Main Harvest Points:

  • Farm structure for the 2015 harvest remained at 17 grower / shareholders (including a joint venture) all supplying hops through the cooperatively owned company of New Zealand Hops Limited.
  • Cultivation continues to be dominated by designated aroma/flavour varieties at 328 Hectares while Alpha designated production continued to fall to 60 Hectares. An overall total of 389 Hectares was harvested which is an increase of 19 hectares from the 2014 harvest (370 Ha)
  • Total volume harvested was 739,620 kilograms (Table # 1) which is a decrease of 24, 949 kilograms on the 2014 harvest (764,569 kg). Aroma / flavour designated hops accounted for 605,668 kilograms with alpha designated varieties at 133,952 kilograms.
  • The average alpha acid was 9.5 % with the highest commercial variety being Waimea at 15 .5 % and the lowest being Wai-iti at 3.1 %.
  • Selections and grade standard assessments scored well above the average with growers delivering hops of an exceptional standard…5,948 bales were received into the New Zealand Hops Limited new cold storage facility on Blackbyre Road Appleby.
  • A highlight once again of harvest was the industry’s green hop programme operated under an expanded model this year which saw NZ Cascade, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin distributed to 35 brewers throughout the main centres and supporting several green hop beer events and seasonal releases.

Hop Bale 2015Market position:

  • The 2015 crop was approximately 95 % sold prior to harvest with a post harvest view that the total crop will be sold prior to the 2016 harvest.
  • Spot availability continues to be limited under the current market demand for New Zealand Hops and specialty hops in general internationally.
  • As has been stated in previous reports acreage will continue to expand against a landscape of sustainable pricing and forward contracts, however as the total international market continues to grow it is unlikely that the New Zealand Industry will advance past its current world crop contribution of less than 1.0 %
  • Currently a continued programme on farm of switching out of varieties is seeing modest increases in acreages while volumes remain reasonably static. A point will occur when the variety balance will be met and then both acreage and volume will commence to track upward together.
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka
First year Riwaka hops grown at Mac Hops farm in Motueka

Industry outlook:

  • Research and development will continue to be a major focus of the industry through our research partnership with New Zealand Plant and Food Research. Plant breeding remains at the forefront of the programme and several new selections were identified as “of interest” during this season.
  • A pilot brewing plant was also commissioned during the season and several of the new selections have been earmarked for pilot brewing trials through our own system as well as some larger scale trials through commercial partners.
  • Identification of hops with unique flavour profiles and brewing characteristics for commercialisation run at the heart of the programme however agronomics such as yield and in particular establishing a broader future picking window are key to our future varietal selections.
New Zealand VarietiesQuantityNorthern VarietiesQuantity
Nelson Sauvin165,760Cascade31,500
Motueka103,310Styrian Golding1,670
Green Bullet41,380Willamette540
Pacific Gem38,840Other3,520
Pacific Jade34,250
Pacifica33,000Total Northern Varieties39,050
Dr Rudi30,550
Southern Cross22,400Organic VarietiesQuantity
Sticklebract3,300Nelson Sauvin4,290
Brewing Trials1,700Pacific Gem2,700
Total NZ Varieties679,970
Total Organic20,600
Harvest Total739,620

Please direct further enquires to nzhops@nzhops.co.nz  typing “Media Release” as the subject.

Beervana changes hands

Beervana 2015The ownership of New Zealand’s largest craft beer festival, Beervana, has shifted from Cryer Malt to the Wellington Culinary Events Trust Inc. (WCET), the organisation that runs Visa Wellington On a Plate.

The nine-year old beer festival, which runs during Visa Wellington On a Plate every August, features over 60 breweries with approximately 200 beers showcased to 10,000-plus punters and trade who visit the two-day event.

Sarah Meikle, Chief Executive of WCET says it made perfect sense for the organisation to buy Beervana.

“Visa Wellington On a Plate serves up the best food and drink the region has to offer, and craft beer is a big part of what makes Wellington a culinary hot spot. There’s a growing thirst for craft beer with the category growing at 25% per year[1] and the majority of that growth is being driven by Wellington brewers.

“Beervana is a cornerstone event of Visa Wellington On a Plate and we’re really keen it continues to stay a big part of it. It helps bring more than $3 million[2] into the capital during the festival but it has the potential to be even bigger and better.”

David Cryer says he’s delighted to be passing over the Beervana reigns to WCET.

“Beervana really started to take off when it became part of Visa Wellington On a Plate. Our visitor numbers have risen considerably since then and will only grow more as the craft beer industry continues to strengthen.”

“It’s become a major event that takes hundreds of hours to organise and the time was right for me to move aside and let someone else take charge. WCET is passionate about the event, industry and has the structure to ensure Beervana’s continued success.”

Beervana will run this year from 14 – 15 August at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.


[1] New Zealand Craft Beer Industry, ANZ Bank, August 2014 (https://bizhub.anz.co.nz/media/2431529/craft-beer-industry.pdf)
[2] Beervana Economic Impact 2013, Wellington City Council, September 2013

#FreshHopNZ15 – Auckland 2015

fresh hop brewers from aucklandPRESS RELEASE – 23 April 2015

Freshhop is back for its second year, the brewers of Auckland learnt a considerable amount last year with our first Freshhop in 2014. Now they are using the lessons learnt and this year they are brewing using two varieties of Hops; Motueka and Sauvin.

In 2014 they used Waimea, this year Auckland Beer Lovers get the chance to try something new with not one but two new hops. These delicious beverages will be found on tap around the Craft Beer Bars in the Auckland Region.

The big difference between Freshhop beers and other beers is that the hops are picked fresh and brewed with as soon as possible. Hops are picked in the morning in Nelson then taken to a site for field heat to be taken out of them. They are then placed in a chilled truck and driven to Auckland as fast as legally permitted to keep them as fresh as possible. The truck is met by a group of eager brewers who take their hops immediately to their breweries to plunge them into their barley worts they have created and at the end they have a Freshhop beer.

If you can envisage the difference in cooking between using Fresh Coriander vs. Dried Coriander you are getting the gist of it. The Freshhop beer has more natural resins, more aroma and more flavour.

Many of the beers are designed to allow the hops to be the main aroma and flavour component of the beer. This is a unique once in a year opportunity to use the Hops as fresh as they can be and it is not a tasting opportunity to be missed by anyone who likes the greatest beverage of all…Beer!

There will be Eleven Auckland Brewers creating twelve different beers. These will be released on the 23rd of April in Nineteen bars across the Auckland region from Warkworth to Manakau and across to Riverhead. We shall be inviting the public to register with us and vote on which beer they liked the most and will go into a draw to win some great brewery gear from the brewers.

An Awards Function is scheduled at 16 Tun in Wynyard Quarter on Friday 1st May to announce the winners to the public, brewers and bars. Award categories covering best beer (people’s choice) and best activation/promotion by a craft beer bar on the theme of Freshhop Beers.

In the meantime get on to www.freshhop.co.nz

Twitter: @freshhopnz15

VIDEO – Brew Day – House of Nicholas – Sarah IPA – #FreshHopNZ15

Video from the Brew Day at Hop Federation, with Simon Nicholas & Luke Nicholas. – HOUSE OF NICHOLAS #FreshHopNZ15