High on hops: Pale Ales

About a year and a half ago I discovered real beer. Not this cold, wet, tasteless swill that pretends to be beer. But real beer that tastes of malt and hops – or in the beers I tend to like hops, hops and more hops. I’m a hophead. And that’s why I love Pale Ales. Originally the term Pale Ale meant any ale (as opposed to lager) that was lighter in colour but over the last few years it has shrunk to define a subset of beer styles that share three characteristics – moderate alcohol levels (from about 5%), a pale colour ranging from amber to copper and noticeable hop flavour profile.

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Epic Journey recreates beer’s most famous voyage

Forty litres of fresh India Pale Ale from Auckland will spend up to six weeks at sea on the Interislander Ferry looking to recreate a recreation of beer’s most famous voyage.

In the 1880s, pale ale from Burton-on-Trent in England took around six weeks on tall ships to reach its thirsty customers in India. British beer writer Pete Brown recently retraced the long journey which helped create this iconic style of beer. He chronicled his adventures in the newly released book Hops and Glory: One Man’s Search for the Beer that Built the British Empire.

After a sleepless night finishing the book, Malthouse proprietor Colin Mallon had the ‘crazy idea’ of replicating the experience in New Zealand. “I had met Pete Brown in England recently and just loved the book. First, I needed some beer. My first thought was Epic Armageddon, a limited release double India Pale Ale brewed by Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing Company. He agreed immediately. Then I needed a boat. The Interislander Ferry agreed immediately. I tasked Luke with finding appropriate barrels,” says Colin.

“I sourced two 20-litre new oak barrels and filled them with fresh Armageddon,” Luke explains. “I recently brewed a real ale in England for a huge British beer festival so I knew Armageddon was not a million miles away from what a traditional pale ale would have tasted like. For a beer to stand up to the kind of treatment we have in mind it has to be pretty robust. Armageddon is definitely big, strong and hoppy. The idea is to see what effect changes in temperature and constant movement has on beer stored in wood. Most pundits believe India Pale Ale’s benefitted from the conditioning they received during their sea voyages.”

Colin and Luke jointly christened the beer ‘Epic Journey’ while the barrels are affectionately known as Pete (after Pete Brown) and Melissa (in honour of British beer writer Melissa Cole). Pete and Melissa will spend up to six weeks on the ferry before being ceremonially tapped at Beervana at the Wellington Town Hall, 28th & 29th August.

For the full background story see http://armageddon.epicbeer.com

Countdown to IPA Challenge – 17th July

This Thursday (17th July) night at the Malthouse sees the unveiling of two big beers created as part of a joint project referred to as “The West Coast IPA Challenge“.

The idea for creating two similar beers came after a recent trip to California by Luke Nicholas (EPIC) and Stephen Plowman (Hallertau). Having spent 10 days trying mostly American and Imperial IPA’s, it was more the need to get another fix of massive hops than anything that got these two brewers to brew such big beers. (both definitely not commercially viable in this country)

Hallertau brewed using New Zealand malt and hops, and Epic brewed using English malt and US hops. Both target 7% alc/vol, a similar colour, and massive levels of dry hopping. Be warned these aren’t your usual beers. (Photo essay of the story behind these beers)

Both Luke & Steve will be present for the launch on Thursday at the Malthouse and will also be around on Friday for Interntaional Brewers Day, in the company of Carl Vasta (Tuatara), and possibly a couple of other guest brewers.