buzz and hum – Epic IMP review

I just read this positive review about the new Epic IMP on the blog “buzz and hum”. You should not only check out the other posts on this blog, but follow it to, as the reviews are thoughtful and a good read.

I still need to finish writing something official for the release of this beer. This last week has been consumed by Taste of Auckland (which hasn’t gone so well due to the weather).

2014-11-14 18.11.59Quickly, the beer is a Session IPA, 4.7% alc/vol, 35 IBU. Dry hopping is greater than Armageddon IPA. It was officially released on Friday night at Vultures Lane to a jam-packed bar. It was announced that the first keg was the fastest selling keg they have ever had. (I’m sure they tell all the brewers that right? 😉

Hops used – Comet, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe.

What does IMP stand for?

So make sure you head to the blog “buzz and hum” and read some of the other cool posts.


Epic ‘Imp’


Session beers have certainly become ‘a thing’. Indeed, in the year since professional wrestling connoisseur, incorrigible Tory and future Beer Writer of the Year Neil Miller predicted that “balance and sessionability could well be the new black” the supermarket shelves and craft beer taps of Wellington have seen appearances from an increasing number of sub-5% abv flavoursome beers.

The first push came last summer with a number of hoppy golden ales making their mark, and since then lower-alcohol yet fragrantly hopped session IPAs and pale ales have surged onto the market – often in four or six packs, making them great accompaniments for the upcoming summer of barbecues.

And, into that fray surges Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Company. Being the brewer who broke open New Zealand taste buds with his highly-hopped, high-alcohol ‘Armageddon IPA’, ‘Mayhem’, and the infamous ‘Hop Zombie’, one wouldn’t necessarily have expected he’d feel the need to play in the session IPA field that’s been populated by the likes of Liberty’s ‘Oh Brother’ or Panhead’s ‘Quickchange’.

Yet into the field he’s charged, with the ‘Imp’ session IPA. As the tagline on the bottle says, “careful what you wish for”. And, with the Imp, Luke Nicholas has, to use the vernacular, “nailed it.”

The Imp pours a gorgeous burnished bronze colour; clear and sparkling, catching the light adorably. From the top of the glass lifts a invigorating aroma of grapefruit and creamy peach, underlined with a sweet toffee scent.

With the first sip I’m struck by how “soft” it feels; gentle and full, before the carbonation releases wonderfully in the mouth leaving a fizzy, full and creamy sensation.

Imp is a very fruity flavoured beer; the hops playing superbly off the gentle malt to provide a rounded, balanced, sweet and easy-drinking mouthful. Flavours of sweet lemon curd and mature stone fruit predominate at first, but a warm, bitter sensation floods the mouth as I swallow, leaving a lingering, lip-smacking grapefruit flavour.

Very fruity, very tasty.

And all that beautifully balanced fruity sweetness, lingering bitterness and easy-drinking joy comes it at a very sessionable 4.7%! “Small and Mischievous”, as it says on the label, “causing trouble, but in a playful way”. Now, that could be about the beer or about Luke ‘The Beer Imp’ Nicholas himself. But, either way, it’s an apt description. Fun to drink, fun to be around, won’t necessarily get you in trouble. Maybe.

Imp’s not quite a perfect as a session beer, however. While the flavours and sensations of the beer itself are excellent, at the moment I’ve only found this beer (with its eye-catching peacock-blue label) in 500ml bottles, and at a moderately high price point. This is a beer I’d love to see in four- or six-packs of 330ml bottles (like Epic’s Lager or Pale Ale); that’d really put this beer into place as one of my go-to sessionable beers for a summer afternoon.

But, in the meantime, it’s good to see Epic giving the lower alcohol, highly-flavoured IPA a go. Even better to see the end result being so delicious. More, please!


**(If we get good feedback and sales from this first batch then we will make more and seriously consider putting this beer in 330ml bottles)

IMP Poster


Pilsner Urquell Shipped Cold To NZ

Press Release to follow. But this was the most interesting line

Urquell will be cold shipped to New Zealand in both keg and 12 packs and available here from the end of October 2014.



Pilsner Urquell, the world’s original pilsner, will soon be available cold shipped to New Zealand.

Brewed since 1842, Pilsner Urquell is still produced in the original brewery using the same techniques,with ingredients sourced from the same farming regions.

The brand’s fierce traditions and an uncompromised stance on the craftsmanship of brewing are what set Pilsner Urquell apart from the rest according to Pilsner Urquell marketing manager Mike Hannan.

“It tastes like no other beer because it is brewed like no other beer.”

Pilsner Urquell means ‘ancient source’ and is still produced using the same SAAZ hops from Zatec, the same Czech barley from Moravia, the same strain of yeast and the same soft Plzen water as the first brew.

The brewery still germinates and malts onsite and triple decocts its mash over open flames, a process it first used in 1842

The result, says Hannan, is a unique flavour profile that hasn’t changed in 172 years*. “Pilsner Urquell defined the pilsner style; a wonderful balance of subtle sweetness, pleasing bitterness and a rich crisp body.”

Thanks to extensive shipping measures and despite travelling more than 18,000 kms, Pilsner Urquell arrives in New Zealand as fresh and as distinct as the beer enjoyed in its homeland.

Hannan says the beer’s unique taste is preserved by refrigerated shipping.

“The primary enemies to preserving the integrity of beer are time, heat and light. We took the decision for all Pilsner Urquell to be shipped in refrigerated containers within 30 days of brewing to limit the ageing process.”

“Alongside cold shipped kegs, cold shipped 12 packs will be presented in brown glass bottles similar to the very first ones that rolled out of the Plzen brewery.

“At a time when authenticity has never been more highly prized we’re thrilled to offer Kiwis one of the world’s most iconic beers, 100% imported and cold shipped,” Hannan says.

Pilsner Urquell will be available on tap in a select range of bars from late October. It will also be available in 330ml 12 packs at leading premium beer retailers at an RRP of $27.99.

*An analytical test performed in 2012 by Labor Veritas AG in Zurich found that the current Pilsner Urquell almost identically matches parameters set in place in 1897.

About Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell has been brewed since 1842 in Plzen in the Czech Republic, a city that epitomises purity and perfection. The people of Plzen have always been passionate about their beer, so much so that decades ago unsatisfactory brews were unceremoniously emptied into the city’s sewers. Pilsner

Urquell is a beer for the discerning drinker who appreciates quality, tradition and authenticity. It is an icon in the eyes of beer aficionados – it holds the mantle of the world’s first golden beer. Pilsner

Urquell will be cold shipped to New Zealand in both keg and 12 packs and available here from the end of October 2014.

Epic Apocalypse Black IPA

epic-bottle_apocalypseEpic Apocalypse Black IPA will start rolling out this week in bottle.

So why a Black IPA? When this style started becoming popular in the USA I become fascinated by the style, which at the time was being referred to as a Cascadian Dark Ale (named after the Cascade mountain range, which also gave its name to the hop, because the beer style was being made in Oregon.)

In 2009 we started bottling Armageddon IPA. The same year, Apocalypse was brewed for the first time. The key behind making a Black IPA is to keep all the hop aroma and flavour of an IPA and just get the black colour. Well my first attempt left me a little disappointed, as beyond the wonderful fruity hop notes there was a dominant liquorice character from the roast malts I had used. It was very much like a liquorice allsort, which was kind of cool, but wasn’t what I was looking for.

After five years of dwelling on this experience, and the style, arguing whether it should be called a Cascadian Dark Ale, a Black IPA (Black and Pale in the name, really?), or an India Black Ale. Tasting as many different brewers BIPA’s, and talking to brewers about how they achieved their black colour but minimal taste, I was finally confident to give it another shot.

I am totally thrilled with how the Epic Apocalypse Black IPA has turned out. I hope you are too.

It has been touted as Epic Armageddon’s black brother, but I have used slightly different hops for this version of an IPA. Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Chinook. Don’t ask me why, I just felt that the flavours of these hops together would work well in this beer. You will notice that the hop aroma is pretty significant, and this follows into the flavour, where it marries with a hint of roasty malt notes, and finishes clean, bitter and an after taste of hops.

The bottled version of this beer is 6.8%abv which is higher than the keg only version which was 6.0%abv. The reason for trying this out is when people drink at the pub they generally like to have a couple of beers. Beers that are too high in alcohol tend to make it harder for them to drink responsibly. But on the flip side people that buy a bottle to take home (or get it delivered) can enjoy the extra flavour of bigger beers in the safety of their home. 😉

Hopefully you enjoy the beer. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

(The blue and green stripe is inspired by the flag of Cascadia)

Will Technology Save Craft Beer?

After writing my not so popular post about the sky is falling on craft beer – Craft Beer Bubble In New Zealand? there seems to be others thinking similar thoughts about the future of craft beer. (just to clarify one more time, it isn’t the end of craft beer, but more of the potential coming correction)

You’d Probably Never Guess That This Is Craft Beer’s Scariest Problem

“By June 2013, the number of breweries had exploded to 2,538 total U.S. breweries. We’re talking a compounded growth rate of 10% per year for the past 35 years!”

How overcrowding could weaken or cheapen the craft beer movement
But what happens as this field begins to get crowded? One possibility is that the nostalgia surrounding craft brew, and even the quality, could get watered down. It would be clearly tougher and tougher for new entrants into the field with so many established breweries already up and running, so there’s honest concern that brewers may cut corners and cheapen the craft business just to get their product in front of consumers, which would only serve to harm the entire craft beer movement.

Joe Tucker says “Most consumers have been dealing with a dizzying array of options for 10 years, so this is really nothing new despite all the new players. There’s only so much shelf space at beer stores and tap handles at bars. We’ve already had too many choices, so I think despite most of us knowing there’ll be some kind of shakeout, the temporary increase in options will only create hardship for new brewers trying to establish their brand and new consumers.”

“However, it could also mean rough times ahead of new breweries just starting up and difficulty in differentiating their brand from the next dozen breweries being opened”.

– Too Many Breweries, Too Much Choice
– Start Up Breweries difficulty standing out
– Technology will help beer drinkers cut through the crap
– Better make high quality beer

There is so much choice, from so many breweries with so many different beers. Beer drinkers, retailers and bar owners need a way to consider what to purchase. So little time to try everything. Therefore the crowd sourcing of reviews of online databases (, and the app does provide some help.

The problem though with these crowdsourced beer review websites is that the majority of people rating and reviewing the beers generally are noobs. The majority have little knowledge base, or experience in tasting beer or any knowledge about how beer is brewed, or even what common off flavours are.

UntappdMany of those rating beers are influenced by brand, experiences in relation to the brewery. i.e. if they have met the brewer, or someone gave them a free beer at a beer festival. A lot has to do with trying beers and rating them high based on the fact they were already in the top 10, top 100, etc. These inexperienced raters/reviews reduce the highs and the lows, skew results based on advertising, social media expertise of breweries and hype that is spread by word of mouth.

Potentially these databases probably give you a fair indication of a beer.

I had the privilege of being involved with using when it first started. I found in the early years that the beers on there had a pretty fair and accurate rating. You could buy a beer based on the rating. Now days it seems as though every beer has a 3.6 rating, and the very good ones a 4.

People that rate beers based on the label, or sip, or rating a lager a 1 out of 5 because they prefer stouts, just isn’t helpful.

I would like to see a database/app that has verified/qualified raters. People reviewing beers that had been reviewed themselves. Raters that collectively had an experience base that meant the beers they rate will be unbiased and just about the beer they drank, not the label, or the brewpub or the hot sales person. People that are quality brewers, beer judges, or raters who’s rating shows they have experience and they are rating the beer for what it is, and not that they got a selfie with the brewer.

It would also be helpful to look at ratings based on distance from brewery, as well as ratings over time.

Technology could not only save craft beer, but make more great beer available to more people, and reduce the bad beers people drink.

Would collecting information about how fast beer is selling help this database? From a comment made in a bar recently “beer X sells out in a few hours, but then there are beers such as Y & Z that could be on that tap for up to 2 months” (I said what a single 50 litre keg on a tap? Yes, because no one really likes it).

Anyway I hope someone will come up with an app that makes your craft beer experience easier, and even better. Big data for the win.


Epic Pre-Released Black IPA

A few weeks ago Epic Beer HQ finally got its off premise license so that we can sell beer direct. (only took 7 months, but that is another story)

2014-05-07 13.41.47This week we did a first, we pre-released the new KEG ONLY Black IPA “Apocalypse” to a small group of people on our database. We got a couple of kegs that had been freshly filled at the brewery, and filled some plastic PET bottles. The link we sent out was only live for 24 hours, but we sold out all the beer. (So much so if we want some at HQ we are going to need to get another keg)

It wasn’t glamorous but it meant people could taste the new Black IPA super fresh and a week before we are officially launching it.


Missed out? Come to the release at Vultures Lane.



2014-05-07 13.42.09


Missed out on the offer? You need to get on the special offer list.










2014-05-07 13.41.28













FRESH HOP – Brew Day #freshhopnz14

Friday the Fresh Hops from New Zealand Hops were delivered to Steam Brewing Company, for the 12 Auckland Breweries who are part of the #freshhopnz14 mini festival. I’m told there are now 24 craft beer bars around Auckland participating. Launch day is 24th April.

Since I was in Christchurch for the weekend for the Great Kiwi Beer Festival I was unable to brew my Fresh Hop beer till today.

2014-03-31 12.26.22Due to the size of the brewhouse at Steam Brewing (10,000 litres), we worked out a way to brew a fresh hop beer on a smaller scale. We were brewing a batch of Epic Pale Ale and we diverted 1000 litres to the mixing tank (this tank is used for mixing soft drinks and juices at Steam Brewing).







freshhops14 This is me next to the 40kg of fresh Waimea hops.



Fresh Hops in Mixing Tank #freshhopnz14 It was alot of Fresh Hops, 40kg is a large volume. We then pumped in nearly 1000 litres of Epic Pale Ale wort from the Whirlpool. (sorry no photos as it was just all steam)

We ran the mixing paddles.

We also recirculated the wort and hops.

It was a matter of making sure we got maximum contact.

At the same time I didn’t want the contact to be for too long as I want to retain the volatile aromas from the hops.






Hop Grant

Once it was fully mixed we hooked up the wort grant, and started transferring to the yeast propagation tank. The propagation tank is 600 litres and was around the size I thought would be good for this special fresh hop beer.

The grant was used so we could minimize the amount of hops going into the fermenter. (it has a fine mesh basket, that the liquid wort can go through, but not the hop flowers).

Once we had filled the fermenter, we ran out the remaining liquid and a bunch of hops.

We have to leave the hops overnight so that the maximum amount of liquid from the hops could come out before digging out the spent hop flowers.

Fingers crossed this is going to taste good. It smelled amazing while brewing.

Now I just need a witty name for the beer….



QUICKIE – Black IPA, Tap Takeover, CHC, BeerNZ, Pomeroy’s

With so much happening its hard to make the time to even get a blog post out.

I hope to write more about the last couple of days. Black IPA is looking Black. Vultures Mini Midweek Tap Takeover went surprisingly well for Hump Day. Flew to CHC, visited BeerNZ’s new warehouse and awesome new chiller, tried new craft beer bar Regatta on Avon, caught up with Zak at Cassels CBD bar, Pomeroy’s to meet Ava and her chef to discuss the beers and food matches for the June beer dinner. Dinner at Pomeroy’s last night delivered what I am tentatively putting out there as the best food in a craft beer outlet in New Zealand. More on that later…



EPIC MOSAIC IPA – Auckland Release

Friday evening was the official re-release of Epic Mosaic IPA at Brew on Quay. They also suggested another Hot Wings Eating Competition, which we always agree too, as people love them so much.

Below is a video of the final round. The winner Phil, seems to have no real sense of the pain from the chilli till the end of the competition. (sorry the video is a little long, but it is the end part you really get to see how hot these Carolina Reaper chillis are). (…and what is it with the little hot chilli dance people do?)

If you missed the Mosaic on Friday night, then you can catch me at Vultures Lane tomorrow night for a Mini Midweek Tap Takeover.

On Tap:

Mosaic IPA
Hop Zombie
Coffee & Fig
Armageddon IPA
Pale Ale
XPA (X as in experimental)

And of course a little chilli action

[NEW BEER] Mosaic IPA – back for a limited time

The One Trick Pony series is all about a single hop. First was Zythos, then Mosaic and finally Comet, which has all but run out. (best background story written about this was by Geoff Griggs – Epic no one trick pony)

Mosaic 14Mosaic IPA we really didn’t have enough kegs available at the time so not much of it ever really made it too tap. Many bars complained as it sold very well. So as a special treat we brewed a one-off batch for the Beer Festival season.

It was released at the New Zealand Beer Festival last Saturday, and was our first beer to run out.

Friday 21st (tomorrow) it goes on tap at Brew on Quay, from after work time. Plus as you might guess we will be doing a hot wings eating competition with Culley’s hot sauce, because everyone has so much fun at these, especially me.

SO! Are you coming?

Can’t make it? You can try it at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival in Christchurch 29th March

Culley's Hot sauce


FYIEpic Carolina has sold out. So if you see it on tap anywhere in the next week or so, get a pint as that is it. We had a lot of fun with this beer, and many people have loved drinking it. The next question is do we make it again?

EPIC CAROLINA – Wellington Release

Auckland Airport


THURSDAY 6th March

Thursday was Culley’s Epic Hot Wing Eating Competition at the Malthouse in Wellington, as well as a beautiful morning for taking a flight.







Epic Carolina Launch

Greeted with the sign out front letting everyone walking by know that the competition was happening.











Stone Brewing Co Beer Arrives

Once inside the door, we were surprised to see the front half of the bar filled with 20 litre kegs from Stone Brewing Co. So many different types of Stone beer. It was all the beer for next the City Tap Takeover next Thursday 13th. As well as the beer for the Epic / Stone stand at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival in Christchurch on the 29th March.







Hot and Sweaty Beer Tap Badge We were ready for a hot and steamy time. There were 17 people willing to enter the competition of eating really really hot wings covered in Culley’s Carolina Reaper Hot Sauce. Half the crowd didn’t make it to the second round. Second round took another big toll on entrants. The final round it came down to a couple of guys who were dealing with the extreme pain.

Check out the final round in the video below…







FRIDAY 7th March

Do you like it hot - Skysports Grill

The following day we did another Epic Culley’s Carolina event at Skysports Grill. This was a little more low-key which suited the location. It was still a bit of fun.

For $25 you got a pint of Epic Carolina, and 1kg of chicken wings which you could add the Culley’s Carolina Reaper hot sauce to.









1kg of Hot Wings and a beer for $25


It was worked out pretty quickly that a 1kg of hot wings was alot. So groups of people were only buying one bowl between a group. Which was a good move as most people could only eat one hot wing with the Carolina Reaper sauce as it was too hot for them.

SkySports Grill even busted out a final keg of Hop Zombie which added to the attraction of the evening. Not sure how well the Zombie went with the hot sauce. I think it made the hot sauce even hotter.

Friday was a pretty impressive day for Auckland #CraftBeer as there were also two other special events on. Galbraith’s Alehouse had a new beer release, and Brothers Beer had an IPA special on. Therefore if you were a #CraftBeer fan, you had some tough choices to make.