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.

How To Win The Beer Awards

This was originally just going to be a tasting of Renaissance Brewing Company beers, as they had won the Champion Small Brewery for the second time in a row at the 2014 AIBA (Australian International Beer Awards). It has evolved into things I think about when looking at results and when thinking about entering my beers into competitions.

It started with the thought about “hey I should get my hands on all the award-winning Renaissance beers so I can and see what makes them the Champion Small Brewery two years in a row.”

In Auckland, specifically Lunn Ave there were only 5 available of the 11 medal beers – from 13 beers entered. The stores visited were PaknSave, New World and Fine Wine Delivery Co. It turned out to be a good sample. Below is the name of the beer / best before date/ medal won and tasting notes.
Renaissance Champion Small BreweryVoyager IPA – Mar 15 – Silver aroma subtle sweet fruity. OK, low hops, no faults, lingering bitterness, did well in category. Seemed to be lacking hop intensity for the style.
Elemental Porter – Aug 14 –  Bronze – very tasty, biscuity, good mouth feel, good balance and drinkability, smooth chocolate, caramel, clean finish. Seems unlucky it only got a Bronze medal.
Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout – May 15 – Bronze  no cobwebs under cap**. aroma dry toast, cold coffee, burnt wood, burnt fruit toast.  taste cocoa, but needs a little more body, little acrid in the finish, more sweetness like the Porter.  (Drank the Epic Coffee & Fig afterwards totally changes the Epic beer, big hops and figs. Great beer match – try these two beers together).
Stonecutter – Mar 15 – Silver  sheep manure, agricultural, peaty, blue cheese, farmyard, smoked peat. Good medal. very balanced, and drinkable. Probably my favourite and most balanced out of the five we tried. I love Scotch Ales.
Tribute Barley Wine 2011 – No Best Before* – Silver – aroma biscuity and husky, grainy, burnt hazelnuts, rasiny, viscous, cloying sweetness, misses something in the mid palate. (* did you know you do not have to put a best before date on a beer bottle if the beer is going to be good beyond two years.)

Overall it seemed like a pretty solid range of tasty well made beers that medalled well. Congratulations to Andy and Brian at Renaissance for taking out another great award. Nothing like consistency to show people how great your range of beers are.

The next question that came to mind was what is the criteria that for winning this trophy?

Awarded to the international brewery with an annual production volume up to & including 5,000hL which has the highest average score from the four top scoring exhibits entered by the brewery.

Here is where I go off on to “How To Win The Beer Awards”

There are many beer awards competitions around the world, and after looking at them and their rules, there are ways you can improve your chances of winning an award.

Take the above for example “highest average score from the four top scoring exhibits entered by the brewery”. To me this reads “enter as many beers as you can” (it will cost you more money) but it increases your chances as it is your four highest scoring beers.

Other ways of increasing your chances

  • Plan your brewing schedule so that all your beers are super fresh and ready at time shipping to meet deadlines at the last possible moment.

  • What package type. If you can send kegs, do so as you are less likely to have issue with oxidation

  • Shipping conditions.  Ship the beer cold, and as fast as possible. Make sure you look after the beer the best you can, to give it the best chance. Time and temperature are working against you.

  • Play the numbers game. There are always classes where the number of entries is significantly lower than the popular ones like Pale Ale and IPA. AIBA as example, there were only three entries in the Scotch Ale class. This would be an obvious place to enter a beer next year.

  • Top end of style. Make sure your beer is at the top end of the style guidelines as it will stand out to the judges. If your beer is has the best aroma and greatest flavour, the highest IBU and ABV it is going to be marked better. Even though each beer is judged to the style guidelines and presented to the judge so they have no idea where the beer is from, after tasting a number of beers the same, the big ones are always going to do better.

  • Add enough hops. After judging both the World Beer Cup and the Australia International Beer Awards recently, the biggest thing that stood out was not enough hops for style. Judging Pale Ales, IPA’s and Imperial IPA’s the most common comment from the judges was “lacks hops for style”. So many of these beers just didn’t have enough hops. Maybe it is a reflection on how hard it is to get enough hops in this current market.

All of the above assumes that the brewer entering is making good beer that has no technical faults.

If any other judges and or brewers want to add to this list of ways to win the beer awards, please added your comments below.




Renaissance Cobwebs** we did notice mould under a number of the Renaissance caps, maybe the use of a water sprayer after the beer has been capped might solve this issue.

Australian International Beer Awards Dinner 2014

Last night I attended the Australian International Beer Awards Dinner. I thought now would be an appropriate time to review and reflect on this Awards dinner. It was four years ago when I posted my rant about how this beer competition and awards dinner was being run. If you read the post I rage quit entering because I had become extremely frustrated with the organisation and what, or actually what they weren’t doing.

AIBA DinnerI’m not sure if my post had anything to do with influencing change, or I was just the person who expressed themselves publicly. Four years and how things have changed.

VENUE: I enjoy the venue (Peninsula, Shed 14 Central Pier 161 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, Melbourne, VIC) , it is a nice space, feels classy, yet intimate, and suits the industry well. The welcoming area, is set up with ice bins around the perimeter, full of the beer entries from the competition, which you can graze through to find unknown and interesting beers to try. These pre drinks are a great time to catch up with brewers and friends from the industry from around Australia and New Zealand, which you may only see in person once or twice a year if you’re lucky.

The room where the awards are presented are laid out with about 75+(?) tables with 10 at each table. On the centre of the table to an ice bin again with a selection of 2013-05-23 19.48.42random beers that were left over samples from the competition. What are great way to share the left over beer.

There were a record  number of entries – 1,560 brews from more than 294 brewers in 31 countries. For a full list of the AIBA 2014 Results

Including medals for :
Epic Lager – Silver
Epic Armageddon IPA – Silver
Epic Mosaic – Bronze
Epic Carolina – Bronze
Epic Pale Ale – Bronze

(All Epic entries won medals)

AIBA 2014 MenuThe evening was hosted by Paul Mercurio. I really enjoy Paul as an MC for beer awards dinners. He is likeable, entertaining, but most of all he is passionate and understands our industry. He is one of us.

For years we had randoms, who may have been great public speakers or MC’s, but there were times with the cliché jokes about beers, and mispronunciation of beer names or styles that were just too much to handle. Paul has MC’s a number of time at the New Zealand Beer Awards, which on occasion I have been the butt of some of his jokes, but it was all in good fun. I hope he gets invited back next year.

This year I think they finally nailed the food. It was presented well, and tasted great. (see left for menu)

One issue we found was it was slow to get started and we were a couple of hours before we got to announcing trophies. The main course too forever to come out, during which time we just all sat and chatted.

Anyway the speed of the trophies was perfect, fast-moving. The classes with no trophy weren’t even mentioned, so no one knew about these till after it was finished and they looked at the full results.

– Venue – GOOD
– Beer Selection – GOOD
– Food – GOOD
– Awards speed – GOOD
– Food delivery and start of awards announcements – Room for improvement

All around I was impress and satisfied with the experience. Well done AIBA I look forward to next year.

That is #AIBA2014 done

#AIBA2015 Entries open January 2015

P.S. One thing that might be an improvement (specifically for those that judge the awards) is having the judging at the beginning of the week, and the awards dinner at the end. This way the judges could attend Good Beer Week, and stay for the awards dinner. Be pretty cool for the overseas judges, and out-of-state judges.

#propagate230 – Paul Mercurio made a statement during the evening which proclaimed that there were now 230 breweries in Australia. Everyone including me was like WOW! when did that happen? Last year it was only like 180 (or 170 depending on who you talk to) So 50 breweries opened in Australia in the last year. I asked where did this number come from…   “…doesn’t seem to be a definitive list that I could find in time, but conses by those in biz agreed 230 prob” I’ll see if I can find an official number from.

[THIS DAY IN 1999] Supreme Champion Beer of New Zealand – 21 March 1999

15 years ago today, Monk’s Habit won Supreme Champion Beer of New Zealand at the inaugural (first) New Zealand International Beer Awards.

It wasn’t long from returning from  a year in California in 1996 as an obsessed homebrewer, to starting as assistant brewer at the Cock & Bull brewpub in January 1997, then head brewer in September 1997, a bunch of awards at the Australian International Beer Awards in 1998 to this in March 1999. (more about awards)

My first appearance on national TV.

Supreme AcceptThe awards ceremony was held at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson.

A younger me receiving the award from Tom Inglis, who was the head of NZ Hops at the time




990322 - Luke SupremeNewspaper article about the Beer Awards and the winners. This is still one of the longest articles ever printed in a newspaper in New Zealand relating to any Beer Awards.

How come the Pie Awards or Sausage Awards get bigger write ups?










NZ BEER FESTIVAL SEASON – Looking forward, not back

Rather than doing a wrap up for February (you can look back over the posts here) I am doing a look forward for the coming month. Some feedback I received was people reading this blog wanted to know about what’s coming up rather than finding out about things that have happened, that they didn’t know about.

So this is what the coming month for me looks like


6th March –  Epic Carolina with Culley’s Hot Wings Eating Competition – Malthouse, Wellington
7th March – Epic Carolina with Hot Wings sampling for all – Skysports Grill, Viaduct, Auckland
10/11th March – Visit to Hop Harvest, Nelson
13th March – Stone Brewing Co. (with Greg Koch) City Tap Takeover, Malthouse and Fork & Brewer, Wellington
15th March – The New Zealand Beer Festival, Auckland (1st day of Epic Mosaic IPA – KEG ONLY)
17th March – Get beer ready to ship to the Australian International Beer Awards
18th March – Brewing Green/Wet Hop Beer
19th March – Nine Inch Nails & QOTSA?
21st March – Epic Mosaic IPA Launch (and some hot sauce action thanks to Culley’s), Brew on Quay, Auckland
27/28th March – Christchurch
29th March – The Great Kiwi Beer Festival, .feat Stone Brewing Co. beers & Greg Koch (on the shared Epic/Stone stall), Christchurch

Luke on a plane


I’m sure there will be other things I do, and other things that are on that I could attend if I had the time, but this should be enough. Still have to fit in the everyday other stuff, plus some sleep. Maybe a link to Air New Zealand here would be good since I am going on 8 flights this month. (maybe even make a wish to the @AirNZFairy )








February 2014
There are a few additional things from last month…

  • I made the big move from Blogger to WordPress which took a few days to get setup and working. The one small issue with that is the first few weeks of posts now have slightly different URL’s than what I have post out in the wild so my link backs won’t be working. (Working on it).

Michael Donaldson - SST – NZ’s beer style – Michael Donaldson also wrote about this in his column in the Sunday Star Times

  • Regarding training of bar staff which I pointed to in this post, I found out that an off flavours training was held last weekend. Here is a great write-up about it, but wished I knew earlier about it, so more people could have attended. Maybe something that could be repeated for interested bar staff/owners? I’ve been told that you would have been notified if you were part of this online community.

  • If you made it this far, then you might be enjoying my posts. I have been adding posts without notifications or sharing on social media. So if you want them all, please make sure you add your email address to subscribe (top of right hand column).

  • Please comment on posts if you have an opinion, or send me an email if you have a suggestion for a post or information you would like me to expand on.


[REVIEW] Australian International Beer Awards 2010

(I found this post on the WayBack Machine, as I couldn’t find a back up of my blog when Posterous shut down. Thought it is a bit of a turning point for the Australian International Beer Awards, so a historical document. I will try and retrieve the comments also, as they are very powerful too.)

I have now been sitting on this too long and no one else has said it even after many people talking about it at the time. Brewers and beer industry people were disappointed and pissed off on the day.

The Australia International Beer Awards.

Well this might sound like sour grapes but I would like to challenge the whole event on every level. And I would like to challenge the organizers to actually start to make an effort to catch up with where the world of beer and brewing are today and strive to be the best they can, and move beyond a greedy money making enterprise, that is compromised on every level.

Where to start? How about where I started thinking about all this.

I have been attending the Australian International Beer Awards off and on since 1998. Back then they had a reputation for awarding every entry a bronze medal, and if your beer was OK you got silver and if it was good then you got gold. If you got nothing then you mustn’t have paid your entry fee. (I.e. not a good reputation, but all the brewers felt good because they got something)

Over the last few years they seem to have raised the standards a bit as not every one gets a medal any more.

But things are still ridiculous.

The best part of the awards dinner these days for me is the 30 minutes before the dinner where you can actually catch up with all your beer and brewing friends you haven’t seen for a year from around Australia and NZ and the world.

This year though the beer pre-event reached and all time low. Both beers on offer which would have been most acceptable if fresh were extremely oxidized. To the point there were many bottles lying around on tables with only one sip out of them, including in the sink tops in the toilets. The brewers of these beers must have been extremely embarrassed, and I can only imagine it was a marketing or sales person doing a deal to supply a bunch of beer for free they had to move because it was close to or out of date.

Great people, bad beer.

Next, the event of the awards dinner.

The tickets cost $175. Someone made a huge amount of profit off someone here. The food was fair to mediocre. Nothing amazing, but definitely an underwhelming three course meal, something I would have been disappointed with if I had paid more than $40 at a restaurant for.

The beers on the table seemed to be a selection of beers an importer/distributor was having trouble getting rid of, as well as the usual mainstream “premium” lager offerings (why bother). I would expect an awards dinner for an industry to be celebrating the best of what was on offer. Not doing a deal with breweries and importers to see what beer you could get for free. Which is what this selection of beers reeked of. (I’d really like to get some feedback from some of the empolyees from the large breweries that attended to get there opinion on whether they thought this was acceptable)

The MC was efficient, annoying, and insensitive to the industry. It was interesting to see they had a pre-recorded announcer for the winners, so that the MC didn’t make a total dick of himself when announcing foreign breweries or unfamiliar brewing terms (like we have expereinced in the past). The YouTube (quality) videos they had downloaded and showed in the breaks was an embarrassment not only for the organizers but those of us from the industry. (bring back Rossco)

The time between announcements of the awards was way too long. I found myself outside the main dinning hall meeting up with and talking to people I hadn’t seen for a year or so. The background music was depressing and slow. This event should be one of fun and celebration.

There are several awards that should be dropped as they are either redundant and don’t help the credibility of the awards anymore such as the Best Victorian Beer or just idiotic like the trophy for the Best New Exhibitor. WTF. Why would there be such a ridiculous award? Are you people retarded? You can win a trophy because you entered a beer in these awards for the first time? What?

Or this award, Champion Hybrid Beer? Did someone say Prius?

Then you have to question why there are trophies for Porter and then one for Stout, but then there is just one trophy for Ale? Ale must make up 60% of the entries but there is just one trophy, for many different styles. But Porters and Stouts combined make up maybe 5%.

HELLO?! It is time these trophies where looked at again and reviewed for relavance. We aren’t in the 80’s anymore.

By the end of this event, again, everyone seemed depressed, and disenchanted with the whole thing. Brewers asking questions on what happened, why their beer didn’t medal, or why it got what it got.

Again the question was raised how come so many International beers won (obvious the beers were better), but you can’t buy many of them in Australia, and have to travel to the US or the country of manufacture to actually try them. These results leave the local brewers and beer drinker flaccid towards this competition, as it has no meaning or relevance to the locals. What is this competition trying to achieve? Cash, relevance or credibility? I think cash.

Also maybe look at a new venue if you have to pay $175 for a ticket for a lame meal. Someone is making a lazy $100 profit on this somewhere.

In comparison, only a few weeks earlier I attended the World Beer Cup awards dinner and would have to say it was one of the most amazing meals (on this scale), and better yet the best beer and food matched meal I have ever had. US$85 vs A$175, I got a huge deal in the US. It was a privilege to have been able to attend this dinner, and can understand why there were people outside scalping tickets, for the WBC dinner.

The World Beer Cup meal, not only was matched with some of the best beer on the planet (to the point that people on my table were trying to sneak more beer from the tables beside us), it used beer in the dishes and hops also.

World Beer Cup used 90lbs of hops in the menu, 2700 litres of beer on the tables, 2000 people, and 10,000 plates. It was incredible, more on that in another blog. It made AIBA dinner look like the joke that it has become.

One of the biggest jokes of the night was the fanfare that was made about the judges. Is this some old boys club or something? Maybe the beer “Manders & Co.” from Wig & Pen was hinting at something, or even their beer “The Judges are Old Codgers RIS”.

The judges were all called out by name, and asked to come on stage. (How many where there? it seemed to take about 20 minutes to get them all on the stage). Each of them was presented an award for judging, and more time was taken up with this than anything else for the evening. Seems that the judges were more important than the brewers that made the beer and the beers that won.

The judges, now this has become a bit of a joke, and I have the proof finally. You look through the list of judges and there is a theme here. Most of them have or do work for the large brewers (of mainstream swill, and pseudo-premium lagers (only premium because of the price) in Australia and New Zealand. Where is the international judges, those that are experts in the styles of there region. Can you state that these ANZ judges from large breweries making mainstream lagers, have expert knowledge in all the worlds beer styles?

I entered one of my beers in both the World Beer Cup and the Australia International Beer Awards. Both from the same batch, and shipped and then judged within a couple of weeks of each other.

The one to the US was shipped airfreight in a bottle, the Australia on was sea freighted in a keg. So one would expect that the keg version would be the best. What follows are the comments from each competition on the same beer.

(Disclaimer: I was a judge at the World Beer Cup for the third time in 2010, plus I am a serial award winning brewer, I know a bit about brewing and judging good beer. I believed that the beer I entered was in excellent condition and very medal worthy.)

World Beer Cup comments on my American IPA

–         big citrus resiny nose, good

–         big hops dominate

–         nice bold IPA

–         lingering bitterness

–         clean and fresh

–         fine piney hop character

–         citrus pine finish

Overall result – quality beer others entries are better. (in a class with 100+ entries and 3 medals, a good result and feedback)

Australia International Beer Awards on the same American IPA

–         a little out of balance

–         late hop bitterness not smooth

–         slight menthol character

–         unbalanced too much hop character

–         raw hop character is not appropriate to either US or UK style

–         a little unbalanced

–         hop one dimensional

–         resin character of hopping out of balance with rest of beer

Overall result – Bronze (personally a disappoint result, I question whether the judges had ever tasted an American IPA before judging this beer)

This beer won Gold and Best in Class at BrewNZ last year, with a panel of mostly interntaional judges.

For those interested the style guidelines of an American IPA that both sets of judges used state:

82. American-Style India Pale Ale

American-style India pale ales have intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma with medium-high alcohol content. The style is further characterized by fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character. Note that “fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character” is the perceived end, but may be a result of the skillful use of hops of other national origins. Hops of other origins may be used for bitterness as well. The use of water with high mineral content results in a crisp, dry beer. This pale gold to deep copper-colored ale has a full, flowery hop aroma and may have a strong hop flavor (in addition to the hop bitterness). India pale ales possess medium maltiness which contributes to a medium body. Fruity-ester flavors and aromas are moderate to very strong. Diacetyl can be absent or may be perceived at very low levels. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.

SO for the Australia judges maybe the first sentence of the style guidelines should be capitalized.



My summary on this is these judges at the Australia Beer Awards are in over there heads, they are judging beers styles they don’t understand, have never brewed and obviously have never tried. American IPA is all about the intense hops! Hops, Hops, Hops.

So I guess in summary the Australian International Beer Awards need to do the following to actually get some credibility back.

1.      Get judges that have tried and understand (or can read style guidelines) the styles they are judging. Might cost you some money to get international judges, but it would be worth it.

2.      Stop ripping off the brewing industry and making money from a crappy dinner, with shit MC and bogus trophies.

3.      The dinner should actual have beer in consideration with the food presented

4.      The beer on offer on the table should be drinkable and represent the best the industry has to offer, this should be a celebration of the best.

5.      Relevance. What is this competition trying to be? The biggest in the world? Not going to happen, there is the World Beer Cup, of a quality and standard they will never be reached by AIBA. Maybe it is time to get more focused on the local region.

Let’s celebrate great beer, and great brewers.

(I found this post on the WayBack Machine, as I couldn’t find a back up of my blog when Posterous shut down. Thought it is a bit of a turning point for the Australian International Beer Awards, so a historical document. I will try and retrieve the comments also, as they are very powerful too.)