Four Of A Kind – Epic Armageddon’s Winning Hand

P1060745The trophies keep piling up for Epic Beer’s Armageddon IPA, which has claimed its fourth major crown in less than a year after it was named best in class at the New World Beer and Cider Awards.

And to seal Epic’s position as this country’s leading producer of hop-driven beers, Epic Pale Ale also brought home a trophy for the best pale ale, defending the title it won in last year’s inaugural awards.

Epic owner-brewer Nicholas is blown away by Armageddon’s success over the past year. It has previously taken out trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards, The New Zealand Brewers Guild Awards and the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival.

“When it won its third trophy, in Stockholm, it was described as `the stuff of fantasy’ – well I think we’ve exhausted the adjectives now, it’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Nicholas said.

P1060659“The IPA category is one of the most fiercely contested in any beer competition and to come out on top in four consecutive competitions is mind-boggling.”

Nicholas was equally delighted Epic Pale Ale retained the title it won last year against stiff competition. It was the only beer or cider to retain a title from the inaugural awards and this trophy comes almost 10 years to the day after it burst to prominence when named supreme champion at the New Zealand International Beer Awards in 2006.

“It just shows what a remarkable beer Epic Pale Ale has been over the course of a decade. When it was released it was revolutionary – a big hoppy pale ale of the sort New Zealand hadn’t seen before. And despite the huge growth in the pale ale category, 10 years later it still stands above the rest.”

Epic was the only brewery to win two trophies at the awards and also picked up four silver medals for Hop Zombie, Awakening Pils, Lager and IMP session IPA. The Observer Timeless Ale was awarded a bronze medal, meaning every Epic beer entered won a medal of some colour.

A total of 464 beers were entered in the awards, with 40 winning gold medals.

All trophy winners will be available at New World stores around the country.



Tasting notes from Michael Donaldson – head judge for the New World Beer and Cider Awards.

Epic Pale Ale 330mlPale Ale – Epic Pale Ale

This has been a benchmark pale ale for a decade and its quality is reflected in the fact it’s now the only two-time trophy winner in the New World awards. At 5.4 per cent alcohol and packed with flavour, Epic Pale Ale was sessionable before `session’ became a buzzword. It’s vibrant, clean, with nice mouth weight, flavours of lychee and rosewater push through a curtain of citrus and pine aromas to dance on a stage of subtle caramel malt. A sneaky bitterness then comes in to cleanse the palate and start the show all over again. Loves to be consumed alongside anything with chilli.




Epic Armageddon 330ml

IPA – Epic Armageddon IPA

Fast becoming New Zealand’s most awarded beer and it was no surprise to see it add the New World title to gongs won at the New Zealand Brewers Guild Awards and in Australia and Sweden. Brewer Luke Nicholas’ annual pilgrimage to the US hop fields to hand-pick his produce has paid off handsomely. This is the ultimate American-style IPA which surfs waves of flavour, starting with orange and grape notes on the nose, a salty lick like a sea breeze through Norfolk Pines, a caramel caress before the oily resin of the hops is brushed away with a cleansing minerality and a long, clean bitterness. Bold enough to handle rich and spicy food, such as Moroccan lamb.

Who Are These NZ Breweries Entering World Beer Cup?

So I got a press release from the Brewers Guild of New Zealand today about the New Zealand Breweries that entered the World Beer Cup. I’d like to find out more about the following breweries, so if you know anything please share. I do know Williams Warn, but unsure of the rules and how a home-brew equipment manufacture can entered a commercial beer awards. Any additional information or commentary you have would be great if you could share.

Who are these companies, what beers have they entered?

  • New Zealand Beer Ltd (Auckland)
  • The Fox Sporting Bar & Restaurant (Auckland)
  • WilliamsWarn (Auckland)
  • BrewStation (Auckland)
  • Long White Cloud Brewing



6 April 2016

Kiwi breweries fizzing for beer’s own “Olympics”

As the world’s best athletes finalise their preparations for this year’s Olympic Games, Kiwi brewers will be going for gold at their own Olympics, the World Beer Cup, in Philadelphia next month.

The biennial World Beer Cup, known as the “Olympics of Beer Competitions”, is the most prestigious beer competition in the world.  This year, 11 New Zealand breweries will compete against more than 2000 rivals from 63 countries for gold, silver and bronze medals.

The New Zealand breweries competing are:

  • Epic Brewing Company (Auckland)
  • Garage Project (Wellington)
  • Harrington’s Breweries (Christchurch)
  • LION (Auckland)
  • Long White Cloud Brewing
  • Moa Brewing Company (Marlborough)
  • ParrotDog (Wellington)
  • New Zealand Beer Ltd (Auckland)
  • The Fox Sporting Bar & Restaurant (Auckland)
  • WilliamsWarn (Auckland)
  • BrewStation (Auckland)

Brewers Guild of New Zealand president Emma McCashin said New Zealand breweries were highly regarded by their international peers.

“New Zealand has an incredibly proud tradition and talent for brewing. Each year the quality and range of styles being produced in New Zealand is getting better and Kiwi brewers punch well above their weight at beer awards around the world.

“It’s no wonder that New Zealand is enjoying a golden era in brewing.”

The World Beer Cup was the pinnacle of brewing excellence, McCashin said.

“The World Beer Cup is pretty unique in that there are medals only for first, second and third in each category. When there are literally thousands of high-quality entries from around the world across 90 different categories, getting a medal means you’re a member of world brewing’s elite.”

Only three New Zealand breweries have tasted success at the World Beer Cup.

LION won silver with its Speight’s Triple Hop Pilsner in 2014, with Wellington’s Garage Project also picking up silver with its Cockswain’s Courage Double Barreled Edition Porter the same year. Monteith’s Black Beer won bronze in 2000.

But the stellar growth and development of New Zealand’s $2.2 billion beer industry meant more global success was already brewing.

“The beers being produced here are already considered among the world’s best. We’ve got tremendous talent among the thousands of people involved in the brewing industry, from malt and hops production right through to bottling and distribution.

“It’s not just the great-tasting beers New Zealand breweries produce, New Zealand hops is in huge demand overseas, particularly on the West Coast of the United States. What we’re seeing now are huge opportunities in Asia, which is the next big export frontier for Kiwi brewing.”

In addition to the New Zealand breweries competing, a record number of New Zealand brewing experts will be taking part at the event as judges: Kelly Ryan and Colin Mallon (Fork & Brewer, Wellington), Stephen Plowman (Hallertau, Auckland), Joseph Wood (Liberty Brewing, Auckland), Greig McGill (Brewaucracy, Hamilton), Brian Watson (Good George, Hamilton), Shane Morley (Steam Brewing, Auckland) and Geoff Griggs (beer writer, Blenheim).

For further information about the World Beer Cup:

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 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.

Inaugural New World Beer & Cider Awards Results Announced

B&CA 2014 Bronze Medal KPRESS RELEASE – The results of the inaugural New World Beer & Cider Awards, which celebrate the diversity and high standard of beer and cider available from around New Zealand and overseas, have been announced today.

“As well as recognising the rapidly growing local beer and cider market, the New World Beer & Cider Awards were established this year to help make the decision process a little easier for consumers,” says Chair of Judges Neil Miller, who was recently named Beer Writer of the Year at the Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand Awards.

“Having that medal sticker on award-winning beer and cider in-store means people can try different styles with confidence that the brew is going to be a great example of its type.”

Recently, over two days in Wellington, a team of 12 industry leaders blind-tasted 351 beers and ciders from 56 breweries. Medals were awarded to the top scorers and resulted in 14 Best in Class, 32 Gold, 45 Silver and 77 Bronze winners.

The Best in Class brews are:
· Pale Ale – Epic Pale Ale
· IPA & APA – Liberty Brewing Co. Yakima Monster
· Strong Ale – Renaissance Brewing Company Stonecutter Scott Ale
· Speciality Ale – Bach Brewing Duskrider Red IPA
· NZ Lager – Steinlager Classic
· International Lager – Singha Premium Lager
· Pilsner – Galbraith’s Special Edition Pilsner Czech Style
· Speciality Lager – Wigram Brewing Co. Munchner Dunkel
· Wheat Beer – Mac’s Great White Cloudy Wheat Beer
· Stout & Port – Three Boys Oyster Stout
· Fruit, Flavoured & Specialty Beer – Garage Project VPA: Venusian Pale Ale
· Lower Strength Beer – Tuatara ITI APA
· Apple & Pear Cider – Zeffer Cider Co. Red Apple Cider
· Fruit & Flavoured Cider – Old Mout Cider Feijoa & Cider

“I was incredibly impressed by not only the number, but the standard of entries from both new entrants and established players from all parts of the country and overseas,” says Neil Miller.

Each beverage was assessed against the style guide using the 50-point scoring system by a panel of four judges. The experienced and well respected judges included Kelly Ryan, Kieran Haslett-Moore, Stephanie Coutts, Joseph Wood, Hadyn Green, Mike Neilson, Colin Mallon, Greig McGill, Matt Warner, Jono Galuszka, Stephen Plowman and Shane Morley, with Craig Bowen as competition advisor.

Stephen Plowman_NWBCA judge Matt Warner Mike Neilson_NWBCA judge

The New World Beer & Cider Awards’ key point of difference from other competitions is that each of the 14 Best in Class brews must have 3,600 litres available around the time of results announcement, in order to ensure there is enough stock for New World customers nationwide. Even with this benchmark in place, Neil Miller believes the winning brews will sell out fast.

“Many of the winners are smaller, independent breweries from off the beaten track, which means that people will have to get in quick if they want to try some for themselves.”

All Best in Class brews are distributed and promoted in New World’s 136 supermarkets nationwide from 10 November, with full competition results available at

“We’re now seeing more and more New Zealanders appreciating a great quality beer or cider just as much as they do a glass of wine. It’s fantastic that we can provided a competition much like our long-running New World Wine Awards to recognise and reward this growing sector,” says Steve Anderson, Managing Director, New World.

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.

APRIL 2014 – Judging 500+ Beers In 68 Hours + 30,000km Travel

As I did last month, rather thank looking back I am looking forward.

So here we go for April, and I’m keeping it brief as I should really be packing my suitcase right now.

2 & 3 April – San Francisco
4 April – Santa Rosa, Russian River Brewing Company
5 April – SFO to DEN
6 April – Brewery tour in Fort Collins, CO with International Judges (I’m guessing it will be New Belgium and O’Dell Brewing, TBC)
7-9 April – Judging World Beer Cup
10-11 April – Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America Trade Show
12 April – DEN-LAX-AKL
14 April – arrive in AKL
18-21 April – Easter (hopefully catch up on some sleep)
24 April – #freshhopnz14 beer launch at The Lumsden Freehouse
26 April – 2 May – Judging AIBA (Australian International Beer Awards)

Beer JudgingAs you can see this month is a lot of international travel and a lot of judging beer. I will have a total of 8.5 days x 8 hours of judging beer this month, which is 68 hours of sitting with some of the worlds best beer in front of me, where I have to write comments about them, and decide if they are worthy of an award.

I am potentially going to taste 500+ different beers in that time. WOW!

And I will have travelled 30,000km in this time.

That is 1000km per day.

[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?










ON MY MIND – Beer things I should write about

There are things I am currently thinking about but haven’t had the time to put my ideas down in words, and think through what it means, and what I think about it. So rather than them getting lost here is a bit of a brain dump…

New Zealand Beer FestivalNew Zealand Beer Festival – maximum serve 165ml, bar closes 2 hours before session ends 10am-3pm & 4pm-10pm. Beer Festival where you can’t buy beer? no beer over 9% but you can buy wine (which is likely to be 12-14%)? (Discussion here)

Great Kiwi Beer Festival – 11.30am -7pm (7.5 hours to sample beers vs 4 hours in Auckland) How come there are different interpretations of the law, or what local councils and police see as appropriate in different parts of the country. Are people in Christchurch more responsible and cause less harm vs Aucklanders?

Beer Festivals – over the years I have found that 4 hours is actually about the right amount of time for people to sample a fair range of beers, before you start seeing effects of intoxication. The recent blanc Beer Fest, seemed to naturally start slowing down at around 5pm, after starting at 1pm and went to 7pm. It might have had something to do with the time of day, and people having plans for later on in the evening.

New World Beer Awards vs Brewers Guild Beer Awards – a previous sponsor now to run their own beer awards, at a similar time of year. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the developments with these two competitions. Wonder how Super Liquor will feel about this?

Kegs – how to manage your kegs, so you get them back, so you can put your beer in them so you can sell more beer.

Craft Beer Pricing – new craft breweries entering the craft beer space, under cutting the market on price. Does cheaper pricing equal larger volume sold? Or does it just erode everyone’s margins. Does craft beer price discounting work for anyone? Will it be a race to the bottom?

Just some thoughts for now….