Craft beer expert Michael Donaldson’s surprise as Epic Armageddon clinches coveted IPA trophy again


Craft beer expert Michael Donaldson chaired the judging of this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards. The author of two books on New Zealand beer was surprised when Epic Armageddon won the coveted IPA trophy for the second year in a row.

Were you surprised when Epic Armageddon won Best IPA for the second year in a row?

I couldn’t believe it because the IPA class is so competitive. It’s a blind tasting so we don’t know who has won until afterwards. It’s also won the Brewers Guild awards twice in a row. It’s won in Sweden and Australia. It just keeps coming out on top.

Epic owner Luke Nicholas gets his hops from America. Is that unusual for a New Zealand brewer?

Yes. The majority of our brewers use local hops. There’s enough for everybody despite high demand. Luke uses US hops because he started out brewing American-style beers. They just have the flavour profile he’s after. Parrot Dog Pandemonium won Best Pilsner with Australian hops even though New Zealand pilsners are the thing at the moment for their tropical passionfruit aromas. (full story)

Malthouse’s West Coast IPA Challenge outgrows venue

2013-07-12 18.49.08One of the biggest events on the Wellington craft beer calendar, Malthouse’s West Coast IPA Challenge, is expanding due to a positive case of growing pains.

Colin Mallon, Malthouse Operations Guy and WCIPAC organiser, says this year’s 9th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge (WCIPAC) will expand its festivities to Malthouse’s sister bar, Fork & Brewer on Bond Street, due to increasingly large crowds turning up to see who will win Best West Coast IPA and take home the Golden Gumboots.

The annual event, taking place on Friday, 29 July, sees brewers showcase their skills with hops by brewing West Coast IPAs, a notoriously popular and hoppy style of beer, dear to the hearts of craft beer drinkers.

“I think it’s become such a big event on the calendar because of people’s ongoing and increasingly growing love affair with different beers,“ says Colin.

“The event has raised awareness of the beer style, and the fun and anticipation leading up to, and on, the night definitely brings people in who necessarily wouldn’t class themselves as beer drinkers. You get hardcore beer drinkers bringing their friends, and before you know it, it widens the appeal.

“The last WCIPAC had Malthouse groaning at its seams. The event officially kicks off at 2pm, the bar will be wall-to-wall packed by 4:30pm, with queues out the door by 5pm, and the bar often remaining near capacity until 2am.

“We sell something in the region of about 40 kegs. It is a huge night for us!

“We were turning people away at the last few WCIPACs, so it made sense to release some of that pressure this year by making Fork & Brewer a co-host.”

Colin says Fork & Brewer was the natural venue choice to expand the event, not only as it is Malthouse’s sister bar, but because it is the only place that had enough taps to accommodate the 25 beers that will be showcased on the evening.

Punters at Fork & Brewer need not fear for missing out on any of the beers, celebrations or announcements – all WCIPAC beers will be pouring on tap and announcements made at the same time as at Malthouse.

It speaks for the notoriety of the event, that the competition is making its first foray to Australia with a line-up of WCIPAC beers being flown over the Tasman to feature in WCIPAC tap takeovers at The Local Taphouses in Melbourne and Sydney.

2013-07-12 21.02.15Originally created because July was Malthouse’s quietest month of the year, WCIPAC started out with two entrants [Epic Brewing Co. and Hallertau Brewery] in a bit of a “my beer is hoppier than your beer” showdown.

“Back then the Wellington craft beer landscape was quite different – there was Malthouse, Bar Bodega and Bar Edward, so showcasing a specific style was quite unusual,” says Colin.

“Now the event showcases 25 beers, has 9-10 judges, some of whom are World Beer Cup judges, and breweries contacting us to submit entries.”

“It’s great when you see a brewery that hasn’t performed very well, and then come back and next year and they raise their game – even if they don’t win it’s really great to see.”

“The last thing I wanted this to be was something that was taken too seriously. We want to give brewers a bit of feedback on their entries, but at the end of the day, it is all about celebrating good beer with good people.”

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.

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.

Day 23 – Beers of Auckland – Stuntman IIPA

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 23 – Stuntman IIPA by Hallertau

StuntmanTAP + BOTTLE: Stuntman IIPA
BREWED: The Beer Fountain

ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 90
HOPS: Lots and Lots

This is probably the first time I’ve had Stuntman IIPA in at least six months. Man it is tasting good. My memory of it was more full-bodied and a bit chewy. This batch is lean, clean, bitter and ready to kick some serious ass.

I only had a taste while having lunch at Hallertau today, but did bring home a bottle. Bottled in September, it has lost some hop aroma and flavour compared to the tap version but still a very serious beer.
IMG_1677 2

As I taste my Hallertau from my Spiegelau IPA glass I start to think maybe it’s time that there should be a taste off with Stuntman IIPA, Citra and Hop Zombie, all Double/Imperial IPA’s. From Three of the Four Horsemen of the Hopcalypse.

Maybe at the release of the 2015 Four Horsemen of the Hopcalypse, would be a good opportunity to do this. Because that is just what a release party for a 12%abv beer needs, a tasting of with three beer that are 8.5%+abv.

Anyway, something to think about.

I had some lunch. Didn’t get the burger (I know I should have for comparison purposes) I got the Chicken Arms instead, because of the cool name and it was one item I haven’t tried on the current menu. As you would expect they were good. I haven’t ever had a bad food experience at Hallertau before. Always yummy (get the Jalapeno Poppers). Also it was just too hot to eat a big meal at lunch today. So hot in fact they installed a fan next to me while I ate. How considerate.

Cheers Steve. Always good to catch up for a beer, and Merry Christmas. Shame we live on opposite sides of the city, as it would be nice to share a beer more often.

Yes, I need to get my Gin reviews finished, and updated. I hope to do this over the holidays.

Day 17 – Beers of Auckland – Kingtide IPA

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 17 – Kingtide IPA by Bach Brewing Company

HightideBOTTLE: Kingtide IPA
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company
ABV: 7.0%

This afternoon Craig Cooper from Bach Brewing stopped by for a catch up and a beer. The beer we drank was Beachstone Pilsner (very nice) but I had already Advented that. It was getting close to the end of the day and I got thinking what am I going to review today.  Craig said he had a Kingtide IPA in the car. So lucky me he gave me a bottle to taste and write about.

Gees, this is a hard time of year to be doing this. There is so much going on, and so little spare time at the moment. The weekend and next week I hope to have a bit more fun doing this. Alice I think of you each night now as I write this and think how amazing you are. How did you do it?

It was noted that this bottle had a little age on it being bottled in August, but not too bad. The aroma is still pretty fresh , and is driven by a mix of Citra and NZ hop notes. The colour is a gold golden colour. On tasting it there was a little age/ oxidation. BOOM! Armageddon jumped into my mind. Very similar characters of Armageddon after several months in the bottle. I hadn’t made the connection before.

Next thought, ” hey wouldn’t it be fun to taste these beer next to each other”. Lucky I had a bottle of Armageddon IPA in the fridge.  What were the chances of that. Nek Minute. I had a glass of Kingtide IPA and a glass of Armageddon IPA. The colours are very very similar, possibly the same +/- 1 or 2 EBC. The aroma of the Kingtide IPA was more obvious with the Citra and NZ hops, Armageddon just wasn’t doing it tonight for me. (will need to check the dry hopping on this batch). On tasting the Armageddon IPA, it was leaner in the malt but the hops were greener and more aggressive, and Kingtide had more malt, less hops and a little alcohol sweetness (7.0% vs 6.66% abv).

Funny how my thoughts kept rolling along, and wondered why I had never thought them before. How close are these beers in taste? They are made in the same brewery, Steam Brewing Company. By the same brewers, with the same yeast strain. Different hops are obvious. The brewer who wrote the recipe jumps to mind also. Another common thread. These beers are brothers from nearly the same mother. Could these beers be called as close as DB Draught and DB Double Brown (well maybe not since they are said to actually be just one beer). But they are pretty similar.

Two really great beers from the same brewery.

So there must be a discussion that could be had about contract brewing right about now. Beers from the same brewery, etc, etc.. Maybe I’ll sleep on this over the Christmas break and see what pops out the other end.

Craft Beer in Auckland

#craftbeer, #auckland, #newzealand, #bachbrewing #kingtide #adventcalendar

These links might help you find out what is on tap around Auckland

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)

New Beer Events and New Epic Beers

Its been a while since I have talked about what’s coming up and there seems to be a few things worth checking out. Pencil these dates in.

Darkest Days 201413 June – Epic Imperium launch – The Lumsden

20 June – Hop Zombie & Hot Zombie release – Brew on Quay, Auckland
20 June – Darkest Days – Malthouse (including Epic Imperium on hand pump), Wellington

23 June – Epic Hop Zombie 2014 & Hot Zombie official release to market (and probably bottled Apocalypse Black IPA)

24 June – Epic Beer Dinner – Pomeroy’s, Christchurch

28 June – Winter BREWS Out West – blanc, Henderson, Auckland

4 July – Independence Day, Brew on Quay, Auckland

12 July – City of Ales – SOBA Auckland

18 July – West Coast IPA Challenge – Malthouse (Epic brewed a new Imperial IPA for this), Wellington

31 July – 3 August – The Food Show, Auckland

22-23 August – Beervana – Wellington

blanc winter brews out west

city of ales 14


[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?