Sunday, July 3, 2011

CT Column 25/05/2011: Mash Up with the Hop Zombie

LAST week saw the release of Hop Zombie Double IPA.
Hop Zombie is the first new Epic beer to be released since the one man brewing company doubled its workforce. Late last year it was announced that head brewer Luke Nicholas would be employing Kelly Ryan who had carved a successful brewing career in the UK where he had been the head brewer at the Thornbridge Brewery. Kelly Ryan played a key role in formulating Hop Zombie blending hop varieties that had never been blended before and combining them with an extremely pale but rich malt profile.
The resulting beer absolutely broadcasts exotic tropical fruit aromas with notes of lychee, lime, pineapple and a hint of pine. In the mouth it is dangerously balanced and drinkable for its 8.5%abv with a firm rich malt character, heaps of tropical fruit flavour and a long fruity finish.
The beer has surprised a lot of the die hard Epic fans as it isn’t just a bigger bolder version of Epic Armageddon the company’s IPA and definitely shows that two highly skilled brewers have worked together on it. To use Luke Nicolas’ term a ‘shed load of hops’ have been added to Hop Zombie, 90kg’s in 3200 litres of beer and yet the beer is incredibly balanced and drinkable.
Also new out on the market from Epic is a new beer that has arisen out of the world’s largest ever collaboration brew. Over the summer Luke and Kelly travelled the country with a film crew in tow visiting the nation’s craft brewers. An internet TV show has been produced to document the trip which culminated in a collaboration brew at Steam brewing in Auckland where brewers from around the country contributed ideas to brew a beer that would sum up the craft brewing ethos of New Zealand. The result is a 6%abv fruity New Zealand hopped golden ale called Mash Up which is also the name of the TV show. You can watch the first episode of the show at

CT Column 18/05/2011: In Season

IN the Belgian province of Wallonia there is a long tradition of farmhouse brewing. Wallonian farmers used to brew tart refreshing ales to sustain and pay farm labourers in the same way that English farms used to ferment cider. These beers were traditionally brewed in spring before the high temperatures of summer spoiled the fermenting beer and were laid down to be drunk at the end of summer during the harvest. The seasonal nature of these brews lead to them being referred to as Saison which is French for season.
As a result of its farmhouse origins the saison style is a very broad church with a range of different interpretations being brewed. What all good Saisons have in common is a citric, tart, peppery refreshing quality created by the special yeasts used to ferment them, relatively heavy hopping, and sometimes the use of spices.
The classic Saison producer is commonly believed to be Brasserie Dupont, a sizable producer that is still located on a farm. There are currently 2 beers from Dupont imported into New Zealand, the zesty dry somewhat austere Saison Dupont and the stronger more fruity Moinette Blonde. Both are outstanding beers that make wonderful accompaniments to a wide range of foods particularly spicy dishes such as Thai curries where the peppery sharpness of the beer can balance the spicy richness of the food.
The Invercargill Brewery has just released their interpretation of the style. Named SA!SON as a reference to the fact that Dominion Breweries until recently held the trademark to Saison, the Invercargill brew is appropriately fruity and zesty with a big tangerine citrus character, some exotic tropical fruit notes and a dry tart finish. It’s a limited autumn release so get some while you can!
Meanwhile the beer world is currently holding its breath as we await the result of the IPONZ hearing into the trademarking of the word Radler, a style of German shandy. Consumer Group the Society of Beer Advocates, of which I am a member, have challenged the trademark as they contend that beer styles shouldn’t be trademarked. The judgement should be out in the next month.