TURN YOURSELF INTO A HOP ZOMBIE
Go to a brewery that specializes in Double IPAs and, at some point in the evening, you’ll see people in a daze, with a glazed look in their eyes and visibly fuzzy at the edges. First those big hoppy brews give the enlivening ferocity of alpha acids, their bitterness providing the senses with something exciting to act on (is this bitterness a poison? Will it kill me?), then there’s the sweet, booze-bringing malts, that initial rush of alcohol, that rush of excitement at drinking something powerfully delicious, and then the room rises together. But by the third or fourth glass the oils in the hops reveal an older use, that of a snoozy sleep aid, which joins with the eternally hypnotic, tranquilizing effects of alcohol and creates a space filled with hop zombies, stumbling, their initial fast-talking now slow, their movements manual, their minds sedated.
Visit to Epic Beer in Auckland Photo Gallery
It’s hard to associate a hop-brought sleepiness with Epic Beer (www.epicbeer.com). Even their own Hop Zombie— their epically great Double IPA—seems to bring an electricity, a fizz of life and excitement, though inevitably the last bottle or glass you drink will leave you smiling soporifically. It’s one of New Zealand’s best beers and one of the best beers I drank during the research for this my blog. It’s an oily brew, slick with hops that coat your tongue with tangerines and oranges, but which also keeps the vast bitterness hidden. The body is as lean as an 8.5% ABV beer can be, but also strong enough to give that hop oil something to stick to. It’s an intense beer with a full-on brilliance and balance. It shows how hop flavor and oiliness—features that are so often buried beneath a sense-blinding aroma—are an integral part of a beer’s composition.
And that quality is consistent in all Epic’s beers. Epic Armageddon IPA is an apocalyptic blast of American hops, rich with all the citrus fruits, and a deep golden body that has a rare kind of malt juiciness, but without sweetness. Epic Thunder is a vicious bolt of American hops. Even their excellent Lager is loaded with lupulin and hop depth.
Epic has been at the forefront of Kiwi brewing since brewer and owner Luke Nicholas started the brewery in 2005. They’ve always produced bold brews and they are the biggest user of US hops in New Zealand; they also use Kiwi hops, but there aren’t enough grown to fulfil Epic’s heroic hop needs. The beers are contract-brewed (they always have been) and Auckland is the best place to drink them at their freshest (by the time this my blog is released, they might have a taproom at their warehouse in town, which, by the way, is where they also have a side-project still for distilling gins under the Hidden World label).
I specifically went to Auckland to drink Epic Beers because I’ve always craved them and always wanted to drink them fresh, ever since a few stolen sips from someone’s holiday haul. If you’re in town, then the best places to go to drink the freshest Epic beers are Vultures’ Lane (10 Vulcan Lane, Auckland) and Brew on Quay (102 Quay Street, Auckland). Ease in with a lightning glass of their Lager, move on to Thunder, then into Armageddon, and end up as a Hop Zombie.