Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday Craft Beer Review: Epic’s Pale Ale

Epic is a well-regarded Auckland based NZ brewery. Their most awarded beer is there Pale Ale. Essentially it is brewed in the style of an American Pale Ale, but they refer to it as their Epic Pale Ale. It’s their signature beer and for many enthusiasts is the standard “go-to” when it comes to craft beers. If this is an American Pale Ale though, what about an Indian Pale Ale? What’s the difference between APAs and IPAs? What even is an IPA?

So firstly, what is an IPA? Throughout history beer has mainly been brewed dark; brown through to black basically. Malts were dried over wood burning ovens and the result was nearly always smoky, roasty and toasty. About 300 years ago this changed. Clean burning coal allowed roasters a far greater degree of control when it came to roasting malts. Lightly roasted malts meant pale through to golden beers could be brewed, each with slightly different flavors. A whole would of delicious possibilities opened up. The Pale Ale took of in England and not content to drink this only on the mainland, England set about shipping this around her Empire. Especially to India. That’s always been England’s way, importing and exporting, shipping things around the world. Well at least up until Brexit. Now they’re building a wall.

While stouts and porters, the more traditional dark beers, survived the trip to India, pale ales didn’t travel so well and were prone to age horribly. In order to help the pale ale make the trip, extra hops were added to stabilize and preserve the beer, and the alcohol content upped a little. And there you have it; India Pale Ales or IPAs. They’re a deep golden color and have plenty of hops, but also the malt flavor comes through nicely. They also tend to have a slightly higher alcohol content. Tuatara’s Indian Pale Ale is a fantastic example of the traditional IPA (and quite different to the Double Trouble from a couple of weeks ago).

With craft beer brewing taking off throughout the States in the 1980’s, brewers started to play around with the standard IPA. Different types of hops and malts and different combinations meant no shortage of possibilities. With all sorts of variations also came a more standard form of American Pale Ale. While you’ll still pick up the malt in an APA, the hop factor has been turned up a notch. This means more floral flavors and more fruitiness; stone fruit, citrus, lychee etc. This is what we should expect in Epic’s Pale Ale, a more hoppy version of a standard IPA. If you put the Epic Pale Ale alongside Tuatara's IPA one time you'll notice the difference.

In saying all of that though, there are so many IPAs and APAs out there now that it isn’t always possible to tell them apart as brewers have different interpretations of each. It can be a pretty mixed bag. You’ve also got people brewing Pacific Pale Ales and even TPPAs (Trans-Pacific Pale Ale). So best of luck.

Ok, the Epic...

Price: $7.99 500mls

Alcohol content: 5.4%

Colour: It’s golden for sure, but it is dark.

Aroma: Fruity and also herbaceous, burnt raisins and grass.

Palate: Refreshing, sweet, fruity. Maybe passion-fruit and nectarine and lime. Raisins for sure.

Finish: Great finish. Sweet fruit gives way to bitter flavors of lemon grass and pine. Sits in your mouth long afterwards. 

On the Chart: The hops certainly overpower the malts in Epic’s Pale Ale. But the malt still comes through nicely. There is plenty of complexity with different flavors on display. The fruit and herbs of the hops as well as the sweet raisin like toffy of the malts. We end up landing towards the hop end with a good amount of complexity.

Conclusion: Epic’s Pale Ale is a great example of craft beer. As you work your way through the bottle you can taste both the hops and the malt coming through, each giving way to the other at times. This means all sorts of secondary flavors and the chance to ponder whether they are coming from the hops or the malt.

Next week we'll have a look at a pilsner.   

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