Saturday, 26 May 2012

Arbor Ales Down Deeper

Today I’ve had a tough day at work, you might think that this is impossible working in a guitar shop but like all jobs it has its ups and downs. Tomorrow I have my first competitive cricket match of the season, I’m under pressure as the newly promoted vice captain to score some runs (pressure made up by myself) but right now none of this matters, the pressure is off, I have the house to myself and Twitter is in full flow as I immerse myself in a vat of double IPA.

Shortly before I decided to become a beer blogger I joined CAMRGB (The Campaign for Really Good Beer) as I found their ideals and beliefs ran in beautiful symmetry with my own. I had previously toyed with the idea of joining CAMRA for a long time but I wasn’t one hundred percent aligned with their ideals so never had the gumption to sign up. I still might at some point depending on how my career as a beer writer progresses but for now no organization sums up my beliefs better than CAMRGB. You should join, it’s free to do so and should you find yourself home alone on a Saturday night with a fridge full of hyper hopped beverages then you know that there’s some really good company no more than one hundred and forty characters away.

A beer that goes against the Status Quo...
Tonight I am blogging LIVE from the CAMRGB #downDIPA event, many members have stocked up on a range of fantastic double IPAs and we intend to drink them in unison. Even better than that, CAMRGB have teamed up with Bristol brewer Arbor Ales who have produced Down Deeper, a double IPA brewed especially for this event. I’ve picked myself a couple of bottles, one to drink tonight, in fact I’m slowly enjoying it right this moment and one to age and review once the beer has reached full maturity. Before I proceed I'd like to take a moment to reflect on how great the label for this beer is, it was designed by our illustriuous leader Simon, nice work.

This morning I made sure tonight’s bottle of Down Deeper was carefully stashed away in the fridge along with some other hop laden delights. Later today I discovered that refrigeration has played havoc with everyone’s Down Deeper, destroying carbonation and adding a heavy hop haze to the brew. When I got home I removed the beer from the fridge for a while before it's consumption but the haze would not shift, after finishing my first beer of the night, a sublime 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head I thoroughly rinsed my glass and prepared myself for the beer brewed in honour of this momentous evening.

Cracking open the bottle of Down Deeper I can’t help myself and take a big whiff before I pour, massive chunks of Clementine and mandarin jump out followed by boozy notes of candied orange. Down Deeper pours a hazy shade of amber and fails to produce even a wisp of a head, perhaps a sign that it requires a little longer in the bottle to complete its ageing process. I have another big sniff to fully take in the aroma and it’s the same as before only now it’s in some nice glassware the aroma has taken on more breadth and depth. I’ve managed to leave the majority of the sediment in the bottle but a few small flakes drift around the translucent liquid, it doesn’t bother me though and I take a big swig.

Down deeper has a huge 10.2% ABV and as with most big beers it feels syrupy and slightly heavy in the mouth but it isn’t at all cloying. There is almost zero carbonation and normally this would leave me painfully disappointed but huge flavours of Seville orange and candied grapefruit lace the mouth and a nice bready malt backbone keeps the beer in check to prevent it from becoming too bitter. The finish is long and full of alcohol and my first thought is that this doesn’t taste like a double IPA at all, in fact it feels like a superb interpretation of a Barleywine, huge flavours of fruit and booze combine as the resin from the fresh hops coats your palate.

Justin then suggests to me, through the POWER of Twitter that I try transferring it out of the glass and then back again to try and inject some life into it. I do this once and not much happens but I repeat the process a couple more times and suddenly the beer develops a frothy beige head not unlike the one you would see on a well kept cask ale. A few small bubbles manage to creep their way into the glass and suddenly the zesty, bitter flavours find a way of jumping out and enhancing the overall bitterness of the beer taking it from really good to really quite excellent. Gareth suggests adding a slug of nondescript lager to add a little life, I don’t have any to hand but I can imagine that it would have a similar effect in bringing out those citrus notes.

Although Down Deeper is undeniably brilliant, you can’t help beat the sneaking suspicion that it’s just not ready yet. It’s not the alpha-acid drenched hop bomb I was hoping for, it’s a quintessentially British strong ale with plenty of earthy, peppery notes developing as the beer warms. I look forward to sampling my second bottle towards the end of the summer after it’s had a chance to age and reach it’s full potential and I will of course let you all know the results. Now, I return to twitter and my fellow CAMRGB warriors as we continue in our double IPA adventure. I’m about to crack open a bottle of Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore U, if the hops cause my head to explode please send my girlfriend a corsage. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Stone IPA

I never wanted my blog to be strictly a beer reviews blog instead focusing more on my adventures in beer. Ultimately though for the humble beer blogger nothing beats drinking a great beer and it inspiring you to put pen to paper, or in a more modern context mashing the keys on your laptop for a couple of hours. So far the beers I’ve wrote about have been chosen mostly due to their sheer awesomeness and with the beer I am reviewing today I was expecting a double dose of awesomeness. Stone IPA is revered within beer geek circles as one of the best in the business, it has a 100% flawless rating on (I am not a member) and many beer lovers often cite Stone as one of their favourite breweries.

Will San Diego's finest live up to my expectations?
Unfortunately unlike so many of you I have not experienced as much of the same joy with Stone beers, I like them, I really do but have never been inspired to wax lyrical about them. I won’t lie I think Arrogant Bastard Ale is superb and Ruination is a really enjoyable double IPA but as someone who holds IPA on a pedestal above all other beer styles I probably wouldn’t put any of the Stone brews in my top ten if I was the kind of guy who liked making lists.

As I am such a fan of India Pale Ale I’ve decided to spend the next few weeks looking at a few different IPAs from both sides of the pond and investigating the style as a whole. I’ll predominantly be focusing on the modern American style of IPA as these are my favourites but it would be unreasonable of me to ignore some more traditional British ales, however I won’t be looking at anything like Greene King IPA, I’ve already drank my fill of that over the years before I discovered the joy of the hop. For the record I have nothing against beers such as those brewed by Greene King, they just don't do it for me anymore and this blog is about looking forward, not moaning about the past.

The first thing you notice about Stone beers is their strong branding which, bar the comic sans (c’mon guys, who uses comic sans!) on the bottle neck looks great. The Gargoyle emblem is immediately recognisable and one other thing I really like is that the graphics appear to be printed onto the bottle itself rather than onto a label, another feature that helps these bottles stand out on the shelf. Pouring the Stone IPA into my favourite New Belgium chalice I get a lovely, hazy, straw coloured beer that produces a tightly packed head of white bubbles about one centimetre thick. There is plenty of busy carbonation ensuring that the head lasts as long as you drink the beer and produces some nice lacing as you sup away.

Sticking my nose in I expect to get a glorious hit of tropical and citrus fruits as is so often the case with a beer such as this but instead after a small hint of lemon juice I get a nose full of alcohol and the heady aroma of juniper berries followed by masses of caramel from the malt. Unlike many IPAs which hide their high ABV well my particular bottle of Stone IPA has a strong taste of booze with the two dominant bitter flavours being lemon and juniper, it’s almost as if someone has poured a slug of Bombay Sapphire into my beer. Underpinning the boozy, bitter notes are masses of bready, golden syrup-esque flavours that are far too sweet for my tastes and destroy the hints of fruit before they’ve had a chance to develop.

My first thought is that I’ve served the beer too cold, so after drinking half the glass I leave it alone for about fifteen minutes to see if a slight increase in temperature gives it any benefit. I must admit that when I come back to the beer that there were flavours of grapefruit and mango that I didn’t detect before and I enjoy the second half of the bottle much more than the first but I can’t escape that cloying sweetness from the malt, this beer is simply too sweet for my tastes.

I hadn’t planned to write about this experience as I don’t want to label myself as a beer basher, I didn’t dislike this beer, it certainly wasn’t drain pour but it fell far from setting my world alight. I’ve read several glowing reviews of this beer after drinking my bottle and one thing that is a common theme among them is how well balanced the flavours are and how the high ABV is almost undetectable. These reviews left me with many questions and the conclusion I came to is that I may have received a bad bottle which may simply have been from a below par batch.

There is only one thing for it, I’ll have to give it a few months before I buy some more but the next time some bottles of Stone IPA make their way to the UK I’ll have to do some ‘quality control’ and see if I did have a bad bottle or if this beer simply doesn't suit my selective palate. If the second trial proves to be just as unsuccessful then I’ll have plan a trip to San Diego and try it at the source. It’s a tough gig being a beer blogger.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Flying Dog Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout

Few breweries hold as dear a place in my heart as Flying Dog Brewery. I remember the first time I discovered their awesome brews, it was the first time I had been to The Lexington in North London and I had only been back in the UK for a couple of weeks since my first jaunt Stateside. I remember the hairs on my arms standing on end when I saw their beer list accompanied by a shining Brooklyn Lager font and after my first pint of said lager I opted for a bottle of Doggie Style Pale Ale. This was of course before places such as The Euston Tap and Cask sprung into being and I can now replicate this feeling of excitement each and every time I step through their doors.

As a fan of both Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman I felt an immediate sentimental attachment to both the brewery and the beer I was drinking. To my memory this is first time I ever took a photo of a bottle of beer and posted it on the Internet which is something I now do regularly much to the joy/annoyance (delete as appropriate) of the people who follow me on Instagram. The bottle of Doggie Style was great, had I the beer drinking experience I do now my palate would have told me this particular bottle was not very fresh but this didn’t matter as it was still the best beer I’d imbibed for a while. I remember visiting the Flying Dog website the next day and reading about their humble beginnings in Aspen, Colorado to them opening their current facility in Frederick, Maryland and their connection with my idol, the late, great Dr. Thompson.

Your authors attempt at a clever juxtaposition
When I went on my second trip out to Colorado I filled my boots with as much Flying Dog as I could find; double IPAs, barrel aged imperial stouts and perhaps the biggest, baddest barley wine I’ve ever tried. When referring to his bottle of Raging Bitch, a Belgian style IPA and to this day one of my absolute favourite beers my Dad would deliberately forget where he left his drink and constantly repeat to himself ‘where’s my bitch?’ much to his own amusement. The bond that I share with this brewery is one of the many catalysts that caused me to start writing about beer and five months since I decided to start my very own ‘Gonzo’ beer blog it’s time to write a few thoughts about one of their more extreme beers, Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout.

In general I’m not overly fond of over complicating something by adding too many flavours, in fact I’m fond of the old adage ‘less is more’. I really love coffee and I really love stout but often I fail to see the benefit of mixing them both together, as an example I can’t stand Mocha’s because as much as I love coffee and chocolate mixing them together takes away the best bits of both and just tastes too messy. Great imperial stouts such as Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout achieve strong notes of coffee and dark chocolate as well as red berries and licorice without any of these ingredients being added to the brew. So with this in mind I was approaching Kujo with necessary caution, although I’ve enjoyed coffee infused beers such as Summer Wine Barista in the past I’ve always felt that the infusion of coffee beans takes something great away from the taste of the beer itself.

You know you are in for a big beer when it (well, bar a slight change for copyright reasons) takes its name from a murderous hound that is central to a Stephen King horror novel. Make no mistake, Kujo is a huge beer and pours with a colour of impenetrable black, producing a thin tan head that soon dissipates. The nose gives off two unmistakable, huge aromas, the first is of the coffee from the beans used in the brew, a huge hit of rich espresso which is followed by a massive boozy hit of bourbon with Kujo wearing its 8.9% ABV proudly on it’s sleeve.

Taking my first sip I notice that although Kujo is rich and syrupy it’s not quite as viscous as other imperial stouts I’ve had, in fact sharing the more drinkable qualities of a porter rather than a stout. Although the coffee leads the way it is superbly balanced with rich malt flavours of caramel and vanilla and a massive hit of warming alcohol. Imagine if you will, taking a bottle of your favourite stout and then adding a spoonful of ground coffee followed by a shot of Makers Mark, that gives you some idea of what Kujo has in store for you, in fact I think I just invented a new beer cocktail, you can have that one for free. After this beer has finished pummelling your senses you notice that the finish is surprisingly quick, fresh and dry (for an imperial stout anyway) with a floral almost raspberry like flavour coming from the bittering hops. Although the taste of booze lingers in your mouth you can’t help but be impressed with the way the hops are used to round off the edges of this seriously impressive beer.

There is no denying that this beer is an enormous assault on your palate almost verging on sensory overload but the brewers at Flying Dog have skillfully balanced these flavours and have produced one fantastically fearsome stout. I only bought myself one bottle of Kujo because although I’m a massive fan of Flying Dog and endeavour to try as much of their output as I can I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it, now I’m ruing the day and the lack of funds in my bank account. The other great thing about Kujo is the unmistakable buzz you get from the caffeine making this the perfect mid session beer, that is if you want to crank your evening up a notch, BAM.

Monday, 14 May 2012

BrewDog IPA is Dead 2012

BrewDog, despite what you think of their zany, in your face marketing schemes you cannot hide from the fact that they brew some pretty awesome beer. Whether you love them or loathe them it’s hard to deny that Punk IPA is one of the most solid core beers on the market at the moment and Hardcore IPA is an absolute stunner that I urge hop freaks like myself to go out and try if you haven’t already done so.

Last year I decided to buy shares in BrewDog based mainly on the fact that I would get a discount at their Camden bar and from their online shop, whether or not I would make any money from them was a bit of an afterthought but in terms of a personal business decision it looks to have been a pretty solid one. BrewDog are everywhere and last week saw them steal the headlines when drinks giant Diageo attempted to cheat them out of an award that already had their name engraved on it. I won’t go into it here as this particular post is not about the BrewDog marketing machine but about their great beers however you can read this great post by Pete Brown if you want to know a little more about what happened.

IPA is alive and well, actually.
I do often wonder just how long BrewDog will be able to stick to their punk ethos especially now their beers are available in several major UK supermarkets and their brand and chain of bars seem to be growing at an exponential rate. I’m sure that one day soon a man in a very nice suit from a big multinational corporation will come knocking at BrewDogs door with a very, very large cheque and it will be interesting to see exactly what Mr. James Watt does when he sees that many zeros. If it was me I’d take the money, go into hiding until it all blows over and then build a tower to keep my money in so I could swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck. I’m not much of a punk though, I just like good beer and towers full of money.

Last year I bought BrewDogs IPA is dead four pack and found all of them bar the Nelson Sauvin really disappointing. The much lauded Sorachi Ace tasted unpleasant and medicinal and the Bramling Cross didn’t really taste of much at all. The main reason I didn’t like them was that there was almost zero malt backbone, the hops were left on their own out in a disparate wilderness and for me they just didn’t work. I thought I’d give it another go this year because I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment but as it turns out BrewDog have delivered four very exceptional beers this time around. The malt base appears to have been completely restructured and the four hops that have been chosen not only shine brilliantly but all have unique and interesting tastes that really had my palate working overtime.

I decided to start with Challenger as I expected it to be the most muted of these four hops. I had made the decision to work my way through all four bottles in a single evening but also bought a second pack so I could taste them individually at a later date in case of palate fatigue. Although Challenger was indeed the most muted and subtle of the four beers it was in no way unpleasant, in fact it was supremely drinkable. The nose was typical of many British hop varieties; earthy with notes of freshly cut grass and a hint of golden syrup from the malts. Challenger provided a really nice level of bitterness, flavours of chunky orange marmalade and caramel combined in the mouth to provide a really level, balanced taste. The finish was very dry and I found myself wanting a little bit more citric zing to appease my taste buds but all in all this is a very good IPA.

Next I jumped straight to the beer I was most excited about; Motueka. I love New Zealand hops, they have a fresh, rich, tropical flavour that just cannot be beaten and this hop did not disappoint. The nose was totally tropical, in my tasting notes I’ve decribed the aroma as being a bit like alcoholic Lilt or Um Bongo. The taste was a real fruit basket of guava, pineapple, mango and passion fruit flavours and the finish had a little bit of black pepper to it. As my tongue unlocked the complexities of this brew I also started to get pine and grapefruit notes but despite all these flavours bouncing around Motueka is actually surprisingly mellow and really easy to drink. Instead of assaulting your senses by being bitter and resinous Motueka lolls around gently as if it was relaxing in a hammock on a sunny New Zealand Day (apparently quite a rare thing). This beer was the best of the four, so good in fact that I would be pleased to see it as a regular edition to the BrewDog lineup, fantastic stuff.

I then decided to hop over the Tasman Sea and see what the Australian grown Galaxy hop would bring to the table. The nose had hints of freshly cut grass and an earthy quality not dissimilar to the Challenger but with more tropical and citrus fruits added into the mix. The taste was bittersweet with lemon, pine and mango combining nicely over a backbone of brown sugar. For me Galaxy seemed to work great as a bittering hop but I found the aroma a little lacking, still it was a really enjoyable IPA.

The final beer of the four is hopped with a new US grown hop simply called HBC. I’m not quite sure what this stands for but while writing down my tasting notes I decided that it was named after British actress Helena Bonham Carter who is obviously a massive craft beer fan. HBC is supremely bitter, the aroma was of big, juicy Seville oranges, lemons and breakfast grapefruit. This bitterness translates beautifully onto the tongue and notes of citrus, lychee and chunky marmalade whiz around in unison. I also detected a vinous quality not dissimilar to the one given off by Nelson Sauvin which added a sharp edge to the bitter flavour and made this my second favourite of the four close behind Motueka.

All four of these beers on their own have stunning individual qualities and unique flavours and had I bought a third pack I might have tried experimenting by blending them together. Galaxy and Challenger seem to work brilliantly as bittering hops whereas Motueka and HBC were heaped with huge, heady aromas and I could see these four hops working very well together. If anyone has tried blending these together, do get in touch an let me know how you got on!

Despite your personal opinion on the way BrewDog go about their business it is hard to deny that they produce some stunning beers and these four IPAs are no exception. They showcase a brewer that really understands the nature of hops and how to get the best out of them so if you are lucky enough to find a four pack for sale I’d advise you pick one up.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

There's no place like home

It’s now been several weeks since I landed back at Heathrow after another whirlwind visit to the United States. You may consider my views on the North American brewing scene to be over enthusiastic to say the least but what I’ve come to realise since I got back to dear old Blighty is that our own beer scene is actually pretty hot on their tail as opposed to falling woefully behind as I previously thought. From the moment I finally got back to my North London flat and cracked open my last bottle of Magic Rock Bearded Lady I realised that some of the very best craft breweries are in fact in Britain. Over the bank holiday weekend I went to the Summer Wine Brewery meet the brewer event at Cask Pub & Kitchen and tasted some absolutely mind blowing beers (Kahuna Pale Ale a massive highlight) and I visited The Bull in Highgate which had a truly awe inspiring collection of bottles and it’s own microbrewery. Not only do Cask and the Bull have a great selection of beer but they offer a really great and friendly environment to drink them in and are easily on a par with some of the craft beer bars I love in Fort Collins.

Rare beers. Easy to find.
I’ve moaned on here before about the poor availability of top USA craft beers in the UK but I was wrong about this too. No sooner than I had arrived back from the States with a suitcase full of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale I had placed an order through Ales by Mail and got hold of some Bear Republic Racer 5 and Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, rare beers but not rare enough to avoid the gravitational pull of my fridge. However my order didn’t just contain transatlantic delights, it also featured some stunning home grown brews such as Marble Dobber and the awesome Kernel Black IPA. If American beer geeks got hold of these brews they’d probably write blogs about how they wish they could get hold of them over there.

One topic that seems to constantly come up in conversation at the moment is the price of a pint (or a half, or two thirds, or whatever you’re drinking) and the general consensus seems to be that craft beer is too expensive to which I disagree. I work in the musical instrument industry, an industry that works from painfully low margins and one that sees shop closures on an almost weekly basis (sound familiar?) When I decide to put my prices up it’s because my suppliers have put their prices up and because of the rapidly increasing cost of shipping, manufacture and raw materials. If you want a hand crafted, heritage laden Gibson Les Paul then you pay a premium but you can buy a pretty reasonable made in China Epiphone copy for about a fifth of the price. You might see a pattern emerging here but at least publicans don’t have to deal with people haggling for a discount, right?

So imagine you’re in a craft beer bar and like me, you’re a craft beer snob, driven by an uncontrollable lust for hops. Tap one has Magic Rock Cannonball IPA, a citrus and tropical fruit tidal wave of flavour at 7.4% ABV and tap two is Sharps Doom Bar, a pleasant, subtle hit of digestive biscuits and blackberries at a ‘sessionable’ 4% ABV. The Doom Bar is an attractive £3.00 a pint and you could probably sink a few and not feel too bad in the morning but it doesn’t really set your world alight. The Cannonball is the same price but for a half, some of you might shout WHAT A RIP OFF and to those people I politely say don’t drink it, save it for me as I will happily ‘session’ this beer all night because it tastes amazing. The Cannonball probably has around five times the ingredients of Doom Bar, the American hops probably come at a higher premium and it probably takes twice as long to make. Do you still think it’s too expensive? Yes? Good, more for me then.

The reason I bring this up in a blog about how Britain’s craft beer scene is just as good as Americas? They moan about the price of craft beer too (despite it being much cheaper over there), it’s simply human nature, we want lots of things and it costs money to obtain them, we don’t like it so we have a moan about it. Craft beer is a luxury and one that’s bucking the trend in a global recession and instead of supporting these fantastic, small independent businesses many of use choose to berate them based purely on the fact they intend to earn a decent living which is a basic right that all of us have.

Don't fight, have a tasting flight.
My Dad is lucky enough to spend a lot of time travelling around the USA when he's not at home in Fort Collins and most weekends he emails me to tell me which new microbrewery he just visited or how good the latest Odell pilot brew is and I used to get very jealous. This weekend he sent me some photos from a visit to the Lafayette Brewery based in Indiana and for the first time I didn’t feel a shred of jealously. Why should I have been jealous, I just had the most amazing time at Cask that weekend and I have RACER 5 IN MY FRIDGE. In addition to this Camden Town Brewery just announced that they might just start selling growlers in the near future, something I had dearly hoped would happen when I first visited their brewery bar a few weeks ago. I expect to see lots more breweries opening their own bars and brewery taps over the next few years and selling take away draught beer will be an integral part of the experience they offer.

No longer is the UK craft beer scene in the shadow of Uncle Sam, it’s proudly running alongside it, arm in arm. British breweries are winning medals in the World Beer Cup, craft beer bars and new breweries are springing up all over the place and an industry comprised of mostly independent businesses is staring a recession in the face, raising a middle finger and shouting FUCK YOU! This isn’t because of one single brewery, beer or bar, this renaissance is down to us, the drinker, the end user. We’ve been buying these beers and shouting our love for them all over town, we are responsible for this and we should be proud of ourselves. The UK beer scene is only going to get bigger, ale of all kinds is going to continue to take market share away from other beverages and more breweries, bars, bottle shops and brewpubs are going to continue springing up all over the place. Hell, if I had the cash and I knew what I was doing I’d open my own.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Epic Mayhem

Don’t be fooled by the title, this isn’t another blog about another debauched evening spent boozing it up with my Father, this is about a fantastic pale ale from New Zealand’s Epic Beer. I’ve a big soft spot for the Kiwis, it’s my girlfriend Dianne’s country of origin and I was lucky enough to spend two weeks on the North Island last year. Naturally one of the first things I did was pick myself up some beers, I was already aware of the big Kiwi brands such as Steinlager, Speight's and Tui but I wanted something that appealed to my tastes and on a whim picked up a six pack of Epic Pale Ale. I had not heard of Epic before but I was pulled in by the modern design on the packaging and the fact that even Dianne and her folks hadn’t heard of them so I couldn't resist taking some with me to try.

Epic Beer is sweet as, eh.
I was but a fledgling hop addict when I was in New Zealand and back home I had just discovered Brewdog beer so I was well into the start of my downward spiral towards beer geekdom. The first few beers I had in NZ were enjoyable, refreshing but didn’t set my world on fire and so I wasn’t expecting much when I cracked open a bottle of pale ale from this new brewery I nor any of the Kiwis I was staying with had ever heard of. I had to take a moment, Dianne was holding her head in disbelief, her parents had no idea what the hell was happening as I danced around the kitchen with boyish enthusiasm. Epic Pale Ale had set off a super fresh hop bomb in my mouth, it was one of the best beers I had tasted by that point in my life, it was that damn good.

Sadly once I'd returned to the UK I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to drink any more Epic beer (not to be confused with Epic Brewing of Salt Lake City, Utah) until I next had the chance to visit New Zealand which wouldn’t be for quite some time. As chance would have it those cheeky chaps at Brewdog would be the ones to once again set up this union between man and beer thanks to the excellent guest beer selection in their online shop. It’s been almost exactly a year since I had my head blown clean off by the brilliance of Epic pale ale and as last Thursday was ANZAC Day I could think of no better occasion to crack open this bottle of antipodean delight.

Mayhem is not part of the Epic core range, instead being brewed in limited batches as a festival beer. It is billed as an American style strong pale ale and features a combination of hops from both New Zealand and the United States. This lively pale ale pours with a nice, clear, deep amber hue and produces a fluffy and ever so slightly off white head. I stick my nose in and immediately get an aroma that reeks of big chunks of pineapple and freshly grated lemon rind. The mouth feel is nicely rounded and satisfying, a conga line of passion fruit and pineapple makes way across my tongue and at the back of the line is the malt, dancing the night away and producing sweetness that reminds me of a big, doughy sponge cake. The finish is nicely bitter and very moreish, it wasn’t the massive hop slam I was expecting but it was a really well balanced and quaffable beer with delicious dry fruit notes and a big, bready, sweet malt base.

This is truly an epic beer, fitting of the name the brewery has chosen for itself and I would love to see their beers become more readily available in the UK (a recurring theme on this blog it would appear.) As I said earlier I bought this beer from the excellent guest beer selection in the Brewdog online shop and although they’re unsurprisingly out of stock I hope they get hold of some more Epic soon. It's fantastic to see that like both the UK and the US, New Zealand is developing a fast growing craft beer scene and with brewers like Epic involved it's not difficult to see why craft beer is getting big in the South Pacific.