Today, the beers were so appealing I started with them and, by the time I had finished, I had run out of space and was in danger of challenging my readers’ legendary attention spans – especially on mobile phones. As a result, this is a rare and elusive “all about the beer” post.
Fork & Brewer Zeus Juice Mythological IPA (6.5%) – I must confess that this is currently my go-to beer during my all too rare visits to the excellent Fork & Brewer brewpub on Bond Street. Obviously after that cheap plug I must also declare a very small ownership interest in both the pub and the Fork Brewery within. Did I mention they were both excellent?
The brewer in question is the highly talented and highly regarded Kelly Ryan. When he is not making way too many different sour beers for my liking, he is brewing several excellent pale ales including the flagship Fork Base Isolator and Fork Low Blow (the more mid-strength offering). Then, there is Zeus Juice. Here are Kelly’s brewing notes:
Aroma: Candied stonefruit, juniper and a hint of kaffir lime. Peach Melba.
Flavour: Sparkling and luscious on the front palate with a hint of nuttiness. Resinous hop oils throughout with hints of pine needle and preserved peaches. Mouth coating bitterness with firm malt texture at the back and a warming, tingling after-bitterness.
His brewing notes also reveal that I may have had some influence in the creation of the beer – but only in a negative sense. Kelly wrote this about the inspiration for the beer:
“It was actually the higher powers – the actual god-like figures behind the illustrious Fork & Brewer – that had the idea for this brew. It was a simple quest: make an IPA. at around 6-6.5% but make it a little more bitter than my usual hoppy brews.”
Because Kelly’s quest for balance is of his highest importance, he still needed to ensure that this brew had some type of semblance of drinkability for his palate.
“I didn’t want it to be skewed too strongly towards the tastes of beer writers/shareholders such as Neil Miller!”
Well, I ended up getting a beer I adore and additionally got called god-like on-line  so that is a definite pass for Mr Ryan. For the record, I can indeed order Kelly to do anything, but he has no obligation or even inclination to actually do it!
Which brings me to Fork & Brewer Black Star Rating (6.2%). This is a Black IPA which I must reluctantly concede has now become a legitimate modern beer style. Like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, the style has many names including Cascadian Dark Ale, India Dark Ale, American Dark Ale and India Black Ale. You can see why it might be confusing to have the same style referred to variously as Black, Dark and Pale at the same time.
Anyway, the defining characteristic in general is a balance between dark roasted malts and intense fruity hops. In this sense is a pale ale version of a hoppy American porter, the most famous example in New Zealand being Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black (PKB). Again, Kelly explains the origin for Black Star:
“I kind of thought if I’m gonna do a dark beer, I might as well do a hoppy dark beer to keep the craft pundits in their happy place,” says Kelly.
“Some people get a bit perplexed with the term Black IPA: ‘How can something be both black and pale?’ But it’s still my favourite style descriptor as I think it sums up the whole premise of the beer.”
The flavour descriptors most commonly used include, but are not limited to, lightly roasted coffee beans, tropical fruit, cocoa powder, mandarin, sandalwood, pine and stonefruit, For those that are unaware of the meaning behind the name, Wellington airport has a Black Star safety rating, one of only three in the country, because it is often windy and the runway may be just a tiny bit short.
Over many years I suspect I have written more words about Epic Brewing Company than Epic head brewer Luke Nicholas has. This is largely because:
- I adore Epic Beers.
- Luke tends to use YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest more than straight text which is by far my primary modus operandi.
- He actually has to make some beer while I just have to drink it.
Epic Magic Dust (6.9%) is a 45 International Bitterness Unit (IBU) beer built off the previous Epic Mosaic – One Trick Pony. However, it does have a dusty twist. The hops are US Mosaic, but not as we have experienced them before. That is from the use of LupuLN2 which is essentially a hop powder. Luke goes a little Star Trek in his explanation:
“We are the first brewery in New Zealand to import and use this product. LupuLN2 is essentially the concentrated lupulin from whole hop flowers, with all of the extra vegetable matter removed by a cryogenic separation process. This makes for a much more efficient brew, and as you’ll find out – it tastes really good too!”
From my regular tastings – I mean totally work related research – I agree. There are notes of passionfruit, grapefruit, pine, guava, resin, orange and perhaps the faintest hint of dank alligators. It is strong but balanced. I suspect we will see and taste more of magical hop dust in the future of New Zealand beer.
I do not think the TAB would have taken bets on whether or not I would like Epic Double Geddon Double IPA (8%). It is a stronger, hoppier version of Epic Armageddon, officially my favourite beer in New Zealand last year. If that was the case, they were wise not to as I loved it. I also loved the tweet by Beer IQ who asked “If it’s a double Armageddon then shouldn’t it be 13.3%?” However, I think technically it should be 13.32% but then I have always been very particular about maths. 
It certainly does what it says on the bottle in terms of being a bulked up Armageddon IPA. There are notes of grapefruit, orange, pine, dry summer grass, followed by substantial bitterness. I am not sure how economically viable this is to brew so Double Geddon may be a one-off well worth grabbing during this surprisingly lovely weather.
Potentially even rarer is the Garage Project Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb Sour Ale (2.9%) which was originally brewed for the 15th birthday of Pomeroy’s in Christchurch, another excellent bar. I have to say I found comparatively little information on this beer but it is sour, almost certainly contains rhubarb and is low alcohol, so chances are I am not their target market.
I was about to ask “who makes a beer with rhubarb, honestly” but a quick check on RateBeer reveals 176 entries in the very specific “Rhubarb beer” category. So there is a following. I love the creativity of Garage Project and have sometimes joked that their brewery motto should be “sorry you didn’t like that beer. While you were complaining we brewed two more!”
The final beer is Deep Creek Dusty Gringo (6.8%) which is a robust India Brown Ale – another style hard to describe  – “inspired by the ruggedness of the Wild West cowboy”. It combines a hearty malt base (including plenty of chocolate malt) with three American-style hops. Here are my tasting notes from Cuisine:
“Dusty Gringo pours a rich dark brown into the glass. The initial base flavours are chocolate, toffee and a nutty sweetness from the malts. Floating above that, thanks to the generous addition of Cascade, Amarillo and Centennial hops continually throughout the boil, there are notes of citrus, lemongrass and fresh cut grass. It finishes with a soft lingering bitterness.
The recommended food match is the similarly Wild West inspired breakfast tacos with chorizo, black beans and corn.”
On that tasty note, it is time to finish this blog and have a beer. By sheer coincidence it is an Epic Double Geddon. 
Next time, we drink to Australian Liberal MP Tim Wilson who proposed in Parliament during the debate on same-sex marriage. And another drink to his long-term partner Ryan Bolger who immediately said “yes” to the question. Otherwise it might have gotten a bit awkward!
 It is on-line so it must be true…
 This is an obvious joke as I am, and always have been, terrible at maths. I’m a word guy.
 See “Black IPA” above.
 Rule 39 of Leroy Jethro Gibbs – “There is no such thing as coincidence.” It is an NCIS reference for those wondering.
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting