Armageddon thirsty: Epic Beer's amazing hat trick of trophy wins
In the kingdom of beer, the fiercest battles are fought for the right to wear the crown of "best IPA".
And right now, there's one brewer in New Zealand who can justifiably claim to be the king of India Ale Pale after his flagship beer won its third title in a handful of months.
Given how many breweries make IPA and the quality of beer put up for shows, to be recognised as the best at any awards deserves huge respect. To win two "best in show" awards is getting into awesome territory. And three? Well three is the stuff of fantasy.
But that's exactly what Epic Armageddon has done since May: champion IPA at the Australia International Beer Awards; champion IPA at the New Zealand Brewers Guild Awards last month and just the other day: best IPA at the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival.
For three different sets of judges in three countries to land on the same beer in a blind tasting … well, I'm still shaking my head.
So what is it about Armageddon? What makes it so good.
Brewer Luke Nicholas is regarded as the godfather of the American-style IPA, or more specifically the hop-rich resiny IPAs that define the West Coast of the US. Armageddon was born in response to a trip he made to there in 2008 with Steve Plowman of Hallertau. Once home, they set up the annual West Coast IPA Challenge to see which of them could create the best interpretation of the beers they'd enjoyed on their trip. Armageddon came out of the WCIPA and has stood the test of time since.
Six years on, when nearly every brewer in the land has an IPA in their portfolio and the boundaries of bitterness have been pushed even further, the simple fact is that Armageddon sticks to the principles of good beer creation: balance.
To me, the best beers are ones that keep you coming back for more. It's too easy today to find an IPA that is too hop-forward – all bare teeth and with a tonsil-stripping atonality that doesn't bring any sugar to offset the bitter pill. It will grab and shake you but you might not want that kind of flavour assault throughout the night.
Armageddon has bite, don't worry about that, but it also has a honey-and-velvet old-world charm – a caramel caress that offers just enough sweetness to take the edge off the hops and therefore create this yin and yang pull on your palate that goes from mineral hardness to creamy softness to citrus tang to caramel sweet and finally ends with a piney resin aftertaste that leaves your palate, like a child at a fairground, asking insistently "can we do it again?"
When Armageddon first came out the label promised "an apocalyptic assault on your preconceptions and taste buds". For the uninitiated, it's still like getting whacked in the mouth with a wet sock full of hops, but it's a beer lover's dream because it does everything you want from a good brew – just on an epic scale.
- Your Weekend