This week Epic Brewing Co. release their new batch of Barrel-Aged IPA, which draws inspiration from the past and present. British brewers created the IPA (India Pale Ale) originally as a pale ale style in the eighteen century to satisfy the demands of their countrymen living in India. The long trip from England to India, around the Cape of Good Hope emulated the cellaring that used to occur with such beers, resulting in increased depth of flavor and maturity. Doubling the amount of hops (a natural preservative) resulted in a hoppy, high-alcohol (in those days 6.5-7%) beer we know today as IPA.
In 2009, curious about how the long sea voyage in barrels would affect a beer, Epic’s Luke Nicholas put 40 litres of his Armageddon IPA into two oak barrels and sat them on the Interislander ferry for six weeks as it made it’s way back and forth across the choppy Cook Strait. The resulting beer proved so popular that Luke made another larger batch – and another and another.
Each time the beer has turned out slightly differently,reacting to the diverse barrels to give various flavors. This year Epic used new American oak barrels and aged the beer for three months, as opposed to two months for the 2010 vintage. Some fresh Armageddon was also blended with the barrel-aged ale, resulting in a beer in which the large vanilla oak character is balanced by the fresh hops. Mandarin, orange oil and cedar are evident in the palate as well. Barrel-Aged IPA is the perfect accompaniment for a creamy blue cheese.
The 2010 Barrel-Aged IPA picked up a Gold Medal and a Best in Class trophy at last year’s Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards and has picked up a Silver Medal this year. Armageddon IPA also picked up a Gold Medal and a Best in Class trophy at the 2011 awards.