Larger – An Imperial Pilsner

Person Number 1: “You spelt it wrong, it’s l-a-g-e-r.”

Me: “No, I didn’t. It’s Larger. It’s like a lager, but it’s bigger.”

Person Number 1: “Oooooh, I see what you did there!”

Me: “Yes, yes you did and I am funny.”

Person Number 1: “No, you’re not. Puns are never funny.”

Me: “I’ll have to agree with you. They’re not funny… they’re punny.”

Person Number 1: <Punches Kelly>

Me: “Ouch. Did you just punch me because that action includes the word, pun?”

I was going to leave this blogpost at the above conversation, but thought the avid readers out there would want a little more information about our new beer, Larger and were less concerned at the fact that someone hit me for using puns. So, I’ll do what I always do and tell you a little story about how this beer came to be.

Our pretty new label...

Often here at Epic we get enquiries via email asking what beers we have, sometimes it may even be a sales order and sometimes, there are spelling mistakes. It’s most likely that the word that is spelt wrong is lager, where an erroneous “R” makes it’s way in. So, it made sense that if we were going to brew a big Pilsner-style beer, that we would annoy everyone out there and call it Larger.  This now means we’re likely to get a load of people ordering the wrong beer at bars, bottle-stores getting confused and generally, a bunch of folk being miffed at us. Which is why it meant we had to make this beer taste awesome enough, that people wouldn’t worry about it’s slightly frustrating name.

So how does one go about doing this? I’ll be honest. My lager-brewing skills are somewhat limited. Sure, the first two years of my brewing career were spent with DB Breweries, pumping out hectolitre upon hectolitre of bottom-fermented lager-style beers and in my time at Thornbridge, we worked together with Birrificio Italiano and brewed a Pilsener called Italia. Here at Epic we brew our nice dry-hopped Epic Lager, but apart from that, my knowledge was sparse. The best thing to do in such a situation is taste beers similar to what you want to brew and read as much as you can about the brewing techniques.

Thornbridge Italia (courtesy of Leigh from goodpeopleeats.blogspot.com)

If we bounce back a bit to February 23rd of this year… Myself, Luke from Epic and a very important chap who ferries super-fresh bottles of beer from the USA to our own doorsteps, Dave “The Beer Mule” Summergreene sat down and tried a Port Brewing Panzer Imperial Pilsner. It had a big, rich malt backbone, quite sweet in character with a touch of caramel to help fight back against the huge noble hop character. It was big, bitter, balanced and beautiful. We were all super-impressed with the brew and pretty much decided there and then, that we wanted to do an Epic Imperial Pilsner at some stage. Dave had met Julian Shrago, Head Brewer and Owner of Beachwood BBQ Brewery in Long Beach whilst in Los Angeles and put me in contact with him. Julian had originally been a US National Homebrew champion with one of his IPAs. Obviously knowing his hops extremely well he then teamed up with the Port Brewing crew and they brewed the Panzer Imperial Pilsner as a collaboration. Julian told me how he’d been inspired by the Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner back in 2003 and based on his knowledge of Double IPAs, went about creating the brew based on big hopping rates, but went with German Pilsner malt, German hops and a German Lager yeast strain. With that advice on board, we began thinking of a recipe…

Our inspiration! (Pic courtesy of fullpint.com)

April rolled around and The Beer Mule arrived with another selection of fine beers. We sipped our way through Uinta Brewing Company’s Tilted Smile and Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Whistler Imperial Pils. I remembered back to a year before, drinking an Odell Double Pilsner that Doug had delivered to Thornbridge when working on a collaboration with us. They were all great beers and had seemingly taken the Double/Imperial IPA model and modified it with the use of cool fermentation, bottom-fermenting lager yeast strains and a big whack of hops more typically indicative of German and Bohemian Pilsner/Pilseners.

It was time to develop the recipe. We contacted Wyeast to discuss the possibility of getting a decent amount of Bohemian Lager Yeast sent over for us to grow up in a batch of our Epic Lager. We usually use California Lager Yeast in Epic Lager and were really interested to see how this strain would effect the flavour profile in this beer, as well as it being an essential part of the process in which we got a pitchable quantity of yeast for the Imperial Pilsner. The Bohemian Lager Yeast brewed Lager showed a slightly cleaner, crisper finish, a touch more bitterness and the tiniest amount of sulphur throughout fermentation. Although it was a longer fermentation and maturation with this yeast than it was with the Californian Lager strain, I was personally impressed with the characters that this yeast had brought to the beer. It probably wasn’t enough to make a considerable difference to the overall character of Epic Lager, but it exhibited characteristics that we knew would be perfect with our Imperial Pilsner.

The wonderfully fragrant, and lightly biscuity Pilsner Malt

For the grist, we decided on Weyermann Pilsener malt as our base. We wanted a nice, clean malt grain character and the German malt was perfect for this. It makes up part of our grist in the original Epic Lager (along with Bohemian Pilsener malt), so we knew how it behaved in a brew and were pretty pleased with it’s flavour profile. The aim for this beer was to hit around 8.5% alcohol by volume with an Original Gravity of 1.077 and a Final Gravity of 1.012-1.013. This would mean we’d need some good attenuation from the yeast to get the beer as dry and clean as we wanted it. I was nervous about this… the last thing we wanted was an underattenuated strong lager!

The bitterness we were aiming for was quite high at 70 IBUs, but this was tempered by the fact that we chose one of my favourite bittering hops, Pacific Jade. This hop exhibits an intense Noble hop character in that it is very low in a hop alpha acid called Cohumulone. This alpha acid is often responsible for a harsh bitterness, so a low level can give a softer perceived bitterness in the finished beer and in my opinion, Pacific Jade is one of the best at giving a well-utilised, soft, clean bitterness.

This little guy helps us with some nice, soft bitterness at low levels

Pacific Jade was paired throughout the brew with three hops of German parentage. Liberty and Santiam, both grown in the US and the hops used in our Epic Lager, were used liberally throughout the flavouring and aroma additions, their Hallertau ancestry lending well to the character we were after in this brew. These were joined by US Tettnang, another of the noble hop varieties and finally finished off with some Kiwi-grown Kohatu. The blending of US and NZ hops had worked well for us in our earlier Hop Zombie, so it made sense to do something similar with Larger. The plan was also to do a massive dry-hop with Larger, using Liberty, Santiam, US Tettnang and Kohatu over a number of dry hops based on how the flavour of the beer was progressing during the lagering process.

When it came to water chemistry and the mash regime, it was all down to compromise and trying to coax as many fermentables as possible from the grains. The temperature-stepped mash started low to really work the maltase, peptidase and β-glucanase enzymes and this was followed by an increase to push the proteases and β-amylases. The majority of the mash rest was done at 66°C to favour α-amylase activity and limit dextrin content. The grist itself was mashed quite thin, emulating the type of liquor:grist ratio that is used in continental decoction mashing (even though this was solely infusion). This thinner grist was chosen as it helps to aid amylase heat resistance at the water mineral content we were looking at using. Because Auckland water is very soft (in fact it is quite similar to the water profile of Plzen), it was decided to use only a small amount of Calcium Sulphate in this beer. The lower calcium concentration was part of the reason a thin grist was used and hopefully the low level sulphate ions would bring some crispness and dryness to the finish.

Just like the blog before this one, we now wait for our beer to be finished. It is sitting patiently in tank, exactly one month from brewday today and developing the flavours that we want. It’s slowly picking up the aromatics from the massive amount of dry-hopping. The finish and bitterness are exactly where we wanted them, the lower alpha acid hops are working in a different way than the big high-alpha beasts we used in Hop Zombie, providing us with something big, yet refined. The body is perfect, nice and light and summery, which is convenient considering this is to act as our Christmas release beer from now onwards!

Less than a month to go…

Our keg tap badge... who will be the lucky recipients of our small number of kegs??

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New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Halves

The pretty fellas. The ones that always have a tube of moisturiser in their after-match bag and often tend to have some sort of aftershave spray that they insist they put on in the changing rooms so that the forwards can get together and punch them.

While the forwards are the guys that do the hard yards up front, it is the responsibility of the backs to pass, catch and kick the ball in the hope of scoring loads of fabulous points so that their team comes out victorious. While there are 8 forwards, there are only 7 backs, most probably because the forwards always want to win if they have to ever fight the backs…

I digress…

Number 9 – Half Back

The most raucous member of the team is usually the link player between forwards and backs. The ability to ferret in, throw forwards out of the way, snaffle the ball, question every decision the ref makes, show disgust at the dodgy calls and scream adulation when the team does well are all attributes well sorted to the feisty scrum half. I’ll be honest, this decision was a tough one for the Thirst XV selectors, and the other candidate will be named in the reserves (as a super-sub of course) but the player likely to be wearing the mighty Number 9 jersey on the pitch is none other than Luke Nicholas, Mr. Epic Beer himself. Never afraid to stick his head out of the gopher-hole and with the knack to make an underhopped lager blush with shame, Nicholas would bring a great set of skills to the team. Antagonising opposition players and fragmenting the refs calls would be his strong points and I imagine post-game, Nicholas would lather himself with pure lupulin glands instead of the standard “soap-on-a-rope” option. Great players that spring to mind? A cross between Graeme Bachop and George Gregan…

 

"Product placement? I don't know what you're talking about..."

Number 10 – Fly Half/1st Five Eighth

The playmaker and clinical to a tee, this position is one of the most important on the field. The ability to make or break a game with a deft chip kick, ninja-like offload of the ball or a low, hard tackle mean there is no room for error. None other than Tracy Banner, Sprig and Fern Brewer extraordinaire could fit into this role. Originally from football territory in the north of England, a cool demeanour and a scientific eye would make Banner an unstoppable tactician on the field. With her brewing prowess encompassing a range of 18 or so beers and ciders as well as a handful of pubs, the ability to analyse play on the field would be a walk in the park. Those early days surrounded by Everton and Liverpool supporters would also pay off with Banner’s boot being one of the more formidable in the game. Kicking goals from anywhere on the field would be a breeze for her and her skills at reading play on the field would mean that hardly a player would get past her text-book tackles. Carter and Wilkinson… beware!

Super skills - The ability to pour 8 pints of beer whilst showing how to execute the perfect spin pass is a walk in the park for Banner

 

Coming soon – The formidable Centres!

Epic Beer Dinner at the Internationalist

Date: October 12, 2011

Time: 7pm

Venue: The Internationalist Wine Bar & Bistro, 2 Knights Road, Rothesay Bay, North Shore, Auckland

Cost: $45

Contact: Martin at The Internationalist – 09 479 3095

Take a great little bistro bar nestled in the East Coast Bays area of the North Shore, a team that are mad on great food and flavours and a couple of Epic brewers and it’s got to be a good’n! We got contacted a few months back by Martin Cahnbley of the Internationalist, sat down with him and head chef, Karl and went through our range of beers, suggesting a few food matches as we went along.

The Internationalist team then put together this menu and I’m already counting down the days until we get to go and enjoy this scrumptious looking degustation, which is gonna look something like this!

Epic Lager with grilled Periperi prawns

NZ Craft Beer TV Mash Up with Duck liver vol-au-vents & red peppers

Epic Pale Ale with 3 different cheese blinis

Epic Hop Zombie with prosciutto and melon

Epic Armageddon IPA with beef carpaccio and garlic-butter sauteed oyster mushrooms

Epic Thornbridge Stout with beef pie served on mash with caramelised stout reduction

Epic Barrel Aged IPA with vanilla custard tart, topped with lychees, drizzled with IPA syrup and a globe of French Vanilla Ice Cream.

Who’s coming??

Use your imagination... Goblets o' Beer & Tables o' Food...

The many ways to open a beer bottle…

A bunch of Kiwi lads get inventive. What are your favourites?

Has to be the welder for me 🙂

From Dunedin to Invercargill – We Head South!

Green Man Brewery in Dunedin takes a sustainable approach to brewing and actively encourages used bottle and cardboard box returns.  Not only that, they are fully organic and produce all of their beers under the German Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot). This is helped by the fact that their brewer, Enrico is a trained German brewmaster, so each of the beers we tasted had a definite German character to them. The Krystal Weiss, their filtered wheat beer and the only example of this style in the country, had a good blend of light caramel malt and banana ester character and was ridiculously thirst quenching.

The Pils and lager showed great hop bitterness, again highlighting the style of beer that Enrico enjoyed brewing. The star of the show, however, was the 14.5% AbV Enrico’c Cure from 2008. This beer had been produced with a Champagne yeast and had no sugar at all added to it. Enrico explained that he preferred the character that malt sugars give, compared to any artificial sugars that are sometimes added to produce beers of this strength and I can honestly say that this approach paid off. The rich fruit and chocolate nose of the beer amalgamated perfectly in the mouth, where more chocolate and vanilla and luscious sweetness melded to soften the warming alcohol finish.

We were also lucky enough to try a relatively fresh sample of the Stout, which although young, tasted absolutely perfect to us! We chatted with General Manager Jeremy Seaman and he mentioned that Green Man were affiliated with a bar, Metro, just off the Octagon. We headed off to drop the campervan back at the site so that we could all enjoy a tasty beverage or two.

The Octagon impressed with a couple of craft beer bars in the vicinity. We had visited Tonic the night before and been stoked with the wide selection of craft beers in their fridges as well as a good bunch of great NZ draught beers. The banter from barman, James was awesome. It was great to see a keen as dude working the bar so well.

We visited Albar on Stuart Street for a quick pint of cask ale. We all went for the Albar Ale which is brewed by Invercargill Brewing. It had a nice citrus hop character and it was great to see a couple of handpullss in a bar so close to the Octagon.

We then hooked up with Green Man’s Jeremy at Metro and went through their range of beers, including a tequila and lime juice infused lager. It was the Strong that was my favourite beer of theirs though. This is a blend between a Whiskey Bock that they produce in the winter months. This is made by cold conditioning the beer with oak staves that have been previously soaked in whiskey. This beer is then blended with Green Man’s Best Bitter. The resultant beer has hints of oak and vanilla and this batch also had a slight tartness, almost similar to a Flemish sour beer. Whether this note was intentional or not, it didn’t matter to me, as I’m a big fan of sourness in the right type of beer and this worked really well.

Also of interest was the Man Chips that they had on the menu. This was a massive plate of chips covered in various pieces of chopped up meat – bacon, ham, pepperoni and beef and then doused in gravy. This was serious food for our hungry bellies!

We headed back to Eureka for a couple of beers with owner, Dave, bumped in to a few local Twitter followers and headed back for some much needed sleep.

Dunedin done, the next day was going to involve a bit of driving and Luke was amped to get down to Invercargill to catch up with Steve Nally of Invercargill Brewing. We cruised down and stopped in quickly to see Tom from Crafty Beers and Vicki from Beltane… their purple house is impossible to miss! It was then on to the Presidential Highway from Clinton to Gore (see what they did there!) We got into Invercargill and were amazed at the changes that had occurred in the place since we had last been down there over 10 years ago. Maybe Mayor, Tim Shadbolt’s magic was working!

We met up with Steve and Murray from Invercargill Brewing, both passionate, energetic guys who are pumping out some incredible beers. We checked out the brewery, which Steve told us was about to be upgraded to allow double the amount of beer to be brewed. Invercargill do a lot of contract brewing and bottling for other NZ craft breweries including Yeastie Boys, Valley, Golden Ticket, Pink Elephant and Mussel Inn. Their own range of beers includes a delicious Honey Pilsner, Wasp which had a hint of honey on the nose, some sweetness on the tongue and a nice dry, crisp finish. B.Man was another top drop, a great take on the NZ Pilsner style. Sister Gina was a Belgian style brew that Steve had brewed with a Witbier yeast and was a great example of an Abbey-style Dubbel with wisps of clove and fruity esters.

The Boysenbeery however, was the pick of the bunch for me. This beer is brewed and 15% Boysenberry juice is added near the end of fermentation. The resulting brew smells like boysenberry icecream, with a pleasant vanilla and berry nose. The vibrant red colour makes you think that this beer is going to be sweet and potentially syrupy, but this is anything but! The berry fruit makes itself known, but the beer finishes crisp and dry and your mouth stays filled with fragrant boysenberry notes without any cloying characters. Steve told us he was a massive fan of ciders and fruit and this is evident in the beer. His Nally’s Cider is another example of a greatly crafted product, aged for 18 months prior to release.

The one thing I think Steve gives to his beers that is paramount is balance and drinkability. They finish dry and crisp and are testament to his brewing skill.

We left Invercargill where Luke had his first encounter with a Jimmy’s Pie, and iconic taste of the southern region of New Zealand. I had to have two, just to make sure they were tasting okay. They were and we were all pretty happy with the experience. Our arteries however, may not be so happy…

Epic Times

It’s pretty awesome to be living back in New Zealand. I’ve been here for a month now. Hanging out with my family and enjoying my first New Zealand summer since I left in 2003. This has mainly involved loads of great food and drink, swimming in rivers and at beaches and basking in the glorious NZ sun.

It’ll always be the tucker and a couple of refreshing beverages that really get me excited though. I’ve been absolutely inundated with great food. From the oceans and rivers there has been Sea urchin (Kina) pâté, fresh Taranaki mussels shucked raw and battered with Nana’s special batter recipe, beautifully tender NZ abalone (Paua) rolled in flour and cooked quickly, NZ rock lobster/crayfish barbecued with herb and garlic butter, smoked kingfish on crackers, Northland scallops with large plump roe intact, even NZ whitebait, guarded like crown jewels in the back of the freezer and made into delightful fritters.

Delicious Paua on the BBQ

Joseph Wood from Liberty Brewing, an awesome homebrewer based in New Plymouth even gave me a couple of massive Albacore Tuna fillets when I went round to visit. They made their way to the smoker and into my belly.

Joseph's awesome 200 litre brewing kit almost completed!

Even people I don’t know provide food. Recently while staying in a campsite in Hawke’s Bay, a young family proudly presented me with a large river eel. It was the first one the young boy had caught and the adrenalin from the catch was apparent on his face as he showed us his catch. It’s great to see how the thrill of hunting and gathering your own food is still enough to excite kids.

My good mate, Callum, only eats meat that has been caught wild… he’s not a massive fan of domestic farming practices and as a trained marine biologist and marine ranger he’s definitely a good guy to know! He pulls out wild goat and wild cattle sausages and chops… even the odd bit of wild pork or venison. I always know I’m in for a treat when I go around to visit!

So all of this food means that it’s pretty important to have a beer or two to quench the thirst after standing over a hot barbecue (or in most cases, watch someone else do the cooking). Lashings of Epic Pale Ale, Armageddon IPA and Epic Thornbridge Stout have been a must and the odd flagon of Mike’s Organic Ale, Tuatara APA and PIlsener and offerings like the Pilsener and Black Duck Porter from Hawkes Bay Independent Brewery have helped replenish important lost liquids when the mercury is rising. That and they all taste pretty awesome!

Transition! From Tui Team 2001 to Epic Team 2011

Even a couple of brews from the Big Boys of NZ Brewing have gone down well. Mac’s have surprised me with their Hop Rocker, Black Mac and Sassy Red. The Red in particular seems a lot more hop-forward that I remember, so kudos to the brewers for making some improvements to mainstream beers.

I can’t forget my brother and his mate’s homebrew either! Keen as to do something tasty for Christmas, Shannon and Liam asked me for a recipe, so I gave them a bit of a Thornbridge Kipling clone to have a go at. Jam-packed with Nelson Sauvin hops, the boys did me proud and brewed two batches. One with SO4 yeast and the other US Pale Ale yeast. Each brew showed distinctly different characteristics, with the SO4 yeast being a hint more bready than its fruity American counterpart. Even my DB and Tui drinking uncles and cousins from down the Taranaki coast gave it a unanimous thumbs up, so that was a bonus!

I can’t forget, however, what I’ve actually come back to New Zealand for. It’s to work!

Usually, induction into a new job involves screeds of paperwork, a course or two, going through loads of health and safety information and waiting for IT folk to set up email accounts. For me, it’s a little different… My new boss, Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing has insisted we do something for New Zealand Craft Brewing and has organised a film company and a camper van for us to travel the length and breadth of the South Island visiting every craft brewery we can along the way.

Steam brewmaster Shane Morley, Luke and myself brewing Epic Thornbridge Stout in Feb 2010

There’s a reason for this. The craft beer scene over here is going forward in leaps and bounds and it’s full of passionate people that are working ridiculously hard to promote great beer. If we can somehow get their stories out there and let NZ and the rest of the world know what goes into the humble pint, then it has to be a great thing for beer.

So four guys in a van with a camera are planning to hit Christchurch, Oamaru, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Westport, Nelson and Blenheim and chart the progress of craft beer down south. It’s going to be a pretty awesome reintroduction to the NZ brewing scene for me and even better, we have the North Island to follow!

Check out www.NZCraftBeer.tv for details, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@NZCraftBeerTV) and support us however you can. We’ll be posting loads of photos and videos and using as much technology as we can to get the word out there… It’s going to be hectic, but it’s going to be amazing!

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