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Epic Hop Zombie

New Zealand became the new U.S.A. for a fortnight. A large shipment of Kiwi beer to our country led to talk from every bottle outlet here talking about one nation's beer for a couple of weeks. One beer was talked about more than others.

There were Tweets. There were mentions. There was what is now often referred to as "hype." There was a fire of discussion around the arrival of a  Double I.P.A. on our shores that I hadn't expected. 

I was surprised because Epic Brewery's Hop Zombie came to Britain last year - or at the very least to the Beermoth in Manchester - with comparitively little fanfare. Beermoth tweeted about it and exclaimed it's virtues, but not so much as to suggest it was so different to the next big imported double IPA. By the time I arrived at the shop last year, the beer had sold out and I left with an excellent Port Brewing Hop-15 Ale without grudge. 

This is where I lost my footing. With such little celebration, I didn't distinguish between the Auckland Epic Brewery with it's famous Hop Zombie and Utah's Epic Brewery, from whom I'd tried several beers previously. It wasn't until the imports arrived under a national bulk this time that I was educated on Epic Brewery, amongst various other breweries from that country.

Perhaps some of the excitement stemmed from Epic beers being a rarity here, but the love for Hop Zombie couldn't be attributed to "hype" for this wasn't the case. There was just a lot of acclaim for a beer that has great ratings on those beer judging websites I don't use. People I respect the opinions of in Beer were telling me this was a must-try beer. So, despite being fairly poor at the time, I bought a box of beer from Beer Ritz earlier this month just to include one bottle of Hop Zombie in it. By the time I'd finally purchased it, the stage had been set by numerous Tweeters, Bloggers and the company I actually bought the beer from. The phrase as good as Pliny, which we can all decipher, was used on many occassion. Beer Ritz even had this to say as it was on its way:


So, I had to critique it. 

At 8.5% Hop Zombie pours a bit flat actually, with little head and little, visible carbonation. The vermillion colour is less golden than I expected. It smells West Coast - there I said it, because somewhere that is a descriptive phrase. But get your nose right in there and the overwhelming scent is pineapple; yet it's grassy, earthy, with less bite than one might expect. And there's no denying there's a faint scent of sulphurous crystal malts one associates with dying hops. This isn't (supposedly) old though. To taste, Hop Zombie is very good. It's trickily well balanced, to the point you almost feel you are missing something. There's an initial sharp lemon rind bitterness and breakfast grapefruit juiciness that is a pleasure. In fact, gosh, this is so damn juicy. It doesn't fade rapidly, but gently, to not numb the tongue but to let the flavours settle around you. There's no doubting that for the first quarter of this beer it tastes like something you've had thirty times before from American breweries. 

It isn't though. It grows in the glass, rather than fades. It becomes sharper, sappier as it settles and fills your mouth whilst at all time being reserved enough to keep returning to. It's full bodied without being heavy. It's thirst quenching and dehydrating - dry and juicy. After a quarter of the beer, I was concerned it was just going to be average. As it turns out, it deserves all the accolades it gets.  

I genuinely still don't think it's as good as 2014 Wyoming Sheep Ranch (Buxton) or 2012 Ageless (Red Willow) from these very isles but it's one of the best imported Double IPAs I've ever had. I can't comment on comparisons to Pliny - and frankly I think such comparisons are all a bit unnecessary, but I'll leave that for another time - yet I can say that this is a remarkable beer, worth seeking.

Yes, I purposely took stupid pictures for this post. 


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