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Brewed as a session IPA, it is SMALL (4.7% alc/vol) and MISCHIEVOUS (generously dry hopped like an IPA. It has more dry hop than the Epic Armageddon IPA).
When poured the aroma hits you with sweet ripe summer stone fruit and citrus as you look at its brilliantly polished pale copper colour. The flavour is of fruity citrus peel intertwined with a juicy caramel note, which finishes with a sharp but brief slap of bitterness. It drinks as though it’s much bigger than a responsible 4.7%, due to the malty body and the vibrant hop intensity.
Epic beers have continuously grown in flavour, intensity and alcohol volume since exploding on the beer market in 2006, with the Supreme Champion trophy winner, Epic Pale Ale 5.4% (recent winner of Best in Class Pale Ale 2014 New World Awards). Armageddon IPA 6.66% which is not only the multi trophy winning IPA that put IPA’s on the map in New Zealand, but has gone on to be the most successful craft beer export from New Zealand, lead by the Swedish market. Hop Zombie 8.5% is the darling of the craft beer drinking community, and not just because of the glow in the dark label. Lupulingus 9% best described as a brutal assault on your palate, for only the bravest amongst us.
With the ever increasing challenge of brewing the next IPA even bigger than the last, brewer Luke Nicholas decided to take on the scary task of brewing a beer that was sub 5% alc.vol but still keep the big hop aromas and flavours that Epic has become famous for around the world. From the taste of this beer it looks to have been a success.
There has been speculation on what IMP stands for, such as “Imperial Miniature Pale”, “Indian Midget Pale” or even “Internet Mana Party”. It’s simply just “Imp”. When looking for a beer name, it had to be able to describe a lower alcohol beer, while also still being EPIC.
Back in 2008 when naming their first IPA, friend Neil Miller (Beer Writer of the Year 2014), came up with the name “Armageddon” (as it was bigger than their beer “Mayhem” at the time). Neil was also asked to help write the copy for the Armageddon bottle label. This is the first recorded reference of the term Imp being used. He coined the term “impish brewer” due to head brewer and owner Luke Nicholas being small (well smaller than Neil) and mischievous (making strong and flavourful beers). Many of the Epic beer bottle labels have little imp’s hidden on them.
The new beer release is accompanied with some fabulous art work which was inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson story “The bottle imp”. (you can read this short story here imp.epicbeer.com)
Very cool review at Buzz and Hum
Session beers have certainly become ‘a thing’. Indeed, in the year since professional wrestling connoisseur, incorrigible Tory and future Beer Writer of the Year Neil Miller predicted that “balance and sessionability could well be the new bl... the supermarket shelves and craft beer taps of Wellington have seen appearances from an increasing number of sub-5% abv flavoursome beers.
The first push came last summer with a number of hoppy golden ales making their mark, and since then lower-alcohol yet fragrantly hopped session IPAs and pale ales have surged onto the market – often in four or six packs, making them great accompaniments for the upcoming summer of barbecues.
And, into that fray surges Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Company. Being the brewer who broke open New Zealand taste buds with his highly-hopped, high-alcohol ‘Armageddon IPA’, ‘Mayhem’, and the infamous ‘Hop Zombie’, one wouldn’t necessarily have expected he’d feel the need to play in the session IPA field that’s been populated by the likes of Liberty’s ‘Oh Brother’ or Panhead’s ‘Quickchange’.
Yet into the field he’s charged, with the ‘Imp’ session IPA. As the tagline on the bottle says, “careful what you wish for”. And, with the Imp, Luke Nicholas has, to use the vernacular, “nailed it.”
The Imp pours a gorgeous burnished bronze colour; clear and sparkling, catching the light adorably. From the top of the glass lifts a invigorating aroma of grapefruit and creamy peach, underlined with a sweet toffee scent.
With the first sip I’m struck by how “soft” it feels; gentle and full, before the carbonation releases wonderfully in the mouth leaving a fizzy, full and creamy sensation.
Imp is a very fruity flavoured beer; the hops playing superbly off the gentle malt to provide a rounded, balanced, sweet and easy-drinking mouthful. Flavours of sweet lemon curd and mature stone fruit predominate at first, but a warm, bitter sensation floods the mouth as I swallow, leaving a lingering, lip-smacking grapefruit flavour.
Very fruity, very tasty.
And all that beautifully balanced fruity sweetness, lingering bitterness and easy-drinking joy comes it at a very sessionable 4.7%! “Small and Mischievous”, as it says on the label, “causing trouble, but in a playful way”. Now, that could be about the beer or about Luke ‘The Beer Imp’ Nicholas himself. But, either way, it’s an apt description. Fun to drink, fun to be around, won’t necessarily get you in trouble. Maybe.
Imp’s not quite a perfect as a session beer, however. While the flavours and sensations of the beer itself are excellent, at the moment I’ve only found this beer (with its eye-catching peacock-blue label) in 500ml bottles, and at a moderately high price point. This is a beer I’d love to see in four- or six-packs of 330ml bottles (like Epic’s Lager or Pale Ale); that’d really put this beer into place as one of my go-to sessionable beers for a summer afternoon.
But, in the meantime, it’s good to see Epic giving the lower alcohol, highly-flavoured IPA a go. Even better to see the end result being so delicious. More, please!