I missed the release of Epic’s latest beer on Thursday but thought I would indulge myself in a private bottle opening on this cloudy old Sunday. The latest release from Epic is the Zythos. I’ve read a few other articles which riff on the fact that this is a Greek version of the Egyptian word for beer. Toga metaphors aside, you have to love a culture with such a heroic sounding name for beer.
It’s an appropriate name from the brewery which so often takes to your tongue with a war hammer load of hops. When I say this I’m thinking of Epic Hop Zombie, the 80 IBU terror they released last year. It was a surprisingly delicate drop unless you held a mouthful for more than 10 seconds, in which case your tongue lost all feeling (In the words of Oprah, “I don’t mean that in a bad way”).
Hop Zombie was packed full of the exact American hops which basically dried up this year. The problem had its roots in 2006 when America suffered an oversupply of hops, which dropped prices and lead farmers to replace vines with other crops, like that blot on humanity, soy. The hop farms left had a miserable year in 2011, which coincided with multiple warehouse fires in Yakima, Washington. The fires destroyed more than $US7 million worth of hops leaving many craft brewers unable to purchase what they needed.
Epic had to call a halt to Hop Zombie and Mayhem until 2013 and decided instead to design an entirely new beer to take their place for 2012.
In the meantime American company Hopunion come up with a novel way round the shortage of high end hops. They mixed up a blend of more available hops to create an IPA-tastic super hop mashup. No one knows what is really in Zythos. Some guesses include Simcoe Citra Palisade and Amarillo or “C Hops” like Cascade and Centennial.
The official release of the blend included this description - a proprietary hop blend created to embody the powerful tradition and aroma you expect for your finest ales and IPA brews.
With targeted brewing values of 11.9% alpha and 5.0% beta, ZYTHOS is an IPA style blend created to optimize and exceed the aroma characteristics you require. ZYTHOS is not a replacement for proprietary varieties, but rather, a premium pellet blend that will compliment your current IPA and Pale Ale brews and extend the timeline of your inventory through these
temporary hop shortages.
Epic have created the first local IPA to use this super blend of available odds and sods. It comes wrapped in a sporty green metallic Epic bottle which seems to celebrate the humble and now rare hop.
So back story aside, the Epic Zythos pours a beautiful coppery orange colour with a creamy head full of almost invisibly small bubbles. The aroma is citrus and creamy pine resin (if there is such a thing).
Dry from writing that long explanation I take a well deserved mouthful. The taste is really layered as I hoped it would be. It’s initially sharp and bitter, descending into a nutty malty sweetness which flows into a long bitter aftertaste. You get small explosions of citrus the whole way through. There is a squirt of pine resin in there as well.
It’s a seriously classy, green tasting drop. The creamy head is impressive, it sinks slowly and can be coaxed back into full bloom with a quick swirl of the glass. Its foamy fingers sparkle down the sides of the glass leaving small clumps of cream.
A few of the latest IPA releases I’ve tried seem to be going for a concentrated almost myopic grapefruit flavour. This packs more punch and tastes like a classic high IBU Epic creation. There is something unique about an Epic. For example the way the tip of your tongue stings when you hold a mouthful long enough. This has got that in spades and the sweet nutty flavours add a new dimension I really like.
I’m getting really tired of (and from) high alcohol beers (more to come on that subject). I appreciate the fact that Epic have only raised the norm slightly to 6.0%. At this level it’s perfect; full of body, smooth and slightly sticky. It feels good in mouth and leaves open the possibility that I might do something else other than sleep after drinking one with Sunday lunch.
If you’re an Epic fan like I am and appreciate a vigorous IPA this is going to be new favourite. There is something about the green labeling, the creaminess of it and the lasting bitterness on my tongue. I just know this one will be a winner.