This one’s a bit different, and in theory it should be easy since half my work is done for me. This custom-brewed, limited edition IPA is named for Beastwars, a sludgey, stoner metal band out of Wellington. It’s a proper tie-in, it seems, and there’s a link given on the label where you can listen to Beastwars’ album. It’s not an entirely original idea; it follows on from recent efforts from Emersons to commemorate the Dunedin sound and came out around the same time as Epic’s 30 year Ale, ‘celebrating’ Flying Nun’s 30 year anniversary last November though I’d argue Epic really didn’t try very hard:
“There’s no point us deviating from one of our favourite styles of beer,” says Epic Beer frontman, Luke Nicholas. “Epic began with an American style Pale Ale and it seemed logical for us to brew this style of beer for the 30th celebration.”
Epic’s owner, Luke Nicholas, then had to consider what style of beer to brew: “First, we decided it had to be light in colour as we figure the majority of the people that are Flying Nun fans probably have never drunk craft beer, and would likely be scared of anything darker than the lagers they probably drink.”
One of the key differences with the Beastwars is that it was the brewer, apparently, who approached the band:
Having your own brand of beer is an awesome idea. How you guys come up with that one?
The beer thing is very cool. The guy who owns Hallertau brewery bought the album and was playing it one day while brewing some beer and he was struck with inspiration for a recipe. We had never met him before and he just emailed us out of the blue saying he wanted to brew this stuff. Of course we said yes. Not many bands get a keg for their backstage rider at gigs let alone one filled with a beer named after them. And it tastes so good. Like lemonade from the heavens.
That last line answers my last concern as well. It’s a 6% IPA named after a band that one reviewer described – and fair enough, too – as “heavier than a fistful of mammoths”. Lemonade indeed. After a quick run through of the album I was thinking a dense, treacly imperial stout, conjured from malts blackened and charred in the devil’s own toaster oven might be more appropriate but what do I know about these things? The album has been described as sounding like Soundgarden mixed with High on Fire mixed with Unsane, and they’ve also been compared to Mastodon, Neurosis and Godflesh. Yeah, I’ve heard of some of them and that all sounds about right. It’s a huge sound, all detuned guitars and grindy, monstrous riffs, not over-compressed or sanitized and free of studio wankery so it retains that beautiful, noisy, organic feel. There might not be much by way of vocal or guitar pyrotechnics but that would probably be out of place here anyway on a debut album of impressive power and confidence.
Anyway…how’s the beer? I am expecting good things given my past encounters with Hallertau. It might not look great – river water brown with a cloudy orange hue, though with a decent enough if very temporary white soapy head – but there’s a nice fruity (more orange than passionfruit), grassy hop aroma to go with it. It’s a smooth and rounded flavour, tangy, orange, balanced with enough bitterness for the most part – it’s certainly not overhopped for an IPA – but with a mouthfeel on the light side of medium even with only medium carbonation I think a stronger malt backbone wouldn’t have gone astray. There is a nicely smooth and lingering dry finish, but overall it’s on the light side of the medium range in terms of body and flavour. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a bad beer, mind, it’s very, very drinkable and hides it’s alcohol well, it just…could be a bit more.
It may just be I was looking forward to something quite Beastly. I might be unconvinced by the match but I’ll let them off this time for that since it’s their first shot at this sort of thing and their heart is surely in the right place. Plus it’s got the best looking label I’ve seen for quite a while.
Brewed by: Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant (Riverhead, Auckland, New Zealand)
Price: $5/330ml bottle
Purchased from: Glengarry Wines, Thorndon
Verdict: A smooth, rounded brew but leaves you wanting a little bit more in terms of body and flavour. Still a long, long way from being a poor beer for all that.
Score: Gets bonus points (+6) for actually making some effort at a proper tie-in, even if I reckon they got it a bit wrong in terms of style. 66/100.