Did you know that the 17th of January marks the 20th Anniversary of Luke’s brewing career? To celebrate, we’ll be launching St Luke Milestone Ale.
A career spanning 20 years, highlighted by a continuous stream of trophies from three of New Zealand’s most influential beers.
Monk’s Habit, Epic Pale Ale and Epic Armageddon IPA.
3x Supreme Champion Beer of NZ, 30 Best in Class trophies. Brewer of the year. New Zealand’s best beer. Brewers Guild of NZ Honorary Member.
An Honour and privilege to be part of the development and growth of NZ craft beer industry.
This beer takes my favourite parts of each of these three beers to make this one special batch.
About the beer:
Hops: US Cascade, Columbus & Mosaic
Malts: UK Pale Ale & Crystal
Serving: Keg & 500ml bottles
Launching at the Epic 2017 Boat Party, followed by The Lumsden Freehouse, Vultures Lane, The Brewers Co-operative, Malthouse and Brew on Friday (20 January) night.
Forget about old St Nicholas, it’s time for St Luke.
While Christmas is done and dusted for another year, the New Year promises a gift of its own with the upcoming release of a beer named in honour of St Luke, the patron saint of brewers.
The beer is designed by Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing to mark the 20th anniversary of his first day as a brewer: January 17, 1997, when he started at now defunct Cock & Bull as an assistant to Ben Middlemiss.
The beer Nicholas has created pays tribute to a trinity of multi-award winning beers that have defined his career and which have helped revolutionise the industry in New Zealand: Monk’s Habit, Epic Pale Ale and Epic Armageddon IPA.
Monk’s Habit is regarded fondly by Kiwi beer aficionados. It briefly started life as a Belgian-style beer along the lines of Chimay Blue.
But when Nicholas took over as head brewer at the Cock & Bull he changed the recipe to an American-style hoppy ale inspired by Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale.
Monk’s Habit – a rich, hoppy beer that benefited from eight weeks of dry-hopping – a went on to win the Supreme Champion award at the inaugural New Zealand International Beer Awards in 1999. Two years later, it was again named New Zealand’s Supreme Champion.
With the sale of the Cock & Bull chain a few years ago, it has gone out of existence.
When Nicholas started Epic, it didn’t take long for Epic Pale to also be named Supreme Champion at NZIBA in 2006, while Epic Armageddon is the most-awarded beer in the history of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards which replaced NZIBA in 2007.
In his 20 years, Nicholas has picked up around 30 best in class trophies. He has also been named New Zealand’s brewer of the year and was bestowed honorary membership by the Brewers Guild for his outstanding service to the industry.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of the development and growth of the New Zealand craft beer industry,” Nicholas says.
“To celebrate those two decades, I’ve created a beer that takes my favourite parts of Monk’s Habit, Epic Pale and Epic Armageddon to make this one special batch.
“I really enjoy the malt character from Monk’s Habit and I love the Cascade hops in Epic Pale Ale – I’ve used more Cascade than anyone in this country – and then I’ve brought in a couple of secret hops from Armageddon that really make that beer special.”
St Luke promises to be a revelation – by Michael Donaldson
I was raised in a devout Catholic family … walking away from it all when I turned 18, much to my mother’s distress, was one of the harder things I’d done at that short point in my life. After all, the church’s modus operandi is to drill into you the fact you’re hell-bound unless you keep up those rituals.
But a lot of the doctrine has stayed with me – including the names of many patron saints and the people, occupations or countries they advocate for. Most prominent in our house was St Jude, patron saint of lost causes – my mother was always praying to him. Then there was St Christopher (travellers), Francis of Assisi (animals) and our Lady of Loreto (aviators – my dad was a pilot).
But I was never told there were patrons saints of brewing. There’s at least five of them which just proves what a noble calling it is to make beer.
St Augustine I can understand – he being something of a wild drunk before his conversion; and St Arnold was a Belgian monk and brewer who saved his local parish during an epidemic by encouraging them to drink beer rather than infected water. There are others who claim the mantle of being a patron of brewers but most notable among them is St Luke, the same fellow who wrote one of the four gospels.
It’s thought St Luke takes on brewery because he was a physician, and, you know, beer is healthy. Right?
Next week, a beer bearing the name of St Luke hits the shelves and it promises to be something of a revelation.
The beer has been created by Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing to celebrate his 20 years of brewing. The release date is January 17, commemorating the day in 1997 when Nicholas started his first paying gig as an assistant brewer at the gone, but not forgotten, Cock & Bull chain.
And the beer brings together three of the revolutionary beers Nicholas is best known for: Monk’s Habit, Epic Pale Ale, and Epic Armageddon IPA.
Quite how Nicholas will bring together three beers into something of a holy trinity remains to seen, or tasted.
Kiwi beer aficionados get a little misty-eyed when they talk about Monk’s Habit. It briefly started life as Belgian strong ale in the style of Chimay Blue but when Nicholas took over as head brewer at the Cock & Bull he changed the recipe to an American-style hoppy ale inspired by Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. That version of Monk’s Habit was twice named New Zealand’s supreme champion beer (1999, 2001), an honour that also went to Epic Pale Ale in 2006, while Armageddon remains New Zealand’s most awarded beer.
Nicholas says St Luke will have some of the malt character from Monk’s Habit, the citrus and rosewater character of the US Cascade hops used in Epic Pale Ale and some of the “secret” hops from Armageddon.
No matter how it comes together, it’s sure to be tasty. That’s the gospel truth.
While Armageddon and Pale Ale are still the flagship beers in the Epic stable, Nicholas has been getting adventurous lately. First, there was the Stone Hammer series which delivered slightly sweeter styles (or at least perceived to be sweeter thanks to the avalanche of late hopping).
And his next off-beat project is a series of IPAs based around tweaking the Armageddon recipe. The Hysteria series is named for a Def Leppard album, and the first beer was Gods Of War, the title of a track off that album. So watch out for Rocket, Run Riot, Animal, Excitable and Pour Some Sugar On Me.
While the range will explore what can be done when you tweak a multi-award-winning recipe, Nicholas is committed to doing everything he can to get flavour out of hops, malt and yeast rather than play with adjuncts to create flavour. It’s a simplicity he thinks will come back into fashion when punters get tired of various fruits and spices in their beer.
“When I think back to 20 years ago when I started, it was all about making real beers … as opposed to, I won’t call it chemical beer because that was such a dumb term, but beers made with processing aids and post-fermentation additives; industrial beers. Craft beer was about making it with malts, hops, yeast and water.
“Then people started adding stuff like grapefruit and chili … I don’t know if that’s sustainable or if it will last longer than a generation because it becomes too gimmicky and people won’t want to keep drinking a mango-chili-pineapple IPA … yeah, it’s nice but I don’t want to drink it all the time.
“All those people looking for the next new thing and writing notes … and I know what it’s like because I went through that phase myself … they will a reach place when they will ask themselves: ‘hang on why do I do I drink beer?’. Yes, it’s the taste and the flavour but more importantly it’s the social factor.
“You drink beer with your mates … beer has always been a social lubricant, it hasn’t been about ticking boxes and trying the next one. It’s fallen out of balance and it has to come back. Yes, you can enjoy the beer but the point is not to sit there all night and pull apart your pint to work out the malt and hops … talk about that for a couple of sips but not for the whole pint.
“The point of beer is to bring us together to have a conversation and have some fun.”
Nicholas can see a new wave of beer that “comes back to simplicity – not quite reinheitsbegot [German purity law] but beer made with the four basic ingredients.”
As for Nicholas himself? Nothing’s going to change: “I love IPA and I love hops. I want to be remembered for making IPAs. Good IPAs. And I want to keep that message simple and clear – Epic is a one trick pony but you know what the message is.”