The Beer Nut: After an Epic (Brewing Co.)

Written by Norman Miller for GateHouse News Service and

Like many stateside beer fans, I discovered New Zealand’s Epic Brewing Company through the “Brew Masters” television show.

On an episode featuring Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione, he and brewers from Epic worked together to brew a beer for the Brewers Guild of New Zealand awards competition.

The beer turned out to be Portamarillo, a smoked porter made with tamarillos, an edible fruit native to the Andes of South America that’s also called a “tree tomato.”

“The theme (of the contest) was, ‘Let’s Go Native,’ so you had to use a native ingredient in the beer,” said Epic founder Luke Nicholas. “Sam asked what fruit we could use. Only fruits available at the time of year we proposed brewing was either kiwi or tamarillos. Tamarillos aren’t native to (New Zealand) so we had to come up with a native ingredient. Sam suggested we smoke it with a (New Zealand) wood, so I picked Pohutakawa as it was a sacred tree.”

Portamarillo became a somewhat sought-after beer after the show, and when it showed up in a couple of stores near me for the first time recently, it sold out quickly.

Thankfully, Epic is not a one-trick pony. The brewery has other great beers, all seemingly brewed with inspiration from the United States. As a matter of fact, Nicholas said his inspiration comes from the West Coast of the U.S.

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