Bacon has become something of a cultural phenomenon in recent years, and it’s been added to everything from chocolate to toothpaste to envelopes (brilliantly titled ‘mmmmvelopes’). Epic and Freedom Farms decided to tap into this deep and enduring love of bacon when it launched its Smoked IPA at Beervana (the deal went both ways and the companies also collaborated to create a free range pork Epic Beer sausage).
I’m a big fan of pretty much all Epic’s creations, with the Coffee and Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout topping my list, and now this meaty brew that it describes as “kind of like candied bacon in a glass”, because when it comes to deliciousness, it’s tough to beat the flavour of burning carbon. Chuck practically anything in a smoker and studies have shown* it can improve the taste by as much as 300 percent (the exception to this rule is probably chicken, but that’s more to do with the pink, salmonella-esque hue the smoker gives it).
Given my penchant for smoked anything, whether it’s meat, fish, butter, cheese, salt, or even yoghurt, I’ve sampled a fair few smoked brews in my time, with 8 Wired’s Big Smoke Porter a definite favourite. The first smokey brew I sampled a few years back was the Stoke Bomber Smokey Ale and I quickly became a raging advocate for it.
When I tried to convince friends and occasionally even innocent bystanders to have a sip, I said it was the closest you’ll get to bacon beer and it’s fair to say it was quite polarising. Some loved the sensation of what was basically a campfire in their mouth, and others struggled with the intensity and said it reminded them of the time when they took a sip from a bottle of Speight’s at a party and found someone had put a cigarette butt in there. The fact that someone would actually pay for that taste was hard for them to swallow.
Like its smokey brethren, or any number of big stouts and porters, Epic's bacon brew is a beer that smacks you in the face on the first sip before simmering down as you get used to it. And because it’s so flavoursome, it’s a beer you probably only need one of. While it slides down smooth - almost like hot bacon grease down a drain - it does feel like it’s better suited to stormy night in front of the fire with a hearty lamb tagine or beef stew, rather than a late afternoon in front of the barbie with aloe vera all over your sunburn. But as I always say: there’s no bad time for bacon. Or beer.
* May not be real studies.
Epic Loves Bacon can be found across the country in all good bars and supermarkets. For a full list of stockists, click here.