They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Steam/Epic Mayhem

ABV: 6.2%
Origin: Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand
Website: epicbeer.com, www.steambrewing.co.nz

/ Mayhem, on what's clearly a topless beach.

New Zealand, or Aotearoa if you prefer, is the one of the latest countries to have come to the attention of international beer fans for its vibrant new generation of brewers, though its craft brewing scene dates back at least to the 1990s. On reflection, it’s well-placed to produce fine beer: despite its small population, it’s relatively compact, shares a language with several other important beer nations, and has a temperate climate that nurtures great brewing ingredients, including exotic hops that are the latest fad among the world’s most innovative brewers.

One of the earlier names on the scene was the Cock and Bull pub in a suburb of Auckland, which had its own brewery from 1995. It developed into both a small chain of and the standalone Steam Brewing Company, where in the early 2000s the then head brewer Luke Nicholas developed a line of distinctive new beers under the Epic name – reflecting the big flavours of the beers, the challenge of taking on the big brewers and the epic journey that New Zealanders and their ancestors undertook, whether by canoe or jet aircraft, to reach the islands. In 2007 Luke gained the rights to the Epic brands and set up his own company, although continues to contract brew at Steam.

Epic has additional prominence among British beer fans thanks to Kelly Ryan, a New Zealander whose brewing skills first shone at Thornbridge in the UK, and whose charm and enthusiasm proved a huge asset to that brewery. Early in 2011 Kelly returned to the southern hemisphere to work at Epic, where he’s been much appreciated; shortly afterwards, he and Luke set out on a 4,500km journey around 44 Aotearoan craft breweries, documented in a video project, NZ Craft Beer TV.

One of Epic’s most admired beers is its strong American-style pale ale Mayhem, which first appeared as a festival special in 2006, and is still released on only an occasional basis. It’s created from English Pale Ale, Munich and Crystal malts and US Cascade and New Zealand Riwaka hops and described “packed with hop-fuelled flavour and aroma,” although at a relatively modest 35 IBU this isn’t an ultra-bitter beer. I picked up my bottle at 2011’s Great British Beer Festival.

My sample poured a lovely glowing amber with a thick creamy bubbly head. Aromas of cedarwood, oil and coconut wafted over biscuity malt and metallic notes, setting up a slightly oily palate oozing complex hop notes – citrussy orange, exotic spices, pepper, lemon and coconut oil, again with a slightly steely note, all dancing over a cushion of soft malt. Lightly woody and nutty notes emerged in a pleasant finish that developed poppy seed and cracked pepper flavours, with a long development into herbal bitterness and gentle orange.

The beer was an absolute delight, and a great demonstration of how to bring out the vivid, fruity flavours and complexities of New World hops while still producing an approachable beer with its bitter acids firmly under control. It should be a great food matching beer too.

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