Malty Mayhem

It’s been a wee while since I’ve posted. While some of that time was spent on holiday down in the south island, and a lot of it was spent sleeping in between my long and varied shifts at work, most of it was spent thinking about what to write. I have even started writing posts, only to get bored part-way in and never finish.

I began to write about the Hashigo Zake/Craft Beer College faux craft beer tasting earlier this month, but it got plenty of coverage in real media¹ (here and here) and caused quite a stir online². So I decided to steer clear. I was going to write about my south island beer travels, but it became more of a log of tasting notes rather than anything actually interesting. But mostly, I was trying to avoid writing about Epic Mayhem.

I have written about Epic Mayhem before and it has always been my favourite of the Epic range. But trying it again for the first time in what seems like many, many years³, I was struck by just how darn tasty it is. And how different it is to the other Epic beers.

Epic Mayhem 6.2% in the 500ml bottle.

Epic Mayhem 6.2% in the 500ml bottle.

Mayhem pours an orange-amber colour with a tan head and smells of citrus – particularly mandarin, earth and brown sugar. On the first taste there’s a big, sweet fruity hit, with grapefruit, lemon and orange flavours all coating the mouth. But that makes way for a lovely earthy bitterness, which is backed-up by a toasty, caramel malt flavour.

My first bottle of Mayhem, though delicious, was a slight disappointment. While all the flavours I remembered were still there, it was a bit thinner than I had experienced before, and it had a bit of alcohol flavour on the finish. But because it’s just so darn tasty and it disappears so bloody quickly, I did not give up on it.

By mid-December, about a month after its first release, the pints were more full-bodied and balanced, and that alcohol finish had pretty much disappeared. It was also my favourite beer of my south island road trip, with riggers from Regional Wines and Spirits and Pomeroy’s meaning the delicious drop was available in areas where even Monteith’s and Mac’s were impossible to source.

Enjoying an Epic Mayhem at Lake Alexandrina in the McKenzie Country

Enjoying an Epic Mayhem at Lake Alexandrina in the McKenzie Country

Mayhem is a beer which helps to fill a huge gap in New Zealand’s craft beer market too. With access to American hops continuing to improve³ and new local hop varieties becoming available each year, it’s no wonder that brewers continue to create delicious and different hop bombs month after month. Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys fame wrote a guest column for the Sunday magazine expressing his worry that New Zealand’s excitement with hoppy pale ales has resulted in malty or funky examples of the style being forgotten by brewers and punters alike.

Don’t get me wrong, I love intensely-hopped ales.  But the actual beer seems to get a bit lost. Being able to taste the beer beneath the hops can be a very difficult thing for a brewer to pull off. After all, adding more hops is the quick-fix when the beer beneath it all is sub-par or even faulty. Beers which showcase the malt characters don’t have to skimp on the hops ither. Mayhem, and the two APAs from Wellington’s Tuatara, are all great examples of beautifully balanced – yet hoppy – brews.

I hope you will join me in enjoying Mayhem while it’s still around – after all, who knows when it’ll be back⁴?


¹ “Real media” may sound a little derogatory, but all I mean is that the readership is larger than your average one-writer blog like this one.

² Including quite a heated argument on Facebook, which ultimately inspired my dear friend Dylan Jauslin to start writing his own beer blog.

³ It was actually probably about 18 months between drinks. But it seems like so much longer…

Luke Nicholas from Epic has a noble – though frustrating – policy of only brewing the beers as the recipe states – no substitutes. So when there is a shortage of hops like Cascade, he doesn’t brew the beer until he can source the hops again. Fingers crossed hops will remain in good supply for the coming years.

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