Imp-lausibly tasty beers
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 14:14

Impish brewer Luke Nicholas once wrote that he “created Epic Pale Ale for the Steam Brewing Company and liked the beer so much he bought the company.” He is now the head brewer and director of Epic Brewing Company which brews Epic Pale Ale, Epic Lager and, occasionally, Epic Mayhem and Epic Armageddon.

His brewing style is ashamedly hop-fixated. Luke has made a decision to use all imported hops for his beers as they give him the flavour and power he is looking for. While this approach can be controversial with his peers, the resulting beers are highly regarded. Epic Pale Ale was crowned Supreme Champion Beer of New Zealand just weeks after it launched. Metro called it the “Best Beer in Auckland” (by which they mean New Zealand) and the Listener also had it as the best beer of 2007 though their sole source for that assessment was me.

Epic Pale Ale (5.4%) pours a burnished gold colour and throws a punchy citrus nose. It has an immaculate balance between the rich malt body and lashings of summerfruit and citrus notes. It finishes with a lingering, almost oily, bitterness which leaves you anticipating the next drop. Luke admits to using a “shed load” of hops and says while others might consider that to be “insane”, he calls it “flavour”. The judges at the 2008 Brew NZ Beer Awards concluded this beer deserved a gold medal and was proclaimed the best in the fiercely competitive pale ale class.

For those that prefer a little less hops, Luke created Epic Lager (5%), a tasty, quaffable beer. It is bright gold in the glass, soft in the mouth with a crisp, lingering, grassy finish. The hopping is still generous by mainstream standards which means the Epic Lager is a highly quenching drop.

Both beers are now on tap at the Malthouse and are popping up around the country in swank new 500ml bottles which are better for single bottle sales, perfect for sharing and mean that I have to get and go to the fridge 37% less often.

Mayhem and Armageddon are very special beers and are brewed sparingly for fear that they will devastate the international hop market. Each can be compared to a turbo-charged Epic Pale Ale with attitude because they pack in even more bitterness and alcoholic strength. The Armageddon claimed to be the bitterest beer ever made in New Zealand. These beers are not for the faint of heart or weak of liver. One or both may make a return to the Malthouse in 2009 and, if they do, I might let the readers of this blog know. Or I may just turn up at the bar with a very large straw. We shall see.

Unlike big breweries which can afford television ads with Hollywood B-listers stuck in a creepy amusement park or computer generated native birds pooping into a man’s cereal, the Epic promotional budget is tiny. Instead, Luke uses a plethora of interactive technology to connect with the paying public. He has been so successful at this that he was even profiled on a serious business website called Management Focus. Here are some highlights from his profile:

A confirmed “gadget geek”, Luke made the decision to use on-line technology as Epic’s principle form of branding and marketing. The more traditional marketing methods would only be used as support.

I’ve used the internet in business for over ten years and I know that on-line tools, used properly, can be very cost effective. Perhaps the biggest change I’ve seen is that my target audience is pretty technology-savvy and is becoming more so every day,

Luke believes that people aged 25-45 do not get their information from billboards, television or even newspaper adverts anymore.

These people use the internet, email, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Friendfeed and Flickr to gather information to help make their real-world purchases. Epic has a strong on-line presence on all these platforms – in fact, they are all listed on the back of my business card,
I guess I’m lucky as a closet computer geek that I have been able to bring my twin interests or obsessions of gadgets and beer together!

The full version can be read at the link below.

I’d particularly encourage discerning drinkers to add Luke as a friend on Facebook. He needs more friends as he currently only has 474. You also have the ability to join the official “Epic Beer is my friend” group but I’d prefer people signed up to the rebel “Hail the Impish One” group which was created by Colin the Handsome Scottish Proprietor and me after a couple of quiet Epics. We currently have a rather pathetic and potentially unlucky thirteen members.

The final word, as usual, goes to Luke getting a little emotional and poetic about his Epic:

The flavours dance across your palate and invigorate your mind… which lets you reflect and contemplate the EPIC flavour experience for a moment before the desire to have another mouthful starts to grow.

Cheers,

Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

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