Luke Nicholas, the Impish Brewer and clearly a keen dictionary reader, first made Mayhem as a festive brew for the 2006 Brew NZ Beer Awards.  The theme that year was the ever-popular “All Hail Pale Ale”. 

He argued at the time that “this act of wanton destruction is in the true spirit of what festive brews are about, to create something unique and fun”.  The judges agreed, awarding top prize in the festive brew category to the debutant Mayhem.  Since then, it has occasionally popped up at festivals and quality beer establishments in very limited quantities.  The 2009 edition is now available exclusively on tap at Malthouse. 

Despite the Global Hop Shortage, Mayhem crams an estimated twenty six hops into every 500ml of liquid.  Luke calls it flavour.  What his accountant calls it is not suitable for a nice family blog like this. 

Suffice to say that it may well rhyme with ‘bucking badness’.

When asked about his counter-intuitive brewing strategy, Luke explains “Mayhem simply shouts hops at a time when hops are in short supply globally and prices are at record levels.  At Epic, we know there are two ways to respond to these tough times.  Brewers could cut back and hope no one notices the lack of flavour.  Or brewers could do what we did, ramp up the hops to celebrate everything that we love about them – the punchy aroma, the sweet citrus flavour and the lingering, refreshing finish.”

Earlier in the year, while he was brewing in England, the Impish Brewer set out his thinking: “It’s fair to say that I am obsessed about brewing beer with flavour and balance.  I like to cram in the hops.”  This, if anything, is an understatement.  Luke’s default recipe setting is ‘needs more hops.’

He added “I still take influence from America where I see plenty of craft brewers experimenting with new and exciting flavours, as well as different brewing techniques.  I have to be honest though, and say that I still brew largely what I like and hope that enough other people like it too.”  There are rumours that Luke only sells what he can not drink himself.

In a revelation that ranks right up there with ‘sun rises in the morning’ and ‘Jacob Oram is injured’, Luke confesses “I love flavours, especially hops.  Subtlety isn’t something I am good at.  I like to turn up the flavours.”  Various entrepreneurs should consider manufacturing a range of “subtlety isn’t something I am good at” t-shirts.  I would certainly buy one.

There are many and varied perks of being a beer writer.  One of them this week was that I got to try an early Malthouse Mayhem.  As the tasting notes boast, this is ‘no beer de jour’.  In fact, it is a big, boisterous ale with strong notes of summer fruits, a firm malt backbone and a lingering, cleansing bitter finish.  It showcases generous helpings of US Cascade and New Zealand Riwaka hops.  In terms of power, this beer sits halfway down the road to Armageddon.

When Canadian author and illustrator Bruce McCall penned the “Mayhem achieved, boredom relieved” line which is the title of this post, it is unlikely that he was thinking of an American-inspired pale ale from Auckland which set out deliberately damage a beer drinkers sense of taste. 

For starters, he wrote it many years before Epic Mayhem was even an extra-evil twinkle in Impish Brewer’s eye.  He was also not much of a beer drinker and tended to write humorous, whimsical, retrospective pieces for The New Yorker – not known as overly ale-focussed publication.  However, using quotations out of context has been happening virtually as long as people have been recording quotations.

Pulled from its comfortable home in the book “Bruce McCall’s Zany Afternoons”, the phrase “Mayhem achieved, boredom relieved” manages to capture some of the cheek and zest which goes in the newest release from Epic Brewing Company.

On the topic of cheek and zest, Monday 30 November is of course Saint Andrew’s Day – the National Day of Scotland.  Naturally, the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor Colin is eager that this auspicious day is market appropriately at his establishment (which should never, ever be confused with The Establishment). 

Thus, if anyone approaches him in the bar between the hours of 4pm and 6pm whilst wearing a kilt, he will open his wallet and buy them a whisky. * 

Make the most of the fact that New Zealand will be one of the first countries to see the sun on Saint Andrews Day.  Many in Scotland itself will not see the sun at all that day or indeed for the rest of the year.

Lastly, a reminder that Epic Mayhem (and 168 other beers) can now be enjoyed at Malthouse from noon Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
* Warning: wallet may contain moths.  By wearing a kilt you hereby indemnify Malthouse from any moth-related injuries, mishaps or mayhem.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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