My research dug up that the English word “zombie” was first recorded in 1819 in a history of Brazil by Robert Southey, a poet. However, the concept of zombies – reanimated undead – has a long history in Haiti and Africa.

One of the first (and worst) films to feature zombies was Plan 9 from Outer Space, the breakthrough zombie film was probably Night of the Living Dead, while our very own Sir Peter Jackson had his own breakthrough with the low-budget zombie gorefest called Braindead. [2]

In recent times, zombie movies have tended to become big budget blockbusters focused on the global threat of a “zombie apocalypse.” Some high profile examples include 28 Days Later (very good), Doom (a guilty pleasure), I am Legend (could only be worse if Jaden Smith was in it as well), Resident Evil One to Six (surprisingly good) and World War Z (so much money for so little merit), [3]

Zombies have entered popular culture with zombie costumes popular at Halloween, numerous zombie walks around the globe and, of course, the commissioning of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Has craft beer managed to avoid the seemingly insatiable zombie hordes?

Of course not. The highly reputable RateBeer website lists 44 beers with zombie in their name. My favourites include 3 Stars Zombie Date Night, Beechwood Zombie Hopocalypse, Human Fish Zombie Goat Lager, Pipeworks Zombie Gnomes and Rock Bottom Portland Zombie Flanders, [4] On the list is Epic Hop Zombie – officially my current number one New Zealand beer and easily one of my favourite beers of all time.

Hop Zombie gained its name through a surprisingly logical naming progression. In the beginning there was Epic Pale Ale. When the Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas brewed something even hoppier he needed a bigger name – Epic Mayhem. Still the thirsty masses wanted more hops.

He made an even hoppier beer but struggled with a name until a young-ish beer writer suggested that “Armageddon is bigger than Mayhem – it is bigger than everything.” In this manner, live during a beer tasting at the Backbencher, Epic Armageddon gained its name and the beer writer never received any royalties. [5]

Drinkers clamoured for yet more and the Impish Brewer was happy to provide. The end result was an 8.5% ale Double IPA stuffed with a secret mix of American and New Zealand hops. However, the name taxed his Impish imagination. What could possibly trump Armageddon? Or, his mischievous mind reasoned, what could possibly survive Armageddon? After considering the options, [6] he settled on zombie, added more hops and Epic Hop Zombie IIPA (8.5%) was created.

Unfortunately for my taste buds but probably fortunately for my bank balance, Hop Zombie is not available all year round. The latest batch is just out, I’ve tried it, and it is a tasty, mouth-watering, knee-buckling, nectarous pint of pure ambrosia. Hop Zombie is on tap at Malthouse now.

However, my first pint of this release was actually at another bar (D4) and, when the bartender emerged from the kitchen, he immediately sensed that I wanted a big glass of Hop Zombie IIPA. He may have read my mind, but I think it was more a combination of my well known love of hoppy ales, the fact that I was wearing an Epic hoody, but perhaps most of all, because I was staring intently at the Hop Zombie tap badge and, let’s be honest here, drooling profusely.

So I was delighted when a package from Epic Brewery arrived. Although big enough to easily hold two bottles of beer there was only one tantalising Hop Zombie in there. Yet I was not disappointed because the remaining space was filled with a small bottle of the new Hot Zombie hot sauce. I had heard rumours of this spicy condiment – a base hot sauce (made by Culley’s), the very hops used in the brewing of Hop Zombie, and bottles of Hop Zombie itself.

The Impish Assistant Sauce Maker [7] admits it is not the hottest sauce on the market despite the generous use of Habernero. He does believe it is the first hopped hot sauce and I believe it is quite delicious. So far, Hot Sauce has made everything it touches taste better, including vegetarian pizza. Ah, pizza, hot sauce and hoppy pale ale – truly a virtuous culinary triangle.

All of which brings me quite nicely to the upcoming Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge on 18th and 19th July. [8] This is the biggest event of the beer year at Malthouse and one which Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken and currently Overseas Proprietor describes as “The event we are most famous for and holds a special place in the hearts of all the hop heads out there.”

There could be up to 20 specially made West Coast-style Pale Ales created by craft brewers from around the country. Details of the actual beers will be announced on this blog once they are finalised. Entrants will be judged in the morning of the 18th by a panel of experts and the chosen winner will receive the coveted trophy and bragging rights over their brewing colleagues.

I will be a West Coast IPA Challenge judge – one of my most coveted annual tasks. After being one of the very first to sample all the entries I then have to trot off up the road to judge the 100% New Zealand Bacon and Ham Competition. This is another of my most coveted annual tasks but this year it will be a bit different. I have been pescatarian for about eight months so the ham or bacon (depending on which category I am assigned) will be pretty much the first meat I’ve eaten in a long while. It could get interesting on a gastro-intestinal level…

Finally, I want to mention something completely unrelated to today’s theme of hops, hops and more hops. I recently received a care package of the Yeastie Boys Spoonbender range. There was also their flyer which had a description of Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude “Golden Scottish Ale” (7%) which deserves to be shared. By way of background, Rex is perhaps the antithesis of American Pale Ales and is undoubtedly the most polarising beer in New Zealand today.

Those clever Yeasties liken Rex Attitude to “an audacious ale that looks like a premium lager but drinks like an Islay whisky. Be afraid.” Classic. Speaking of classics, check out the old school Fry and Laurie Spoonbender sketch in the links before.

Next time, we drink to Todd Carney, a man who took “taking the piss” to levels not previously contemplated by normal human beings.

For those wondering about the title, just think how hard it must be to run away in skin tight jeans and retro sneakers…

[1] Definitely not the same thing.
[2] Sir Peter makes his trademark cameo but unfortunately not as a zombie. He plays the Mortuary Director’s Assistant who eats a sandwich while embalming fluid spurts out of a corpse. Bill Ralston also has a cameo and he dies. Recommended.
[3] The makers of World War Z really should have gone with the “epic Battle of Russia/Invasion of America” original ending rather than the “Brad Pitt moodily skulking around a Welsh laboratory doing science-y stuff while Peter Capaldi wears a cardigan” finish.
[4] Zombie Flanders appears in The Simpson’s third Halloween episode – Treehouse of Horrors III – before he is brutally killed by Homer who then admits he was unaware that Ned was a zombie.

[5] I’m sure it is blindingly obvious but the beer writer was me. The story is true though.
[6] I think most people would agree that Epic Hop Zombie is better than Epic Cockroaches or Epic Winston Peters…
[7] Check out the “mad scientist” photo in the link below.
[8] Personally, I am not sure how much will be left after the inevitable hop frenzy on Friday…


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine

Malthouse West Coast Challenge Facebook page –

Epic Hop Zombie –

Epic Hot Zombie (including a photo of the Impish Brewer in full mad scientist mode) –

D4 –

Yeastie Boys Spoonbender –

Fry and Laurie sketch “Mr Spoonbender” –

Malthouse Facebook –
Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter –!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine –