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March 22, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Sometimes—actually strike that—frequently, I enjoy drinking beer that showcases BIG flavours. Luckily, here in New Zealand there are numerous craft breweries brewing beers which do just that, and do it well. But there’s one brewery that has embraced this ‘big’ concept more than any other—Epic Brewing Company.

Epic beer is just what it claims to be—the beers have big aromas, big flavours and leave a big impression. There are four (soon to be five) beers in the Epic family, and it all started in 2006 with the Epic Pale Ale 5.4%. Based on the American pale ales that brewer Luke Nicholas fell in love with while he was working in States about ten years ago, the pale ale has 23 hops per 500mL bottle—about 23 times more than your average commercial beer.

The Epic Pale Ale has a big, fruity hop aroma, and tastes fruity too. The beer boasts grapefruit and orange citrus flavours, a strong caramel malt body and the characteristic hop bitterness that makes Epic epic. At $16 for a 2L rigger at Regional Wines and Spirits or about $6 for a 500mL bottle at your local supermarket, there’s no excuse for not at least trying beer with big flavour.

But for those of you willing to risk trying something bigger, and probably more rewarding, the annual Epic Mayhem 6.2% brew has just been released. When I spoke to Luke Nicholas at the 2010 launch last week, he had trouble trying to explain what style of beer it actually is.“It’s all of the Epic beers in one. It doesn’t fit in a box.”

While even the brewer finds it hard to define what exactly Mayhem is, I can. It’s tasty. Obviously American inspired, it has the citrus hop aroma and flavours that are present in all the Epic beers, but this time the lemony taste is accompanied by an earthy character from the New Zealand hops Luke has added. A big roasted and caramel malt flavour backs up and, dare I say it, balances out the beer. Big, bold and un-boxed, Mayhem can be found on tap at the Malthouse or for about $10 at your regular take-away beer store.

Epic has two more family members. Epic Lager 5%, which some describe as a ‘lawn mower’ beer, Luke says he “wanted to have something between the Epic Pale Ale and Steinlager or Heineken”.

Though it’s the lightest Epic beer with 9 hops per 500mLs, flavour-wise it’s definitely a few hundred metres ahead of the other lagers on the market. Epic Armageddon 6.66%, with a massive 42 hops per 500mLs, sits at the other end of the spectrum and is a complete hop explosion. It has strong green, earthy and fruity hop flavours with a big dose of bitterness, a must-try for the hop-heads or those of you wanting to challenge your palate.

So next time you’re feeling hopless, you really can’t go past the company that does big flavour better than almost every other New Zealand brewery. Epic. I mean, even the name is big.

If you have any questions or comments about this week’s beers, you can email me at

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