2015 Luke’s Beer In Review

This would have to have been one of the most significant years of my life. I can’t believe everything that has happened when I look back over 2015. The following is in no particular order as I’m not sure which event or achievement had or will have the most impact or means the most to me.


hilary at the beer awards3 x BEST IPA TROPHIES IN 2015

As Michael Donaldson stated best “the stuff of fantasy“. I think about this everyday and still struggle with the gravity of what winning three major BEST IPA trophies in one year for Epic Armageddon IPA. I know that it has meant struggling to keep up with brewing.

Winning the first one at the Australian International Beer Awards was amazing because it is the second largest international beer awards in the world. Competing against 213 other IPA’s and coming out on top. WOW!

The second trophy at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards was a shock as I was at the back of the room not really paying attention until someone said “hey that’s you, you’ve won” .

Then the third was in Sweden at the Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival. The quality, calibre and brands that competed in all of these competitions was nothing short of world-class. These beers are the best from around the world.

For the focus and effort I have put into this beer specifically in the last year, but also since it was first brewed in 2008, it has paid off. A special thanks has to go to the guys at Steam Brewing not only for their inputs into brewing this beer, but putting up with me and my constant tweaking. Also my amazing team at Epic, who support me and keep me free to focus on the beer, as the company continues to grow. All of them give 100%, and continually impress me and always find ways to exceed any expectations I have of them.


Luke Nicholas - Honorary Member - Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Luke Nicholas – Honorary Member – Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Brewers Guild of New Zealand – Honorary Member
I’m humbled by this award and am still not sure how to explain to people what it means or specifically what it was that I did to earn it.m

From the Guilds website: Honorary membership is awarded to a person distinguished in any of the technical, organisational or productive aspects of brewing who has been or may be of material assistance to the Guild or the brewing industry. This honour is designated by a red striped ribbon on a cast medal.

Brewers Guild of New Zealand – Representative on the Hop Research Committee
This appointment has been low-key, but I am extremely excited, and honoured to have been appointed to this role on behalf of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand, working on the committee for Hop Research. Appointment is for three (3) years. YAY HOPS!


Epic 10th Celebration AleEpic 10th Birthday – It has been 10 years since Epic Brewing Company was created out of nothing. It has been a challenge, a journey through some trying times and some amazing achievements. Mistakes were made, and much has been learned. I thank everyone that has been on this adventure with me for your support, through the thick and thin. Here is to the next 10 years.

Epic Ownership Change – In June 2015, I bought out my business partner who helped fund the initial purchase of the brand from Steam Brewing Company in 2007. In a market where brewers are selling out, and looking at exit strategies I made the decision to double down. I’ve put it all on the line and am backing myself 100%. Epic Brewing Company is now a 100% New Zealand family owned business.



House of Nicholas is a collaboration with Simon Nicholas of Hop Federation. I’ve known Simon for about 5 years, but his dad for over 15 years, through home brewing and sampling beers at the pub. Once we found out we had a common ancestor it was only natural we brew together, in a way that we can tell a story of our family. We have decided that House of Nicholas will take inspiration from our history and heritage, and brew beers that we wouldn’t normally brew under our personal hop forward brands.

No Agenda Show meets No Agenda Beer with Luke Nicholas & John C Dvorak

No Agenda Show meets No Agenda Beer with Luke Nicholas & John C Dvorak

No Agenda ITM Brown Ale.
This is a convoluted story but we’ll get there. I had been planning on brewing a Brown IPA for some time. Why? Because it seemed everyone else was brewing Black, Red or White IPA’s. Hey, why not do a Brown IPA. When to do it? Ah, the West Coast IPA Challenge would be a logical time of the year to brew a new IPA.

I’ve been listening to the No Agenda podcast since around the time I purchased the Epic beer brand from Steam Brewing Company in 2007. I was listening to a number of podcasts around that time, such as Diggnation (my first muling of beer, made it on the show, Episode 101) and TWiT (I visited Leo Laporte at the cottage in 2010). I have found though over the years I have ended up only listening to No Agenda, partly due to time available, but also I like their content.

Since the show is funded totally by donations from listeners, I wanted to give something back for all the episodes I had listened to over the years. I wanted to do it in a way that was more than just a cash donation. I wanted to help increase the awareness of the podcast, and hopefully I have done that with the No Agenda ITM (#InTheMorning) Brown Ale.

You can listen to Adam & John talking about the beer No Agenda on these links:

  1. Donation segment with background story of brewing a beer for No Agenda
  2. Knighting – Sir Epic Beer of the Hop Fields
  3. Listen to what John C Dvorak had to say about when I meet up with him and he tried the beer, including some amazing commentary about Hop Zombie.

(No Agenda has a global audience of 400,000+ people, about the same as CNN)

Four Horsemen of the Hopocalypse – see below, always great to get together with these boys for a day to catch up, brew beer and have fun.


With the help of video producer Shaun Cullen, I invested a significant amount of time and money to capture on video some of the significant events that are shaping the face of craft beer in New Zealand. Even though all will have been viewed as special individual events, there has been a strong vision to document, the people, events, and collaborations that are creating history and influencing beer and brewing in New Zealand today.

  • House of Nicholas – A story of hops, history and family.
  • West Coast IPA Challenge – A single event focused on IPA, which has produced more influential craft beers than any other single event in New Zealand.
  • Four Horsemen of the Hopcalypse – Four of the most influential brewers in New Zealand coming together to create a beer like no other. The stuff legends are made of.
  • Epic/Steam 10/1000 Celebration Ale – a collaboration and background between the long-term relationship between myself, Epic and Steam Brewing Company. Nearly 20 years in the making. (Steam Brewing started in 1995, and I started as assistant brewer officially in 1997, after working for free on & off during 1996.)


dj impAfter years of sneaking behind bars to change the music, coercing bar staff into playing my music, creating playlists specifically for certain bars, as well as special events, I finally levelled up to DJ. Ding Dong Lounge heard of the infamous antics of a passionate brewer who wanted his music played every where he went. Ding Dong Lounge took the leap this year not only to put craft beer on tap, but also have me come along and play some tunes. Turns out once the songs are on I am happy chatting and having a beer with people. So after nearly a year of joking, we created a cardboard cut out of me, which we used at the end of the Epic 10th Birthday Auckland Central Adventure Beer Trail. Anyway it has all been a bit silly, a lot of fun and a good laugh.

There were many other amazing things that happened this year, such as my trip to China thanks to the ANZ, but it’s time to book end 2015, and get ready for 2016.

I wish you all the best for the New Year, and I hope to get a chance to share a beer with you in 2016.


(P.S. Have fun with the links)