Baddest beer

By Michael Donaldson


The Fight by Norman Mailer is a must-read for sport fans.

Growing up in the 1970s I was obsessed with a handful of athletes who dominated the era – Mark Spitz, Jack Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali.

One of my favourite books from that era was Norman Mailer’s The Fight detailing the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The book caused quite a stir, not least for the way Mailer injected himself into the story, referring to himself as variously as Norman, Mailer and The Interviewer.

Mailer records the moment Ali himself brought the now famous phrase “Ali, boma ye!” into the public consciousness. According to Mailer, it was during a sparring session in which Ali also revealed his “rope a dope” strategy, where he would let Foreman chase him and pound him on the ropes until Foreman grew too weary to hold back the fitter Ali.

Throughout the fight, which Ali won in an eighth-round knockout of an exhausted Foreman, the crowd could be heard chanted “Ali, boma ye” which translates as “Kill him, Ali” and is sometimes written as  “Ali bomaye” or “Ali bumaye”.

All of which brings us, somehow, back to beer – 8 Wired’s Bumaye.

If you’re going to name a beer as a hat-tip to one of the greatest boxing matches in history you better make sure it can stand up to the occasion.

Brewer Soren Eriksen describes Bumaye as the “baddest” beer he’s brewed. It’s a barrel-aged imperial stout that packs an Ali-esqe punch of 16 per cent ABV. But it also has Ali’s “float like butterfly” silkiness as it glides smoothly across your palate.

Bumaye is made to be shared, and not just because of its heavyweight alcohol level. The flavour is just intense and even a 330ml bottle could be too much of a sensory overload. Aged for three years in pinot noir barrels, Bumaye is built on layers complexity that feature chocolate, stewed fruits, a savoury note that resembles sweet soy sauce, some tannins, vanilla, and a concentrated spiciness with echoes of cinnamon or all spice.

All of which makes it an impossible beer to drink in a hurry.

No, this is an after-dinner beer, to be poured in small measures like port or whisky and savoured in the same sense. Too much too soon and you’ll be on the ropes.

8 Wired have a number of other beers aged in wine barrels, including Grand Cru which is aged on currants and cascara – the dried berry of the coffee bean; and Lord of the Atlas, an American-style barley wine; and Le Fut, a Flanders red ale.

The Warkworth brewery has invested heavily in barrels – both in purchasing them and in the time allocated to the beer to mature. It’s an expensive business but the beers – like those great athletes of the 1970s – are in a class of their own.

Main photo: Soren Eriksen pours his Bumaye, one of the most intriguing beers in New Zealand