It’s The Final Countdown: West Coast IPA Challenge
Wednesday, 20 July 2016 17:05

It’s The Final Countdown: West Coast IPA Challenge

Ah, “The Final Countdown” –

 an iconic 80s hair metal power ballad filled with tight-trousered wailing, soaring synthesisers and barely a real instrument in evidence. [1]

This song, by Swedish band Europe, reached number one in 25 countries, but only as high as number 12 in New Zealand – we were clearly too busy revelling in our other 1985 number one hits such as “Sailing Away” (that terrible America’s Cup song), “Living Doll” (the terrible concept of teaming up Cliff Richard with the Young Ones) and “I wanna be a cowboy” (just terrible).

“The Final Countdown” is also a song I will forever associate with disappointment and loss. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an 80s music hater. In fact, it would be one of my favourite musical decades right alongside the 90s and I have the record collection to more than prove that. The reason for my angst about this particular song is much more serious – rugby.

See, the year was now 1995 – the World Trade Organisation was established, the Internet became a thing, OJ Simpson went on trial, Mississippi recognised the abolition of slavery, [2] Jacques Chirac and John Howard were both elected, New Zealand won the America’s Cup despite that song, [3] eBay launched, David Lange was Kiwi Prime Minister and France got struck by a wave of strikes about the price of croissants, berets and stripy shirts (or something equally stupid).

It was also the year for the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa - the Rugby World Cup New Zealand could not possibly lose. We had Merhtens, Lomu, Kronfeld, Lomu, Wilson, Lomu, Fitzpatrick, Lomu and Zinzan Brooke with his fifty metre drop goal. The All Blacks beat Japan 145-17, [4] soundly defeated Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, Jonah turned the otherwise worthy English fullback Mike Catt into his personal doormat, and then only had to beat the Springboks in the final.

All of this was done to a virtually non-stop soundtrack of “The Final Countdown”. It was New Zealand’s official and unofficial anthem for that World Cup – reflecting the inevitability of our glorious triumph. The All Blacks were the best team in the world playing a brand of power running rugby that all the other “kick and chase and hope” teams could never hope to match.

When the final came, things turned ugly (for us). There were rumours that the All Blacks had their food poisoned by a mysterious waitress name “Susie”, [5] South African fans of all races united behind the Springboks, the Boks figured out how to tackle Jonah Lomu (“put five guys on him and don’t let go until he falls over”), Nelson Mandela was a national talisman and Joel Stransky kicked the highest pressure drop goal in history.

The Springboks won 15-12 in extra time of a game which featured no tries and many tears (mainly from me). Despite the years, the pain never really went away. In fact, it got worse with the film Invictus in 2009 which unfortunately stuck to the facts and ends with the plucky Springboks triumphing over the All Blacks.

Even in New Zealand there was no alternative ending option on the DVD where we win. Invictus went on to critical and commercial success, but not so much here. Morgan Freeman was great as Nelson Mandela (as he is in every role), but some were baffled and others outraged at the casting of short American Matt Damon [6] as the tall South African rugby captain Francois Pineaar.

That heartbreaking loss is why “The Final Countdown” song will always make me a little bit of a sad panda. However, when Ciaran the balletic, barometric and Bayesian Malthouse unit manager says “it’s the final countdown to the West Coast IPA Challenge” I cannot help but get extremely excited. The 9th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge will be starting at 2pm on Friday 29 July 2016. It features a huge (did someone say 25? If so, they were spot on) variety of West Coast India Pale Ales created by brewers around the country especially for this event.

As a taster for next week’s blog which will contain more details of the entrants, here are just some of the beer names – Russelmania, [7] The Nine, Party & Bullshit, Smugglers Cut and Thor. I’m Thor just typing those names, far less drinking them, and there are twenty more to go. Until then, Malthouse has a few hoppy numbers to help punters warm up for the Challenge:

Behemoth Hop Frolic, IPA (6.5%) – A relatively recent release from my friend Andrew “The Beer Giraffe” Childs which features Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe hops over pale malt and, unusually, rye. The result is a reddish, fruity and bitter drop.

Epic Armageddon IPA (6.66%) – Love it.

Epic Hop Zombie IIPA (8.5%) – Love everything about it. Get between me and this beer and you risk being trampled. I can be surprisingly fast when this many hops are on the line.

Garage Project Hapi Daze (4.2%) - A sessionable caramel hoppy blonde ale with an emphasis on balance and drinkability.

Garage Project Fugazi (2%) – This is a low alcohol beer which smells and tastes a lot bigger. No fugazi! [8]

ParrotDog Flora Rata (7.7%) – This is the new brand for the old and much beloved ParrotDog Bloody Dingo. It a robust Australian Red Ale with lashings of US hops over a solid caramel malt infrastructure.

In the Hopinator this week is 8Wired Hippy Berliner (4%) (the now usual sour and fruity drop in the Modus Hopperandus) enhanced by an infusion of fresh oranges in the chamber. It should be extra fruity and some of the sourness will be toned down by the orange’s juice.

Next time, we drink to the eighties.

[1] The synthesisers in question were a Yamaha TX-816 and a Roland JX-8P. I know a lot of hardcore synth players read this blog each week.

[2] Are you freaking kidding me Mississippi? It took you until 1985 to formally abolish the legal right to slavery?

[3] Sadly, no-one cared because it was yachting which is the most boring sport since golf. Unless the Australian boat sinks – then it is awesome.

[4] At some point the Japanese thought it was a good idea to kick a penalty (3 points). For this tactic to work, they would have had to kick around 43 penalty goals. In their defence, Japan is one of only four teams to have ever kicked 9 penalties in a test. Before we laugh too much – New Zealand has kicked nine penalties... twice.

[5] Rumours given some substance by footage of hardened rugby players barfing on the field.


[7] A homage to Russell Barbour and his bar tab perhaps?

[8] I have the sudden urge to bang my chest, hum rhythmically and engage in a little insider trading. (Legal Disclaimer – this is a Wolf of Wall Street reference. Anyone who knows me will attest that I would never, ever be rhythmic.)


Neil Miller

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