I always feel like, someone is judging me – West Coast IPA Challenge
Wednesday, 01 August 2018 10:29

The day of the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge is one of just seven dates to be written into my paper diary at the start of every year – Mum’s birthday, Dad’s birthday, Brother’s birthday, Lovely Partner’s birthday, Said anniversary, Wrestlemania Day, and the Challenge.

There should be honourable diary mentions for Super Bowl Monday, Beervana, Baconation at the Fork & Brewer, and Chuck Norris’ Birthday (10 March). For the record, Mr Norris is always exactly as old as he tells you he is.

The 11th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge was held on Friday 27 July 2018. There were a record 29 entries of specially created beers from brewers around the country which paid homage to the famous and hugely influential brewing scene on the US West Coast. As predicted accurately in this blog last time it was yet again the biggest day on the Malthouse calendar.

My Challenge Day experience started really early and, surprisingly responsibly, finished pretty early. I was part of the judging panel of brewers, beer writers, real journalists, industry figures, and Jono Galuzska. [1] Under the watchful eye and masterful palate of head judge Geoff Griggs, three tables of judges sipped their way through 9 or 10 of the entries and put forward their recommendations for the final table.

At this point, the brewers were banished as they may have had entries being judged. They moved away quickly... mainly to congregate behind the bar to sample their opponents’ brews. Honestly, when I go behind the bar to pour a few beers for myself Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scotsman chases me away with a broom. Cleaning implements are my one weakness.

The final table had six beers to consider.

An honest to goodness miracle happened. I rated the six final beers in order. Geoff Griggs rated the same six beers. It was exactly the same order in each case. However, I cast my votes before hearing his erudite views. This was truly a day of days as my palate, while good, is not world class like his. Usually at competitions he is quietly triumphant as I making some obvious judging blunder to blot my copy book, but at the 11th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge I was in the vanguard – and I was apparently right.

When I finally left Malty, I may have strutted just a little. [2]

Here are the results:

1st Place and winner of the prestigious Golden Gumboots Trophy – ParrotDog West Coast IPA: They wasted no effort on a fancy or funny name. Instead, they focussed on brewing an outstanding IPA which was, fair to say, a dominant winner in the Challenge. Congratulations to ParrotDog for the accolade.

2nd Place - Good George Jousting Sticks WCIPA – This was a standout beer and on any other year it may have won. I particularly enjoyed the fruitiness of this drop. It turns out Jousting Sticks was not quite as dodgy a name as I feared – but tread carefully on your Google searches.

3rd Place - Moa Straight UP IPA – Brewer David Nicholls was my table captain for the first round. To this minute, I have no idea if we tried his beer far less put it through. The man is a total pro and he taught me more new terms about flavour profiles, even though I suspect a few were made up. Once again, as predicted in this very humble blog, Moa medals often at the Challenge.

People’s Choice - Epic Run Riot – Another Def Leppard inspired brew from Luke Nicholas, this took out the People’s Choice award. In early years, Malthouse tried various democratic voting systems – ballot papers or a show of hands. It went about as well as recent Venezuela elections... These days, it is based on volume – what punters paid to drink.

Disclaimer – I may have contributed to this result by drinking Run Riot while gate crashing an on the bar interview between Jono Galuzska and Luke Nicholas. It turned into a two man stage show about the historic beer shenanigans on the US West Coast which inspired the Malthouse Challenge. There is a book in there somewhere Jono... [3]

Never content to sit on his taunt and shapely laurels, Ciaran, the Boombastic, Fantastic and Romantic Malthouse Unit Manager, has arranged another treat for thirsty punters.

On Friday 3 August 2018 Malty will be hosting a Panhead beer launch featuring the Hex Breaker series on tap from 4pm. These will be

Panhead Hex Breaker – A voodoo inspired old ale. The brewers say it is a “7% Swamp Ale containing tomatoes, okra and the patented spice mix known as Old Bay.”

Panhead the Might Kalfu – A very recently released and extremely spicy southern rye ale.

There will also be what is officially described a “sneaky preview for the Panhead Beervana Beer.” However, for now there will be no clues far less details here today. People will have to turn up to the bar in order to find out.

Next time we drink to #malty'swesecret. If you want to know more, you will have to read on next time McDuff! [4]

[1] This blog also correctly predicted Jono would be a New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year well before it happened. I have given thousands of speeches in my life but I have never been more nervous than trying to get his surname right when presenting his (well deserved) award.

[2] This may explain why taxis were reluctant to pick me up but why I did get offered free entry to Boogie Wonderland. This would have been far more exciting if that venue had not closed down in 2016.

[3] Luke tweeted every 28 seconds during the trip and I have written over 30 blogs about the Challenge. Remarkably, my stories are all true. Actual results may vary for the Impish Brewer...

[4] Disclaimer – This parting line is stolen from my 7th Favourite Canadian Don Redmond, a beer blogger of note and joy. However, it should be noted that McDuff sounds far more Scottish (my heritage) than Canuck.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

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