The cause of my anxiousness, excitement and nervousness is just one event – The Sixth Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge which kicks off at high noon this Friday the 12th of July.
Time seems to slow as the event gets closer – just as the clock hands seemed to drag as the appointed hour for getting up and opening presents approached when you were little. I’m probably even more excited about the Challenge than Tom Cruise was about Katie  but I just can’t find living room furniture strong enough to stand up to me leaping up and down on it. Plus I’d spill my beer.
My nervousness stems largely from the fact that I am one of the Challenge judges. Although that means I get to try all the beers before the general public, I am aware of the pressure from brewers and my fellow judges to get things right on the day. 
The premise of the Challenge is deceptively simple but has grown exponentially to become the biggest event on the Malthouse calendar and usually the biggest night of the year. Brewers are invited to make a special beer for the Challenge which has to be broadly in the style of a West Coast IPA, an American-inspired brew with plenty of hops, bitterness and, usually, alcohol.  Apart from that broad guideline, anything goes. A panel of expert judges will consider the entries and the winner gets the coveted golden gumboot trophy. 
Following some “robust” feedback from previous years, all thirteen beers in the Challenge will go on tap at lunchtime on Friday. There are sizeable supplies of most brews but they are obviously not inexhaustible. If you desperately want to try particular brews, get in early.
The judge’s decision will be announced on the day and people can then spend hours explaining exactly why it was completely wrong.
This year I was tasked with coming up with a new tag line for the Challenge – something catchy and positively reeking of hops. I ended up with seven suggestions and people should post their thoughts on my ideas and their suggestions for next year over on the Malthouse Facebook page. Here is the list in no particular order:
Battle in the Bines 
Handbags in the Hop Field
Attack of the Alpha Acids
Clash of the Cones
Onslaught at the Oast House 
Big Brawl of Bitterness
The Coronation of Hoptimus Prime
It is now my distinct please to announce the names of the beers which have been entered in the Sixth Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge. They are presented in random order:
Epic/8 Wired – i of the Zombie
Good George – Almost Imperial IPA
Black Dog Brewery – Buck 
Fork & Brewer – Beach Bum
Garage Project – Love from Above (The cone of silence has now been lifted.) 
ParrotDog – PitBull
Hallertau/Hop Federation – Red IPA
Liberty – Knife Party
Moa – Northwest IPA
Invercargill – Hop Choppa
Bayland’s – Hop Lore
Croucher – Torpedo IPA
Townshend – BlitzGreig
There are some great names there including references Zombies, two different dogs, a Sierra Nevada homage and a New Plymouth house party. I have my thoughts about who is going to win but then I got my predictions totally wrong last year. Instead, I will simply judge each beer in front of me on its merits and have a thoroughly good time doing so.
Those enlightened souls on Twitter should be sure to use the hashtag #westcoastipachallenge and I will look to publish the best of them next week.
Next time, we drink to hops, lots of hops – because they are just wonderful, wonderful plants.
 The Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge is celebrating its sixth anniversary this year. TomKat cannot say the same.
 I may have to take a few mouthfuls of each beer just to be thoroughly sure about the results. That is a sacrifice I am willing to make for Zymurgy.
 Fun Fact: I really like this style of beer.
 Visually even less impressive than it sounds but it is all about the prestige.
 Apart from the fact that I clearly put my favourite in the title of this post.
 Hop plants are bines – climbing plants which are definitely not vines.
 An Oast House is a traditional hop kiln where the fresh hops are dried.
 It is the name of the dog in a Jack London book apparently… What’s a Jack London?
 Cone of Silence would be a great name for an IPA, even though they tend to make people louder rather than quieter.
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