The Challenge well and truly lived up to its reputation as one of the biggest craft beer days in Wellington with the bar often fully packed. As a result, even hardened regulars occasionally had to wait to get in. [1]

A wise panel of experienced beer judges, beer writers and beer judges who are also beer writers [2] considered thirteen entries on Friday the 12th of July as brewers offered up special beers which were “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, pretty much anything went.

The judging was very collegial, knowledgeable and occasionally hilarious. We were unanimous in our pick for first place. Here is confirmation of the official results:

1st Liberty Brewing Company – Knife Party [3]

2nd Garage Project – Love from Above [4]

3rd Baylands /Crawford’s Collaboration Brew – Hop Lore [5]

People’s Choice – Baylands /Crawford’s Collaboration Brew – Hop Lore

Congratulations to all the entrants and particularly to the winners on the night. My personal favourite Challenge beer did not place mainly because it was just so very hoppy. 

It was ParrotDog PitBull which my notes record as a “super intense IPA, huge hops, close to unbalanced, closest to my perfect IPA, loved it.”  While other judges were heading straight for a mellow bitter or two after judging ended, I went straight for the jugular with a few pints of PitBull.

Anticipating the popularity of the Challenge, the networked denizens of the Twitter-sphere were invited to use the official Hashtag #westcoastipachallenge to assist people follow the conversation. Surprisingly, a couple actually did so but for the vast majority I had to troll through hundreds of tweets of varying literary merit. Anyway, I promised to publish a selection of the best so here they are:

Jamie Lynch ‏@Jamiedlynch Excited about #westcoastipachallenge @malthouse tonight. Maybe more excited about promises of #deepfriedhaggisonastick. Pure dead brilliant

Greig McGill ‏@greigmcgill Wow! @LibertyBrewer Knife Party is excellent. No wonder it won at the @Malthouse West Coast IPA challenge!

Liberty Brewing Co ‏@LibertyBrewer Just wanna dedicate my winning @knifepartyinc beer to @EpicBeer. He inspired the whole damned thing.

Nikki ‏@NikCarmichael @ryanlcrawford  Remember that time when Hop Lore won People’s Choice at the #westcoastipachallenge? Yeh that was ace!

Andrew Childs ‏@Behemothbeer @FunkyJordman @malthouse Didn’t drink them all but certainly made a dent!

The next two tweets may possibly be related:
Beth Eat & Greet ‏@eatandgreetblog The Malthouse have the weirdest playlist going on. But the beer is excellent #westcoastipachallenge
Nikki ‏@NikCarmichael First time ever I’ve heard @baylandsbrewery listen to my metal playlist. He’s trying to find the song @lukenicholas kept playing @malthouse [6]

However, because I’m in a real mood for judging things at the moment ,[7] here is the Official Best Tweet of the 6th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge:

The Beerhive ‏@BeerhiveBlog The real #westcoastipachallenge now is making it from the back of the @malthouse to the bar in one piece. #StandingRoomOnly [8]

However, it was not all good news. There were a few occupational hazards:

Jono Galuszka ‏@jonogaluszka Feeling a little shady after #westcoastipachallenge yesterday. Thank goodness for hash browns & long blacks.

Malthouse Wellington ‏@malthouse We have a huge pile of lost n found from Friday! Give us a call on 048025484 and talk to the team.

Finally, and most importantly, I wholeheartedly endorse this tweet from the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor Colin the following day:

Malthouse Wellington ‏@malthouse Huge props to the hard grafting team last night who poured y’all great beers. Ciaran, Fred, Macka, Van, Sarah, Megan, Sam & Emma. Cheers!

Fine job guys. 

In the last blog I attempted to come up with new tag lines for the Challenge and asked readers to contribute their thoughts.  Scott drew on our shared fandom of professional wrestling and suggested “Hopmania”.  Steve took exceptional liberties with the single Tom Cruise reference in the last post by basically changing a word in a long list of Cruise’s movie titles into “hops”.  The best of those were “Hop Gun”, “A Few Good Hops”, “Hoptail” and “Mission: Impossible, Hop Protocol.”

Many (but not all) for the West Coast IPA Challenge beers are pouring for the next week or so. There will also be a keg of Garage Project Love from Above which Colin is keen to share with punters after some were disappointed at missing out. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for details as it could be a very good and very limited offer. 

Finally, another batch the winning Challenge beer is going to be made in Wellington soon. Details when I have full clearance…

Next time, we drink to sharks with freaking laser beams on their heads.

[1] Worried readers will be relieved to learn that I breezed right into the bar with no delays (arriving at 10:30am to judge certainly helped that) and I also managed to obtain my beloved usual chair by simply sitting on it one minute before opening time.

[2] That was Mr Geoff Griggs who chaired the judging panel and also caused quite a storm on Twitter. Geoff had been thought to have long foresworn Twitter but his profile seemingly appeared in a number of early tweets about the event. This apparent change of heart sparked some excitement. Of course, it was all a case of mistaken on-line identity and our Geoff was completely unaware of the furore. Somewhere in Hawaii, the other Mr Griggs was probably wondering what the heck was happening on his phone…

[3] My tasting notes simply read “AWESOME.”

[4] Clearly a nod to the minor controversy caused by the name of their (very good) beer Death from Above. Later in the evening Garage Project tweeted “it turns out Love can be quite temperamental, so we’ve pulled out a surprise keg of Death From Above. On at Malthouse now!”

[5] Ryan Crawford’s beer won the Amateur West Coast IPA Challenge (also held at Malthouse). The first prize was having the beer made at Baylands Brewery and entered into the Challenge.  Particular congratulations to Ryan and Aidan for this amazing result.

[6] Bar layouts are now being designed specifically to make it harder for Luke Nicholas to access their sound systems and endlessly play dodgy rock anthems.

[7] Even more so than usual. This week includes judging the New Zealand Bacon and Ham Awards and a celebrity debate in Auckland.

[8] Is it cheating if they are proper journalists? Probably not. Plenty of proper journalists have no idea how to use Twitter.


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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