“Malthouse’s 7th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge” it is time to kick it up a notch. [1] This blog presents a list of the 17 breweries currently entered into the Challenge who will be vying for the People’s Choice Award and Grand Award, and an exclusive form guide based on the Melbourne Cup format. Oh, and I’m going to give every brewery involved a Horse Name.

Disclaimer: I have a chequered history with the Melbourne Cup and particularly the tradition of an Office Sweepstake.  For most of my working life, whichever horse I got in the sweepstake would come last (at best) or would get hurt (at worst). 

Then, when I started at NCM Communications my luck immediately changed – I have won every single Office Sweepstake since. I have been known to boast about my sweepstake prowess on Facebook and receive a number of congratulations until some party pooper always comes along and points out I’m self employed… [2]

While I lamented my constant losses in Office Sweepstakes with more than one participant, history suggests this was actually an accurate reflection of my tipping ability. My system is based on betting on horses or dogs whose names had “anything beer related”, “some sort of title which appears powerful” or which “sounds like a wrestling reference.”  This system worked about as well as could be expected.

One time, in Christchurch, I had a bad run at the track. Literally everything I picked came dead last.  While I could stand the mockery from my friends, it was harder when, later in the meet, complete strangers would ask me who I was backing and then yell to their friends “hey, don’t bet on number seven – it is going to lose.”  It was worse when they were always right.

However, my luck changed in – of all unlikely places – the Hutt Valley when my selected greyhounds actually completed a trifecta, one of the hardest bets in the business to pick. 

Yes, my dogs came in 1, 2 and 3. I may have been doing the Rarely Seen Dance of Joy, when the race was scratched and all bets were invalidated. I was outraged as I had not even match fixed it. My system had just finally worked.

Or so I thought.  However, the authorities took a different view based on the series of events which unfolded on the track. It was a pretty standard race until the rabbit skin which the hounds chase fell off the motorised rail. The first three dogs in the race immediately attacked the fallen “rabbit”. The fourth bounded out into the middle of the ground and rather brutally killed a real goose.

My dogs ran on – mainly because they were so far behind the pack they probably did not see the rabbit or the goose. All these soon to be gloriously victorious creatures probably heard was me cheering them on from the most prestigious seating area in the ground. [3]

Sadly, apparently everything going wrong with a race outweighed me actually winning a trifecta, and it was struck from the records. 

Undeterred by repeated failure, [4] I have put together what I am confident is a world first. I’m going to present the entrants to the Malthouse’s 7th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge in the style of a Melbourne Cup form guide.  I will give each a proper Horse Type Name and present some tips from “pundits”.  And… Racing now!

Epic Brewing Company – Auckland
Impish Hop Master
An original challenger and a lover of hops, he has to be one of the early favourites but tends to fade fast when the air guitars come out.

ParrotDog Brewery – Wellington
Three Quarters of a Boy Band
Racing just 450m from their home base, the Matts may have home advantage and just a bit of mongrel in the fight.

Garage Project – Wellington
We Invented Four Beer Styles Yesterday
Popular with the hip crowd but always hard to predict what will happen on the day. They could turn up with a Swedish Meatball IPA and set it on fire with a flamethrower. [5]

Baylands Brewery & Brewing Supplies – Wellington
Suburban Paradise
Recent strong form with hoppy ales and last year’s People’s Choice award at this very Challenge puts this husband and wife team in a strong position.

Emerson’s Brewery – Dunedin
I Do Look Like Chuck Norris
The most experienced contender in the field by a long way, but questions remain if the frugal brewer Father O’Leary will allow enough hops in the kettle to take the win.

Invercargill Brewery – Invercargill
Hug Me Baby One More Time
Beloved by the people and rightly so. The southerners may do well very well if they don’t throw freaking boysenberries in there. 

MOA – Marlborough
We Are Not Extinct
One of the larger and better-resourced entries, their main problem may be the (current) MP for Hutt South devaluing their brand by continually talking about the Moa.

Renaissance Brewing Company – Blenheim
It’s Worth Over-Doing
This highly decorated champion loves to make big beers but may be weighed down by sheer weight of recent trophies.

8 WIRED BREWING – Blenheim
Can’t Read My Poker Face
Always plays his cards close to the chest but strong form in making seriously “in your face” beers, a trait which will help in this race.

Liberty Brewing Company – Auckland
Liberty or Death
The defending champion is likely to go all out to retain his coveted Golden Gumboots trophy. Some say they are the only shoes he owns. Others say they are all that he wears while brewing. You know, the Steve Plowman method.

Hallertau Brewery – Auckland
Naked and Epicurean
Speaking of nude brewers, Mr Plowman is highly experienced as one of only two to run in the very first Challenge. Can the he pull off another Stunt… Man… [6]

Hop Federation – Nelson
No Monkey Business
New to the challenge but they have the main ingredient in their name. Potential dark horse…

Fork and Brewer – Wellington
Inside Running
The new brewer has left Hamilton but he still has a thing [7] for gumboots so the motivation is certainly there. 

Croucher Brewing – Rotorua
No Uranium On Your Breath
Fresh from restoring diplomatic relations between New Zealand, Australia and the US with their ANZUS Pale Ale, they may show a more combative streak here. I think the ANZUS thing was an elaborate ruse to lull their foes into thinking they were tambourine tapping, Tibet-freeing, pro-whale activists.

Black Dog Brewery Co. – Wellington
Chomp, Chomp, Chomp
Another extremely local challenger. Talented and virtually unshackled from their corporate owners, these hounds have the potential to run deep into the race. [8]

Hot Water Brewing Co. – Coromandel
We Can Do It
Strong support from environmentalists, hippies and those who enjoy fine beer, this will be a step up in intensity for this new player but the brewer certainly has the pedigree.

Panhead Custom Ales – Wellington
Fast and Furious
Judges will have to check for illegal street modifications, but has the potential to blow their opponents off the line, drop the hammer, hit the nitro and do donuts on the lawns of the beaten challengers.

The Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge will happen on 18th and 19th July. It will be quite huge. In the next blog, we hope to have more beer names and maybe some other exclusive insights. Either that, or I will talk about Space Invaders.

Next time, we drink to the Mythbusters for coming to New Zealand. 

[1] BAM.  Yeah, Emeril – I went there.

[2] Don’t worry.  I’m going to do the same shtick next year unless I get fired from NCM Communications.

[3] There was only one seating area in the entire stadium and it was half empty. In unrelated news, the race track went out of business several months later.

[4] How else would I face every day?

[5] When – not if – Garage Project make this beer because they finally ran out of ideas (expected in 2072), I want credit for this.

[6] See what I did there?

[7] To clarify, a totally sexual thing.

[8] Unlike all the ones I’ve ever bet on.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine


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