However, when the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge was invented, yeah – I was there. To be honest, it did not seem like a big deal at the time because I for one never thought it would happen. There were two brewers – The Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas from Epic and The Naked Epicurean Steve Plowman from Hallertau – drinking at Malthouse and each boasting about how they could easily make the best New Zealand interpretation of an American West Coast IPA.

For once, they both knew exactly what they were talking about because a group of us had just been at the World Beer Cup in San Diego. We had supped hoppy libations such as Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, Palate Wrecker and my beloved Hoppopotamus. They were simply amazing beverages. On a stormy night in the Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand, two noted local brewers loudly reckoned they could produce beers of a similar nature.

Now, if I had a beer for every time brewers made idle boasts about making the best beers in the world, I’d have about 1,127 beers in 2015 to date alone. [2] This time was different. Sitting at the end of the table, wearing a shirt that blended in with the wallpaper, was Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor of Malthouse. He took notes. [3]

Colin took note of the discourse and then called the duo of brewers to account in the sober light of day. [4] He called for the Imp and the Epicurean to put all their hops on the table in a pale ale contest to be held at Malthouse. This was the genesis of the very first West Coast IPA Challenge where a beer that came to known as Armageddon went up against a beer that is now Maximus. Wellington drinkers got to taste both, vote for their favourite and there was much rejoicing.

Today, the Challenge is a very different beast. Instead of two breweries there are now twenty three. The people still get their say but a panel of expert judges [5] will also render their opinion and award the coveted Golden Gumboot trophy to this year’s winner. The 8th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge begins at noon on 17 July 2015 and it will be legendary.

While the exact details of the challenging ales are yet to finalised, Malthouse has received the entire list of breweries entering. In this post, I will reveal the identity of the entrants and provide my thoughts on what their beer should be called. In the next blog, I will share what their beers are actually called. On Friday I will taste all of these beers because I am a judge in the Challenge.

Here is the official list of entrants and what I think their beers should be called:

Tuatara – Scales of Hoppy Justice IPA
ParrotDog – Mattitude v.2.0 IPA [6]
Epic – IMPlausibly Hoppy IPA
Garage Project – La Fin Du Garage IPA
Renaissance – Feels Like the Thiel Thing IPA
Moa – Sensitivity Training IPA
8 Wired – Can’t Read My Poker Face IPA
Kereru – Protected Species (Don’t Smuggle Me in Your Jacket) IPA
Baylands – Reagan’s Revenge IPA
Fork Brewing – Mr Davis Double Pale Ale
Panhead – Things Bogans Like IPA
Townshend – Hamilton is Just Awful IPA
Hot Water – Build Your Own Hot Tub on a Daily Basis IPA
Emerson’s – Chuck Norris Facts IPA
Croucher – Doctorate in Being Awesome IPA
Black Dog – Temperance in Moderation IPA
Good George – Hamilton is Not as Bad as Palmerston North IPA
Choice Bros – Pikies Stole My Hops IPA
Behemoth – The Beer Giraffe Sleeps Tonight IPA
Liberty – Jo Makes Naked Monkeys Fight With Knives for his Sexual Amusement IPA
Hop Federation – Federation Research Station XL-72 [7]
mike's – Ron Goes Commando IPA
Harrington’s – Don’t Mess with the Family Business IPA

Next time, we drink to Finbarr Clabby. Fin was a talented bar manager and a wonderful man. He poured me a few pints at D4 and we shared several more at venues around town. Last Sunday Finbarr passed away. The people at D4 said it best when they wrote “the passing of Finbarr Clabby has brought a deep sadness to the staff and regulars here at D4. We feel privileged to not only have enjoyed Fin as an incredibly positive, charismatic manager but as a well-loved friend and member of the D4 family. All our memories are truly happy ones! Rest in Peace Fin, you will be sorely missed.”

Fin was a friend of Malthouse and a friend of mine. A Givealittle page (link below) has been set up by the Wellington Irish Society to support the Clabby family as they take Finbarr home to Ireland, donations of any size would be greatly appreciated. 

“Until we meet again,
may God hold you
in the palm of his hand.

[1] I liked the idea that the Hurricanes should emulate Greece and have an in-house referendum which would then declare they actually won the final no matter what the score board said.
[2] I probably have.
[3] Always be wary of a Glaswegian writing. So few of them can do it and it rarely ends well.
[4] I for one hate that light.
[5] And Jonathan Galuszka of course.
[6] Obligatory wrestling reference.
[7] Voluntary Blake’s Seven reference.

Neil Miller
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine
TheShout Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine


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