Dorothy Day was a complicated woman. She was a gardening journalist, an activist, a Catholic, a book reviewer, a Communist, an anarchist, an editor, a Bohemian, a pacifist, the “original hippy”, the subject of a movie starring Martin Sheen and under serious consideration for sainthood. [2] She also had her fair share of run ins with the law noting that “I have been behind bars in police stations, houses of detention, jails and prison farms… eleven times, and have refused to pay Federal income taxes [3] and have never voted.”

As a war-mongering Tory who votes early and often, I was not familiar with the work of Ms Day beyond her “food for the soul” quotation which I had always assumed to be a culinary reference rather than an anarchic exhortation. However, I was scouring the interwebs for interesting thoughts on the topic of “challenge” and her words about revolution (rather than knitting) hit a chord.

That is because the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge is probably the most revolutionary event in Kiwi craft beer. Over 8 years, it has gone from two brewers being shamed into backing up their bar room big talk by a Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scotsman, to an event where twenty three new beers are launched in a single day. Based on history, a number of those special beers will become commercially viable staples, following in the pioneering footsteps of beers such as Epic Armageddon and Hallertau Maximus.

The 8th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge took place last Friday with the judging taking place in the morning. The doors opened to the public at noon and by two o’clock the bar was packed and remained so until closing time. It was the single biggest trading day in Malthouse history, beating all previous challenges, Saint Patrick’s Days, New Year Eves and Happy Haggis Days. [4]

Here are the official results as voted by the panel of expert judges:

1st – ParrotDog HighTime 6.9%

This was an incredible achievement because, right up to the last minute, it was not certain HighTime would even be in the Challenge due to some technical issues at the nearby brewery. It not only made it but took out the coveted Golden Gumboots with a chewy, assertively hopped and well balanced IPA.

2nd – Renaissance BOOM! 8.3%

Renaissance continues their strong run of form in the Challenge with second place for BOOM! As the name and ABV suggests, it is a substantial beer but it is also surprisingly, some would say dangerously, drinkable. BOOM is a fine interpretation of a bold style.

3rd – Fork Brewing The Flower Arranger 6.5%

Kelly Ryan from Fork Brewery (the brewing arm of the Fork & Brewer) clinched bronze with a beer I noted had “excellent balance” and a “firm mouthfeel”. The unusual, some would say silly, name is apparently a reference to hop flowers and not to Kelly’s former career before he discovered his beer making prowess.

As noted in previous blog posts, the judges were not the only ones who had a say. Punters got to vote. The People’s Choice award is highly regarded by brewers both as acknowledgement of their abilities and proof lots of people bought their beer. The 2015 People’s Choice Award went to Liberty Brewing Pacific Rim 6.4%. The name here is obviously just so Joseph Wood can make lots of sexy jokes… [5]

Tuatara’s entry, Tuatara Tu Rye Ay (Midnight Rye) IPA 7.5%, was not amongst the official awards but receives an honourable mention for its incredible music video (link below). Staff from the brewery and various bars around town were somehow convinced to don outrageous costumes, dance like lunatics and lip sync along to “C’mon Eileen.”

It should also be noted that Malthouse’s own Ciaran Duffy seemed exceptionally comfortable rocking the ‘denim dungarees and no shirt’ no look. It did not like seem like his first time dressing as a hillbilly… In fact, it did not seem like his first time that week…

While it is obviously impossible to top the West Coast Challenge, undoubtedly one of the premier beer events in New Zealand, that is not going to stop Malthouse from trying. Colin and the team are frantically developing a plethora of ideas for International Beer Day.

Yes, such an event does exist. It even has an acronym (IBD) and a website and merchandise. Here is the official explanation:

“International Beer Day (IBD) is a celebration on the first Friday of every August founded in 2007 in Santa Cruz, California. Since its inception, International Beer Day has grown from a small localized event in the western United States into a worldwide celebration spanning 207 cities, 50 countries and 6 continents.

Specifically, International Beer Day has three declared purposes:

  1. To gather with friends and enjoy the taste of beer.
  2. To celebrate those responsible for brewing and serving beer.
  3. To unite the world under the banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations together on a single day. [16]

There will be more details on the Malthouse celebrations in next week’s blog.

Next time, we drink to Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Tuatara is bringing them back baby!

[1] For some reason I can see (Lady) Frances Verrity saying phrase this while drinking a glass of wine at Malthouse…
[2] The Catholic Church takes pretty much everything seriously but she was first mooted for sainthood in 1983.
[3] I was unaware that this was an option and will be contacting my accountant immediately.
[4] One of these events does not exist but should.
[5] To have the jokes explained to you, just ask any member of the Malthouse bar staff. They will happy to oblige.
[6] Ironically, I had to edit all the footnotes out of this passage as they were not funny, thus breaking the Immutable Law of Beer Writing Footnotes (also known as the “the Pete Brown Law.”

Neil Miller
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