Starting 2pm on Friday 29 July 2016, the discerning drinking public will get the chance to try a huge variety of West Coast India Pale Ales  created by brewers around the country especially for this event. Each will be hoping to wow the panel of expert judges and win the coveted Golden Gumboots prize.
The Challenge officially lasts for two days but some of the most popular beers – particularly the medallists and the People’s Choice winner – can be all gone well before the dawn on Sunday.  Challenge Friday is traditionally the busiest day of the year for Malthouse, closely followed by Challenge Saturday. The important point to note here is that, as a judge, I will have tried the beers before the doors even open. 
While the list of entries is still secret, I can tell you it is long – with some returning champions, some experienced challengers and a few brand new entrants. More details will be released in coming blogs. Now in its ninth year, the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge continues to grow. It is one of my favourite events of the year and always the first date entered into my diary, even before I put in my own birthday. 
This year, the West Coast IPA cup over floweth due to overwhelming demand – it will also be co-hosted at sister bar, Fork & Brewer. The popularity of this event (which is still growing) has seen the Malthouse premises groan at the seams, with many a punter sadly turned away at the door long before the Golden Gumboot has been gifted.
With the end of a highly successful Darkest Days Showcase, the tap line up is changing rapidly (even by Malthouse standards). Here are some of recent additions with my comments:
Epic Hop Dozer (6.8%) – This “New Zealand India Amber Ale” was created by the Impish Brewer for the GABS (Great Australian Beer Spectacular) festival which, paradoxically, was also held in Auckland this year. It is a limited edition hoppy red beer packed with 100% NZ grown hops (Brooklyn, Riwaka and Styrian Goldings). It is a strictly limited edition brew.
Liberty Alpha Obsidian Black IPA (7.3%) – This is brewer Joseph Wood’s GABS special beer in the growingly popular Black IPA style. He describes this inky brew as having notes of tropical fruit, dark chocolate, and cocoa that create more depth.” Alpha Obsidian is also a limited release.
Baylands Knight Ryder (5.7%) – Because it is currently being served on Nitro (very exciting), this chocolate and rye stout will be even smoother and creamer now. To paraphrase the brewer’s notes, this stout has mouthfuls of chocolate and rye. Oh wait – those are the entire brewer’s notes. They are correct.
8 Wired Hippy Berliner (4%) – This sour, Berliner Weisse is in the famous Malthouse Hopinator (“The Modus Hopperandus”) again this week. Last week it was infused with cucumber, a tasty combination which certainly surprised me. This week it is flowing over rosemary which will impart a completely different nature – floral, fragrant, and spicy. 
8 Wired Palate Trip Sour (6.5%) – Another offering for GABS, brewer Soren Eriksen has made an India Pale Ale with American and New Zealand hops, and then soured it (on purpose it should be noted). The end result is a rare sour IPA. Soren says “the result is tart acidity, rather than bitterness, to help balance the sweet malts.”
ParrotDog Otis (6.3%) – Already brewed with rolled oats for body and mouthfeel, this Oatmeal Stout is currently being served on hand pull. This will serve to accentuate the fat, chocolately flavours in the beer, and also give Malthouse staff a good workout at the same time.
Renaissance MPA (8.5%) – Renaissance Brewing put their own spin on the American Double IPA style. The result is this huge MPA (short for Marlborough Pale Ale) which the brewers note uses not only New Zealand grown hops, but only New Zealand hop varieties. The exact hops vary from year to year depending on what is available.
Garage Project VPA (7.5%) – Here is a rather nice description I wrote about this award-winning “Venusian Pale Ale” which I cannot improve upon –
“Despite the name and Steampunk themed labelling, this is actually not brewed on Venus or even for Venusians living amongst us (as far as I know). However, it is a bit “out of this world” because of the generous use of real lemongrass, kaffir lime grass and grapefruit zest in this innovative brew. The resulting golden beer has a herb garden nose, then lashings of zesty citrus and spice, before a subtle cleansing finish.”
Garage Project Hapi Daze (4.2%) – Designed to be a “really nice sessionable caramel blonde ale”, this beer is hoppy but not a hop bomb by any stretch. The emphasis is on balance and drinkability. Look for notes of grapefruit, caramel slice, peaches and pine. There is also a story and/or in-joke behind the name with Hapi being the Maori word for hops.
As mentioned earlier, there will be more details about the entries into the 9th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge in coming blogs. I think I see a lightening of the sky…
Next time, we drink to Matt LeBlanc who seems to have forced his “shouty” co-host Chris Evans off the new Top Gear after just one season. Now, if he can only get rid of himself and then bring back Jeremy “Awkward Trousers” Clarkson, Richard “The Hamster” Hammond and James “Captain Slow” May – the show might have a chance. 
 To be fair, it is pretty old with the first reference thought to be from 1650 in Thomas Fuller‘s, “A Pisgah Sight of Palestine (“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth”). The science about whether it is actually darkest just before the dawn is highly disputed.
 Just to clarify, because I have had a few queries, the reference is to the West Coast of the United States, not the West Coast of New Zealand. Think San Francisco rather than Blackball – that should make it easier.
 Did you see what I did there?
 [Insert maniacal laugh here] closed followed by [volley of abuse from beer friends].
 Just to confirm all the stereotypes about my technologic prowess, I do in fact have a paper diary. Actually, due to a mix up when ordering office supplies, I actually have two.
 In related news, still no sign of actual hops in the Hopinator, though the recent combinations have been pretty darn creative…
 Frankly, the show has no show. One more season – tops – and only then because the BBC will not want to admit they were wrong.
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