like the desert loves the rain, as much as Winston Peters loves himself and nearly as strongly as drug-fuelled Russian Olympic athletes love the geo-political intimidation power of Vladimir Putin used to keep them all in the Rio Games. [1]

After weeks of teasing about the 9th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge, [2] it is business time. Yep, finally I am able to announce the record 25 contestants in the hugely popular Malty annual celebration of Lupulus Humulus (hops) and the Pacific Northwest mindset (West Coast).

This Friday (29 July 2016), Malthouse will be launching 25 specially created beers designed to invoke the hoppy pale ales from the very perky West Coast of the USA, [3] My obscenely expensive Rumour-a-Tron 5000 app predicts there will be no less than 18 brewers in Malthouse on Friday – yep, it is officially time to put the serious trousers on.

Actually, that last paragraph is not entirely accurate, even by my standards. For the first time ever, the Challenge this year will be co-hosted by Malthouse’s sister bar – the Fork & Brewer. [4] Like a proper journalist, I will simply quote from a press release without question – mainly because the press release is from Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor and he has control of my bar tab:

“Colin Mallon, Malthouse Operations Guy and WCIPAC organiser, says this year’s 9th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge (WCIPAC) will expand its festivities to Malthouse’s sister bar, Fork & Brewer on Bond Street, due to increasingly large crowds turning up to see who will win Best West Coast IPA and take home the Golden Gumboots…

We were turning people away at the last few WCIPACs, so it made sense to release some of that pressure this year by making Fork & Brewer a co-host.” Colin says Fork & Brewer was the natural venue choice to expand the event, not only as it is Malthouse’s sister bar, but because it is the only place that had enough taps to accommodate the 25 beers that will be showcased on the evening. Punters at Fork & Brewer need not fear for missing out on any of the beers, celebrations or announcements – all WCIPAC beers will be pouring on tap and announcements made at the same time as at Malthouse.” [5]

Colin modestly omits that he invented the West Coast IPA challenge nine years ago after listening to Luke Nicolas (Epic – The Imp) and Steven Plowman (Hallertau – the Naked Epicurean) argue about who could make the best West Coast style ale. Colin noted this, and then made it so. The first Challenge had two competitors – this one has over two dozen.

Obviously I cannot produce tasting notes for the Challenge beers because I have not tried any of them. As a judge, it would be unethical to do so before the blind tasting at 9:30am on Friday. [6]

However, here are the breweries, the beer names [7] and the ABVs. The exact style is withheld from the judges so they cannot identify who, for example made the only dark IPA or sour IPA this year. I have added comments because this is my blog. Let’s get ready to get hoppy:

Rocky Knob Rock Lobster IPA (Mount Maunganui) 7% (I may have helped name this after seeing Elijah Wood do karaoke opposite Malthouse and/or a Family Guy sketch).

Behemoth Alley Way IPA (Auckland) 6.9% (This is a very in-joke – if you do know, don’t tell).

Epic Thor (Auckland) 8.8% (The Impish Brewer’s homage to a demi-god with a big hammer and long, luxurious and, frankly, sexy hair – namely, himself).

Fork Brewing Bouq (Wellington) 6.5% (Dear #brewjesus – if this is a sour IPA there will be… trouble).

Moa Perris Sky Juice (Blenheim) 7.2% (I do want to touch the sky…)

Choice Bros I’m Afraid of Americans (Wellington) 6.5% (Most Americans are lovely – apart from Donald Trump and Michael Moore clearly).

Townshend Arm Bar (Nelson) 7% (Bonus points to Martin Townshend for a wrestling reference).

8 Wired Russelmania (Auckland) 6.3% (Apparently not named after Russel Crowe, Kurt Russell nor Russel Barbour, my 76th favourite Canadian. However, another bonus point for a pro-wrestling call back).

Kereru Yellowhead IPA (Wellington) 4.5% (A bold move with lower alcohol).

Tuatara Centennial Highway IPA (Wellington) 8% (Named after the road that links Tawa with other minor suburbs such as Porirua, Johnsonville and Te Aro).

Bach Brewing Smugglers Cut (Auckland) 9.4% (9.4% and makes me think of Han Solo from Star Wars? Just shut up and take my money).

Weezeldog Hop Crush (Auckland) 6.7% (Well, I do have a crush on hops. On Radio New Zealand yesterday I described hops as the nearest thing to fruit that I eat).

Yeastie Boys What’cha Want (Invercargill) 6.66% (I swear this was not planned – I wrote a blog recently about the Yeastie Boys and the Beastie Boys. The name of this beer is a 1992 Beastie Boys song title from the album “Check Your Head).

North End Brewing Devil’s Elbow (Wellington) 8% (I am presuming this is another wrestling move and/or whippet training manoeuvre).

Hop Federation West Coast IPA (Nelson) 7.5% (I guess the marketing department were home sick when it came to naming this beer – but I really like the beer that Hop Federation makes).

ParrotDog Wood Rose (Wellington) 7% (“Every wood rose has its thorns, just like every day has its dawn”).

Good George Fogcutter IIPA (Hamilton) 9% (Definition of a Fogcutter – one of the many pieces of military grade hardware needed to get out of Hamilton).

Liberty Brewing The Nine (Auckland) 6.4% (I am presuming nine types of hops were used here… either that or Jo Wood cut off a finger while brewing and now cannot count to ten…)

Hallertau Liquid Swords IPA (Auckland) 7% (Almost certainly the dodgiest name in WCIPA history, but the brewery is a multiple time Challenge winner).

Baylands Gnarly Ryde Dude IPA (Wellington) 6.2% (My beer radar senses – but is not sure – that there is some rye in this IPA).

Panhead Yank Tank (Wellington) 7% (Yank Tanks are the best tanks, apart from the German Panther – that was the classic tank).

Renaissance Pako! (Blenheim) 8.2% (Points on if this is a cultural reference. Points off if this is any way related to Pokemon Go).

Emerson’s Explosive IPA (Dunedin) 7.5% (Richard Emerson, the Chuck Norris of Kiwi Brewing, is about to blow stuff up. There are rumours he may be in the bar to see it…)

Garage Project Party & Bullshit (Wellington) 6.7% (Any other brewery you would laugh at the name. With Garage Project, you cannot help wonder if the label describes the actual ingredients…)

Black Dog Double Hoppy (Wellington) 7% (The name is straight to the point and reminds us the small explosives – sorry, fireworks – which wrecked havoc on generations of young Kiwis).

Judging for the WCIPA starts at 9:30am on Friday. For any queries, please ring me on my cell – I obviously won’t answer until Monday because the Challenge is the reason for the season.

Next time, we drink to (both) the alert eyed readers who pointed out that I mistakenly wrote in a recent blog that David Lange was Prime Minister in 1995 when in fact it was Jim Bolger. This mistake is deeply embarrassing because 1) I am a trained political scientist 2) I am a trained historian and 3) I actually worked for Jim Bolger. Mea Culpa.

[1] Rio will be the last Olympic Games to be taken seriously. Calling it early. 

[2] As featured on Radio New Zealand yesterday.

[3] Not Westport or Greymouth.

[4] Disclaimer: I write the Malthouse blog for money and own 5% of the Fork & Brewer. Ah, disclaiming obviously public information is so worthwhile.

[5] Unless the live streaming is run by me, or, worse Windows 10.

[6] For the record, I have turned down three WCIPA beer samples this week in a rare display of professionalism.

[7] Final names are still changing – however, as breweries can only enter one beer you should be able to track them down.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge Facebook Event –

Fork & Brewer –

Malthouse Facebook –

Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter –!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting