Throughout history there have been many symbols of excellence. These include the Rugby World Cup (but only when New Zealand wins it), the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Lord Stanley’s Cup in frozen pond hockey, a Brewers Guild of New Zealand Gold Medal, obviously The Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Field of Excellence, an Arts Degree, the Pulitzer Prize, the Ranfurly Shield and, of course, the coveted title of New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year.
I’ve probably missed a few…
Equally, there are trophies which actually degrade achievement. These include getting a Nobel Peace Prize before actually doing anything, the America’s Cup (obviously), the infamous Golden Raspberry Awards (the “Razzies”) for the worst movies of the year, a University Sports Blue,  any certificate or ribbon that has “Participation” on it, the Soccer Football World Cup, NCEA Level 2, every MTV Music Video Award, and any ceremony involving Dai Henwood.
There is however one award which towers above all others.
The Golden Gumboots – it is the ultimate prize for the winner of the Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge. By tradition, the winning brewers (if present) have drunk from these cheaply bronzed but treasured boots. If for some reason the winners are absent, random punters from the heaving crowd have been known to do the quaffing honours in absentia. There are also rumours that some winners never washed the gumboots just in case they were not victorious the next year. 
Tomorrow, on Friday 28 July 2017, the champions of the 10th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge will be crowned. Having started a decade ago with two competitors, there are a record 28 challengers (including the first international entry) lining up this year. Because of the dramatic growth of the event, it will be co-hosted by Fork & Brewer and Malthouse. Each bar will have 20 Challenge beers, including four exclusive beers at each venue. Attendance is likely to dwarf New Year’s Eve, Saint Paddy’s Day and the Lions combined.
Here is a rough run sheet:
Way too early in the morning – A panel of ten judges, headed by Beer Writing Doyen and Chief Judge Geoff Griggs, will assemble in the Malty lounge to try the 28 beers and pick those which will go through to the finals. It should be noted that there are three tables of judges so we will “only” be trying 7 or 8 tasters at this point.
Slightly later in the morning but still quite early – Geoff convenes the final table. For this stage, all the brewers who have been judging drop out and (almost without exception) head straight to the bar. This leaves the four beer writers to pick the winners, so it is just as well we are all very judgmental and opinionated.
Midday – Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor, who is usually Chief Steward, will note down the results and remind the judges that the news is strictly embargoed until the official announcement in the evening.
2pm – Doors open to the public. Just know that I will have tried virtually all the beers before you have even seen them. ..
Somewhere between 8pm and 9pm – The above mentioned Colin will stand on the Malthouse bar and announce the winner, place getters and people choice. This will be live streamed to patrons at the Fork & Brewer.
Seconds after the announcement – The winner will be in danger of selling out. I told you this is a huuuuge event.
Here is the final beer list. The alcohol percentages are not being released until the day of the Challenge so I have developed another new ABV Challenge scale. This is because of the last minute realization that the previous scale was inspired by a Jayden Smith rap.  I decided to keep the rap theme but to go instead with the Greatest of All time – Vanilla Ice.
Satisfaction (under 6.5%)
Ice Ice Baby (between 6.5% and 7.5%)
Stop that Train, I want to get off (over 7.5%)
Here are the beers in the order they were sent to me:
Fork Juice Newton Ice Ice Baby
Epic Hysteria Ice Ice Baby
Liberty The Kush Ice Ice Baby
Moa Cutaway Charlie Ice Ice Baby
Panhead Snake Oil Ice Ice Baby
Emerson’s Fistful of dollars Stop that Train, I want to get off
Tuatara Hi-Res Ice Ice Baby
Garage Project Unconditional Love Ice Ice Baby
ParrotDog Double IPA Stop that Train, I want to get off
Fortune Favours The Supernaturalist Ice Ice Baby
8 Wired Lupulust IPA Satisfaction
Hallertau I Like Your Subwoofer Ice Ice Baby
Hop Federation West Coast IPA Ice Ice Baby
Mac’s Wild Cat IPA Satisfaction
Rocky Knob One Way Street Stop that Train, I want to get off
Sprig & Fern Mother of Hops Satisfaction
Bone Face The Gunman Ice Ice Baby
Croucher Freewheeler IPA Ice Ice Baby
Choice Bros I’m Afraid of Americans Ice Ice Baby
BlackDog Rock & Rolla Ice Ice Baby
Good George Bonniedoon IIPA Stop that Train, I want to get off
Baylands Bent Crank IPA Ice Ice Baby
Kereru Hop Wave IIPA Stop that Train, I want to get off
North End Devil’s Elbow Stop that Train, I want to get off
Behemoth C’s get degrees Ice Ice Baby
Eagle Dawn of the Dust Satisfaction
Pirate Life Malthouse Challenge Ice Ice Baby
Urbanaut el Segundo IPA Ice Ice Baby
The Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge is the highlight of my beer year. It is going to be ultra busy but it is going to be great. Enjoy (responsibly of course). If you are on Twitter please use the official hashtag #westcoastipachallenge. Let’s try to get this trending in New Zealand if not THE WORLD!
For those always intrigued by the quotation in the title, it is adapted from “I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve” uttered by Jane Austen. Ms Austen was herself a household brewer when she was not writing novels. 
Next time, we drink to the TransAlpine, a beautiful rail trip between Christchurch and Greymouth (on a pleasant day of course). Do not take my word for it. We were accompanied by a Canadian film crew from the Discovery Channel who make shows about the world’s greatest train journeys. They were also deeply impressed by my 10am beer when everyone else was getting coffee.
 I won one at a time I could not physically see my feet. I made Dennis Connor look like Roger Federer.
 I’m looking at you ParrotDog.
 This is a sentence that no one other than Jayden Smith and Will Smith has ever uttered.
 Apparently this is true, though I did only check after picking the quote.
Beer and Brewer Magazine
10th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/375675949500881/
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting