I’m thinking of people like fire fighters, nurses, the team that has to wrangle Donald Trump’s hair into place before a press conference, food bank volunteers, everyone at the SPCA, the guy that ties Peter Dunne’s bow tie each day, [1] the crews manning sausage sizzles outside supermarkets, cleaners, and David Warner’s overworked media minder.

On Friday 28 July 2017, the champion of the 10th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge was crowned. There were a record 28 challengers but ultimately only one winner. However, as a judge at this fine event I can confirm there were a large number of outstanding entrants and Malthouse is proud to present a showcase of “West Coast IPA Challenge Unsung Heroes” on tap.

These are beers that did not win that day – but in virtually any other competition would have walked away with the gold. They are all robust, full flavoured IPAs inspired by the best of the American West Coast with its fragrant hop fields, rolling oceans, soaring mountains and hippies – lots of hippies. [2]

Fortune Favours Supernaturalistic (7%) is from the new brewpub located on the nearby Mean Streets of Leeds Street. [3] Actually, it is just on Leeds Street which is very nice these days (it certainly did not use to be let me tell you). Brewer Dale Cooper has taken his flagship Naturalist pale ale and “fed it loads more hops and a bunch more malt.”

The Naturalist was already a fine ale in its own right, but the generous additions of Taiheke and Pacifica hops here brings in notes of orange marmalade and happiness, as well as a long, strong bitter finish. I would not be surprised if this beer became part of their regular range much like Epic Armageddon did up north.

One of the two inaugural Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge contestants was Hallertau Brewery with their excellent Maximus. Along with Epic Brewing, Hallertau holds the distinction of competing at all ten events. This year their entry was Hallertau I Like Your Subwoofer (7.3%). It is a juicy Double IPA which is hoppy with lashings of citrus zest yet securely lashed to a strong malt framework. I thought it was delicious. Hallertau certainly know their pale ales.

Hailing from the picturesque township [4] of Riwaka, Hop Federation has a close affinity with hops both by name and by location. Hop Federation West Coast IPA (6.7%) is an “all American Hopped West Coast IPA.” It utilises Chinook, Centennial and US Cascade hops over a backbone of Crystal Malt and Gladfield Ale malts.

The resulting golden beer has a sticky marmalade nose. In the mouth it simply roars “grapefruit” before a clean dry finish. I am expecting Hop Federation to be a major player in the 11th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge.

Croucher Brewery has been good friends with Malthouse for a long time with their beers frequently appearing on tap. It has also not been unknown for the brewers (Nigel and Dr Paul) to appear at the bar as well. Their Challenge entry this year was the punchy Croucher Freewheeler (7.2%) Double IPA. Despite the heavy use of my beloved Citra and Centennial hops this beer remains incredibly balanced. It is so close to being a sessionable IPA that it is almost dangerous. [5]

From the not particularly picturesque but still quite charming Petone, Baylands Brewery stuffed their Challenge entry with the Lupulin Holy Trinity of Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe hops. These are three of the finest products to come out of America since sliders, bourbon and Baywatch. Baylands Bent Crank IPA (6.7%) is 55 IBUs of grapefruit, orange zest and pine – in a glass of course.

ParrotDog’s move to Lyall Bay meant the beer had to travel slightly further than 500m to reach Malthouse but the extra 5km journey does not seem to have unduly affected ParrotDog IIPA (8.5%). Despite the strong strength it remains smooth and easy to drink. The dominant flavour notes are of orange and grapefruit peels, before a satisfying firm bitterness to finish.

Next time, we drink to the Targaryens – that was quite the family reunion.

[1] I correctly consider myself to be a political tragic but I only learned of Peter Dunne’s retirement by accident while researching this throwaway line. For the record and to avoid any future legal action, Hon Peter Dunne does tie his own bow ties (at least on camera).

[2] My favourite hippies would have to be Lagunitas Brewery. Any more laid back and those dudes would be declared legally dead. Legendary.

[3] In their defence, they have never used this description. It is still just me.

[4] I may be being slight generous there.

[5] Despite this accolade, Freewheeler should be treated with respect as it is still 7.2% – the same percentage as Harrington’s Ngahere Gold which – while not without its charms – is not a session beer.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

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