George Lucas, the great Ronald Reagan, that dodgy Red Hot Chilli Peppers song, my beloved San Francisco Giants, In-N-Out burgers and incredibly hoppy pale ales.

The fast becoming legendary Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge has its origins in the beautiful Bear Republic but was created inside 48 Courtenay Place, Wellington, New Zealand. Basically, after returning from the World Beer Cup in San Diego, brewers Luke Nicholas (Epic) and Steve Plowman (Hallertau) were at the bar having a then hypothetical argument about who could make the best West Coast style IPA.

They were overheard by a sober and savvy Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor who actually made it happen. In the first year, there were two entrants. This year there are 29. I say this pretty much every year but it is a new record. Conveniently, it also happens to be true in this case.

The 11th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge will be held on Friday 27 July from 3pm. This is the biggest day on the Malthouse calendar. Forget New Year’s Eve, Emoji Day [1] and Saint Patrick’s Day – this is the most popular Malthouse event by a country mile with heaving crowds – both at Malthouse and simultaiously pouring at Fork & Brewer, debating their favourite brews from a stellar line up of unique beers made specifically for the Challenge. That is right, nothing you have ever tasted before.

Except that I will have tasted them all before you because I am on the judging panel which starts work at 9:30am on Challenge Day. Expertly led by head judge Geoff Griggs, the doyen of New Zealand beer writing, a panel of skilled judges [2] will sample, rate and rank the entries. The winning brewer will receive the prestigious Golden Gumboots Trophy and, if present, often drinks from it.

Here is the pretty much official Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge 2018 beer list:

Fork Brewing – IP Yay – Kelly Ryan will work his #brewjesus miracle on this style.

Epic – Riot – As I suspected from the Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas, there is a Def Leppard song about riots – Run Riot from 1987. The lyrics give a hint to his brewing style:

“C’mon, it’s alright we’re hot tonight
Run, run riot
You gotta run, run riot.”

Liberty – Jungle Juice – Liberty has always done well in the Challenges, perhaps because the brewery was created in the dense jungle of New Plymouth.

Moa – Straight UP IPA – Unsure why UP is capitalised but there must be a reason… Moa has medalled a number of times in this competition.

Panhead – Batch 41 (REDACTED) IPA – I like Panhead. However, putting REDACTED in beer worries me. It will be interesting to see if I can pick in a blind tasting. I will probably love it.

Emerson’s – Max Power – Emerson’s is one of the nation’s finest and most beloved breweries. However, by my reckoning, this is their first beer that makes a Simpsons reference. [3]

Tuatara – Scaly Bastard – Strong language for what looks to be a very strong beer.

Garage Project – West Coast Ultra – GP is always very creative, including entering what was clearly an East Coast IPA in a previous West Coast IPA Challenge then acting offended when they did not win. Who knows what it will be this year?

ParrotDog – West Coast IPA – An early winner of the most utilitarian beer title of the Challenge. It will be hoppy.

Fortune Favours – The Trialist WCIPA – A new and local entrant. I am pretty sure they just made up that word to fit into their existing branding structure.

8Wired – A magnificent brewery but this beer has no name at the time of writing.

Hallertau – West Side – I think we all know that brewer Stephen Plowman has always been a bit West Side MASSIVE.

Hop Federation – Gator Juice WCIPA – Hopefully this is not like the cocktail of the same name which includes canned fruit, fruit punch, watermelon schnapps and raspberry schnapps. I have confidence that it will not.

McLeod’s – Lochaber – A beer named after the Scottish highlands which were reputably won by a man winning an arm wrestling contest with the Loch Ness Monster. What is not to like?

Rocky Knob – NPB – Given Rocky Knob’s track record, do we want to know what NPB stands for? On the other hand, they do make Snapperhead.

Sprig & Fern – (REDACTED) – Patriotic and presumably punchy as, bro.

Boneface – Killed by Death – Certainly a consistent theme with a skull bone logo that has been killed by death. It should be noted that all killings are caused by death. Personally, I hope it is death by hops.

Eagle Brewing – Hops Hops Baby – This beer gains points by saying hops twice and then referencing the third best Vanilla Ice song.

Choice Bros – I’m Afraid of Americans 2018 – The title of the beer is probably even more relevant since the election of President Donald Trump.

BlackDog – Shadow Soul IPA – This will be the first Challenge entrant from their new and very beautiful genuine craft brewery.

Good George – Jousting Sticks WCIPA – Even I am not brave enough to Google search “Jousting Sticks”, especially with Image search on.

Whistling Sisters – A fine brewery but this beer has no name at the time of writing.

Brew Union – Super Eagle WCIPA – The only thing that is better than an eagle is a Super Eagle. That is a scientific fact. I look forward to Ultra Eagle next year already.

Deep Creek – West Side IPA – Deep Creek is probably more legitimately West Side than Hallertau. Their beers will have a personal drive by shoot out at the Challenge.

Heyday – High Noon – The classic movie High Noon (1952) was shot in California. Not a lot of people know that.

Urbanaut – El Segundo WCIPA 2018 – El Segundo is a city in California whose name translates from Spanish to “The Second”. Even fewer people know that.

Baylands – Sky Shark – Sharknado is one of my favourite films and included many sharks coming from the skies. I have high hopes for this pale ale.

Te Aro – Weasel Juice IPA – The name is awesome. Hopefully, the beer is too!

Croucher – Shredded WCIPA – I may be overthinking this but I am assuming this is a skateboarding reference given the sport is popular in California. Shredding means achieving to the best of your ability and hopefully Croucher have done the same.

Next time we drink to Sharknado because now I cannot stop thinking about all four outstanding instalments in this fine franchise.

[1] It was 17 July for those that care… which should not be anyone.

[2] Jono Galuszka will also be on the judging panel.

[3] Homer Simpson was looking for a name for his new persona and was inspired by the hotel hairdryer which had a safety label reading “Max Power”. It is unclear why Homer would need the services of a hair dryer.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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