It’s been called the single most influential beer event in New Zealand, and it’s produced some distinctively big beers.
This year is the tenth West Coast IPA Challenge, with a record 27 entries, including the first international entry from Adelaide’s Pirate Life.
The prize is pretty much bragging rights, adulation and increased sales. The actual prize is a size 10 gumboot spray painted gold.
It started at The Malthouse as a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition between Epic’s Armageddon and Hallertau’s Maximus. Since then more than 100 hoppy IPAs have entered the contest, with many entries staying on as a part of their brewery’s core range.
Over the last nine events, Epic’s Luke Nicholas has collected the Golden Gumboot four times. Luke says New Zealand’s ongoing love of New World IPAs can be traced back to the West Coast IPA Challenge.
“I believe that the West Coast IPA Challenge is the single most influential event for beer in New Zealand for the last ten years. Festivals are fine but they haven’t influenced a style in the same way. It has created some really great signature beers that are world class.
“IPAs sell. People want IPAs and that’s why everyone makes IPAs and that’s why this competition is so popular and so successful.
“If you’re used to lagers then a good IPA has a real wow factor, and that becomes harder to do as people get jaded by some extremes, but a good one is a very satisfying drink. People still want big aroma and big flavour.
“You can only get so much flavour and aroma into a beer and so you have to look at new hop varieties and combinations and techniques to take it somewhere new.
“We’ve created ten beers for this competition, and a lot of them we’ve kept as part of our range – Armageddon, Hop Zombie, Lupulingus, Thor, No Agenda and probably a couple more too.”
This year Epic’s entry is Hysteria IPA, an embiggening of its most successful beer, Armageddon. “We’ve changed the malt, it’s got American pale ale malt and it uses American hops with a little bit of New Zealand hops and it’s 6.9%.”
Luke reckons the TAB would be paying $1.85 for Hysteria to win. “You don’t know who’s going to be stepping up in any year. Joe Woods from Liberty is talking it up and he’s fully capable of bringing a winning beer on the day, and you never know who’s coming to pull one from left field. I couldn’t pick a favourite to win this year.”