During this break between IPA Challenge rounds it seemed like a perfectly good time to address this little question.
Why do beer lovers in New Mexico rank the IPA as their favorite beer?
We in the Crew certainly have our theories but in the end, we are hardly experts. So while I, Stoutmeister, was conducting my interviews about the Challenge itself, I made sure to ask just about every brewer/owner what was their theory on the popularity of IPAs. (As my pen name on here might suggest, it’s not my favorite style, but I still respect the IPA and enjoy the heck out of the Challenge.) Here are some of their thoughts on the rise of the IPA and what the future might hold for this mega-popular genre.
Brady McKeown, Il Vicino
“I’ve heard an interesting theory from one of our regulars. He drew a line between spicy food and hoppy beer. It’s true. Look at San Diego, look here at our culinary arts, up in the Pacific Northwest. IPA seems to be a big deal. It was an interesting theory and I like the fact that people like something that really stands out like the spices in the chile and they like that in that beer as well.
“It’s so much different than the macro beers, too. Those are a couple of things that make sense to me. It’s about as far as you can get from a mainstream beer.”
Nico Ortiz, Turtle Mountain
“People in New Mexico like chile. Really hot chile gives you the endorphin rush. I don’t know if hops necessarily give you the endorphin rush (too) but it is a powerful, challenging flavor. A real hoppy beer is alcoholically strong, body-wise strong, IBUs strong. It challenges your palate. It’s unmistakably you are drinking beer. That (red) rye is very mild, it doesn’t challenge your palate. People can drink it easily.
“An IPA can really make you think, ’Whoa, I’ve got pine, and spice and some grass and fruit and you name it.’ You can’t not drink an IPA just going like this. Of course when you think about it, it goes well with spicy food. We put chile on everything.
“That’s why this is an IPA Challenge, not a stout challenge or a porter challenge. IPA is the flagship beer. Aside from the (Monks) Brewery up in Abiquiu, if you’re a brewery in New Mexico you’ve got to have an IPA. It might not be your best-selling beer but I would certainly it should be the one you take the most pride in.”
Justin Hamilton, Chama River
“I think IPAs are, especially what we have here in New Mexico, is a West Coast IPA. Very bitter, very aromatic. (It’s) almost where it becomes a crazy obsession to get as much bitterness and aroma as you can into an IPA. I think the reason why it’s kind of taken over here in New Mexico … it’s a couple reasons. I think we have a very diverse ethnicity here in Albuquerque and there’s kind of original flavors in IPAs for your palate. Something like an IPA goes well in New Mexico with Mexican food (and) any type of ethnic food you can think of there’s probably a place for it. I guess it’s just kind of a culture bomb.
“The way that’s been portrayed in the brewing world is that IPA has big, dominant flavors and big, dominant aromas. It’s the beer that takes a little time to get to know. Once you get to know an IPA it’s worth it. I think it’s partially a cultural thing but it’s also our relation to the location as far as West Coast. I think that spillover was part of it, too, people going to California, Washington, and Oregon, and coming back with tales of those great beers.”
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There are still tickets available for the final two rounds of the IPA Challenge. Round three will kick off this Friday from 4-8 p.m. at Santa Fe Brewing. The fourth and final round will run from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday at Marble’s downtown pub.
We will have plenty more on the IPA Challenge, including live updates on Facebook and Twitter from Saturday’s final round, as well as stories the rest of the week, including a guide on how to best survive the Challenge itself for any first-timers.
Oh, yeah, and if you see E-Rock out and about today (Wednesday), wish him a happy birthday. And if you see him at Tractor tonight, buy him a beer (which saves the rest of us poor, poor Crew members since we’re pretty much all broke). He’s earned it by tackling The Week Ahead in Beer every week he’s not at random music gatherings outside the state.