The weekend is upon us, which means the final two rounds of the IPA Challenge are about to begin. This week we have tackled the reasoning behind the popularity of IPAs, given you a survival guide for first-time participants, and now it’s time to wrap things up with a look at what some of the breweries have in store for you.

Last week, when I, Stoutmeister, wasn’t busy with the Isotopes, I went around to talk to some of the breweries about how they are approaching the Challenge. From the four-time defending champions at Il Vicino, to the sleeper that is Chama River, to the savvy veterans at Turtle Mountain, and the first timers at Bosque, here are some final notes before the final rounds.

First up, though, a refresher of sorts.

The time has come to finish them! We intend to have a flawless victory this weekend!

The time has come to finish them! We intend to have a flawless victory this weekend!

The standings

In case anybody forgot, here are the voting totals through the first two rounds from last Friday at High Desert (92 votes cast) and Saturday at Taos Mesa (a paltry 24 votes cast).

1. Blue Corn — 30 votes (18 at High Desert/12 at Taos Mesa)

2. Turtle Mountain — 19 (19/0)

3. Il Vicino — 13 (8/5)

4. Bosque — 10 (10/0)

5. (tie) Broken Bottle — 8 (7/1)

5. (tie) Santa Fe — 8 (8/0)

7. (tie) High Desert — 6 (6/0)

7. (tie) La Cumbre — 6 (2/4)

7. (tie) Three Rivers — 6 (4/2)

10. (tie) Chama River — 5 (5/0)

10. (tie) Second Street — 5 (5/0)

12. (tie) Marble — 4 (4/0)

12. (tie) Taos Mesa — 4 (4/0)

14. Tractor — 2 (2/0)

The gentlemen from this brewery are tackling their first IPA Challenge.

The gentlemen from this brewery are tackling their first IPA Challenge.

The new guys

Co-owner Jotham Michnovicz and brewer Gabe Jensen admitted they did not quite know what they were getting themselves into when they signed up for the IPA Challenge.

“The biggest problem that we’re running into right now is just trying to make enough beer with such a tiny little system,” Jotham said, referring to the 3.5-barrel system in place (a 10-barrel system is coming to replace it when Bosque begins expanding into the space formerly occupied by the Subway next door).

Gabe, who looked like he had just gotten back from a triathlon, agreed.

“I don’t have enough beer for it,” he said. “I do, but it’s cutting it close. Just between IPA Challenge and all these festivals and business picking back up recently, it’s a busy, busy time.”

Because of that situation, Bosque could not brew up a new or modified IPA for the event. Instead they submitted their “house” IPA, Ember.

Of course, Bosque happens to think that Ember is a pretty darned good IPA in its own right, even if it does not conform to the hyper-hopped styles that have come to dominate the Challenge.

“What I like in an IPA is for it to be really hoppy and I don’t like citrus-y flavors in an IPA,” Jotham said. “We wanted to go away from the citrus-y flavors and also have a pretty complex and tasty malt bill, I guess. We also like it to be dry as opposed to that residual sweetness that hangs around from too much alcohol. For me, I think for us here at Bosque what we’re trying to accomplish is what I just said. Heavier on the malts, nice and dry, non-citrus-y hops, lots of aroma and flavor. I think that’s what my palate longs for.”

In other words, non-traditional-IPA fans might be casting votes for Ember.

“We decided to enter our staple that we really feel confident in right now,” Jotham said. “I’ve already started planning an IPA for next year. Right now we’re going to enter our staple in there and we think it stacks up well with the rest of the IPAs in town.”

Chama River has claimed this trophy twice. So yeah, they want it back as much as anybody.

Chama River has claimed this trophy twice. So yeah, they want it back as much as anybody.

The underdog

It is hard to refer to Chama River, a two-time winner of the event (including when it was still Blue Corn Albuquerque), as an underdog. Yet brewer Justin Hamilton has found himself in that role. Working at an establishment that is more a “restaurant that brews beer” than a “brewery that serves food,” he usually keeps his beers lighter on the palate so as not to overwhelm the culinary creations at Chama.

All that being said, Justin is not going to go quietly into the night this year.

“As far as what we have to offer we’re doing our specialty IPA,” he said. “We’re doing the Hop Slap. It’s 7.2 percent alcohol, clocks in at about 110 IBUs. That’s pretty much it. It’s a pretty beefy, American IPA. It’s one we’ve made before. It’s a pretty solid beer and we’re hoping it does well.”

Now, whenever you call a beer “Hop Slap” you had better mean it. Dropping just a couple of hops into the kettle is not worthy of such a title.

“Our Hop Slap is mainly a combination of Simcoe and Chinook and some Crystal as well and some Cascade,” Justin said.

OK, four hops, that should suffice to knock our palates for a loop.

From the heart of Turtle Mountain, Genesis IPA has come into being and is now making a serious run at the IPA Challenge trophy.

From the heart of Turtle Mountain, Genesis IPA has come into being and is now making a serious run at the IPA Challenge trophy.

The veteran

Turtle Mountain’s Nico Ortiz was there when the IPA Challenge was first conceived and has attended so many rounds over the years that he has lost count. What he has not lost is a desire to bring the trophy back to Rio Rancho for a third time.

This year Turtle is bringing Genesis IPA to the competition and this new creation took first place at High Desert last Friday. The stats on this beast: 6.5-6.8 percent ABV, 1.068 OG, 100+ IBU. Genesis is made with Summit, Falconer’s Flight, and Columbus hops. It is then dry-hopped with more Falconer’s and some Centennial hops.

“It’s a brand-new recipe,” Nico said. “Mark (Matheson, TMBC brewer) is trying to poke at Exodus.”

Genesis is not a light-colored IPA that will disappear in the crowd. That was done on purpose, said TMBC general manager Adam Galarneau.

“I think that’s another reason we wanted a little more color, a little more body to our IPA,” Adam said. “Not like (Il Vicino’s), but a little (less) discernible from theirs.”

Both Nico and Adam agreed that as IPAs have continued to evolve, so have the tastes of the people who drink them.

“The palate of the beer drinker has evolved,” Adam said.

The three-time champion, Exodus, is on the far right.

The three-time champion, Exodus, is on the far right.

The champ

Brady McKeown does not have to wear a shirt with red and white circles on it, but he might as well at this point.

“Brady has a huge target on his back,” Nico said.

Il Vicino’s mad scientist of a brewer has walked away with six trophies, including the last four, three won by Exodus, the hop bomb of all hop bombs.

“We’ve been tinkering a little bit but it’s really up to your (hops) contracts,” Brady said of the 2013 version of Exodus. “We have Citra, we were able to buy a little bit of Amarillo hops. We do have Simcoe on contract but that usually goes in Wet Mountain so we can’t use too much. We’d love to throw a bunch of potent hops into it. As far as ideas I have there are a lot but it’s changed a little bit due to what’s available.”

That does not mean this year’s Exodus is at all watered down compared to years past. Anyone who sampled it at Hop Kwon Do should know that it is still a beast.

Last year Il Vicino actually trailed after the first two rounds of the Challenge before it moved ahead in round three and then blew everyone else out of the water in the final round, which was hosted at the Canteen. In the end, Il Vicino piled up 114 votes, with Marble a distant second at 61.

Brady acknowledged that everyone will be gunning for him and Exodus.

“It doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal until it’s like the week before,” Brady said. “That’s when people start thinking about it. Of course it’s competitive among some of us. Jeff (Erway of La Cumbre) won a gold medal at GABF for Elevated and didn’t win (the 2012 IPA Challenge). It was a reality check after winning medals at GABF and World Beer Cup but didn’t win the IPA Challenge.

“Ted (Rice of Marble) always makes good IPA. And Nico of course is competitive.”

The two Brew Crew members on the left are definitely going to be at Saturday's final round of the IPA Challenge. Say hello if you see us. We'll even take a goofy photo with you. So long as it does not get in the way of our drinking, of course.

The two Brew Crew members on the left are definitely going to be at Saturday’s final round of the IPA Challenge. Say hello if you see us. We’ll even take a goofy photo with you. So long as it does not get in the way of our “jobs.”

Final notes

The move to the top of the dogpile by Blue Corn and Turtle Mountain after the first two rounds has surprised plenty of us. Rather than Albuquerque’s “Big Three” of Il Vicino, La Cumbre, and Marble, two underdogs have taken the early lead. Of course, no one is counting on the standings remaining the same, not with much bigger crowds expected to come out tonight in Santa Fe and Saturday at Marble.

“And obviously that’s the biggest event,” Nico said of the final round. “Upwards of 300 people come out. That’s really where the IPA Challenge is determined.”

E-Rock is planning on representing the Crew tonight at SFBC, while Franz Solo and I will be present for the final round. (Brandon and Shilling are TBD) We will be sporting our official Brew Crew black shirts, so keep an eye out for us. Say hello if you get the chance. Just don’t go and spoil anything by telling us something like “No. 4 is totally so-and-so’s IPA.” We hate spoilers.

We will be posting live updates via our Facebook page and Twitter (@nmdarksidebc) during the final events and we will have a full story with tonight’s results posted as soon as we receive them. And after Saturday’s final round we will (try to) have a full interview with the victorious brewer.

Thanks for reading all of our IPA Challenge articles. They have been fun to write, but not nearly as much fun as it will be to finally participate in the Challenge itself!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Advertisements
Comments
  1. […] out the votes were, this is hardly a done deal for Bosque. Remember, last year Turtle Mountain won the opening round at High Desert in Las Cruces. Blue Corn did not start to pull away until Round Three (there were […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s