IPA Challenge: The champ is here … no, wait, he’s there!

Posted: July 11, 2014 by cjax33 in IPA Challenge 2014
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The 2014 edition of the IPA Challenge is set to kick off Saturday at noon at Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe. It will also kick off with an unusual twist this year. Blue Corn Brewery is the defending champion, yet the defending champion brewer, John Bullard, is now at Bosque Brewing. The trophy stayed at Blue Corn, but in the eyes of many, Bosque is now the brewery to beat.

John Bullard hoisted the IPA Challenge trophy last year, but he has since moved from Blue Corn to Bosque. He will aim for a repeat of sorts starting this weekend.

John Bullard hoisted the IPA Challenge trophy last year, but he has since moved from Blue Corn to Bosque. He will aim for a repeat of sorts starting this weekend.

John’s Resurgence IPA was the first beer outside the Albuquerque metro area to win the Challenge. It had hop power, but was not a pure hop bomb. A strong malt bill balanced it out. So does that mean the days of the hop bomb are over? Even John is not sure where IPAs are headed, but he had some time to sit down and chat about Challenges past and present.

Q: What’s your take on the state of the Challenge and IPAs in general?

John: They’re getting crazy, man, really crazy. I was joking with Josh (Trujillo) from Marble that instead of pounds (of hops) per barrel these days it’s going to be pounds per gallon. It is, it’s getting ridiculous. This one I’ve put more in than I have any of the others. I’ve heard Il Vicino pushed Exodus and I think Jeff pushed Project Dank some more, too. It’s getting really wild.

Q: I know it’s a friendly competition, but how much of a desire is there for you to win it, especially winning it for Bosque this time?

John: It would mean a lot more for me to win it down here, for sure. Especially being back down here in the mix of Albuquerque brewers. It would be awesome. It’s going to be tough, a tough competition this year, really tough.

Q: Do you think breaking that stretch of Exodus domination (three straight titles prior to 2013) has fired up more people for the competition?

John: Yeah, I think so. And Jeff Erway I think is on the forefront of IPAs these days and is really pushing it. We’ll see what happens.

Q: What do you think was the key last year for Resurgence to come away with the win? Was it the balance as opposed to being a hop bomb?

John: There was still a malt backbone to it, which is what we strive for in most of the IPAs we make here at Bosque. It leads the juiciness in IPAs, it’s not just pure dry bitterness in the finish. There’s actually some malt character there to follow through and carry you into that hop-forward, hop-flavored finish.

Q: How many versions of this year’s IPA have you gone through before settling on this batch?

John: Not much. This is the second specialty IPA we’ve made on this system at Bosque. We had the Fisticuffs before this. This is going to be called Scale Tipper IPA.

Q: As far as the competition goes, it’s been scaled back from four locations to three this year. Do you like the current setup with one in Albuquerque, one in Santa Fe, and one somewhere else in the state?

John: I think it’s good. I think for some locations if you can support it, I think it’s great. It brings a lot of people to your establishment. Maybe while they’re there they try food or beer they haven’t tried before. I think it’s a good thing. The smaller taproom venues like here I think wouldn’t work, but a place like our new taproom (opening soon in Nob Hill) would be awesome.

Q: I would rate Bosque now as one of the heavyweight breweries in this town —

John: Thanks, man!

Q: You’re welcome. You’ll be one of the favorites along with Il Vicino, La Cumbre, and Marble this year. But going into last year I don’t think anyone saw Blue Corn winning going into the Challenge. Who could be some sleepers this time around in your opinion?

John: I’ve got my on Zach (Guilmette) at Chama and I’ve got my eye on James (Warren) and Nick up there at Blue Corn. Kaktus, also. You never know. I wouldn’t put it past anybody.

Q: I think the blind taste test format is the best way to do it. Do you agree?

John: I do, too. You always have those people that say they’re a Bosque regular or Il Vicino regular and they’re going to try to find the one they drink all the time and they’re going to vote for that beer whether they like it or not. I’d encourage people to find whatever you like the most and vote for it.

Q: Heck, last year I picked my favorite and I was sure it was either Exodus or Resurgence. It turned it to be La Cumbre. So you never really know.

John: Project Dank was relatively new last year at that time. I’d say a huge part of Albuquerque IPA connoisseurs, if you will, are quite tuned into Dank. It will be interesting to see what happens this year.

Q: And yet Dank changes every time he has a bottling run with the hops and the overall mixture. So what Dank are you getting?

John: That’s a good point. I guess that’s a good thing because (Jeff is) just educating people more on what a good IPA is all about.

* * * *

Thanks to John for taking time out of his busy day. The new brewery system at Bosque was humming away the entire time we were there (so a thank you to my digital recorder for not being overwhelmed by all that noise).

Tickets are still available to all three rounds of the IPA Challenge. You can still head to the breweries themselves to buy tickets or you can buy them online at the NM Brewers Guild site and there should be tickets at the door.

Round One of the Challenge kicks off Saturday at noon and runs until 4 p.m. at Second Street. Take note, there will be no beer sales or food sales at Second Street until the Challenge is over. So make sure your bellies have a good sponge in them before you head over. Luke (and possibly Reid) of the Brew Crew Bullpen will be covering this round for us. UPDATE: Actually, if you’re participating in the IPA Challenge, you can order food at Second Street. So don’t panic and try to wolf down a bologna-and-cheese sandwich and end up choking to death. You can still get one of their delicious burgers or sandwiches to keep yourself from getting a little “loopy” on all those IPAs.

Round Two of the Challenge runs Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Roosevelt Brewing in Portales. This will be the first time Roosevelt has hosted the Challenge, so we’ll be very interested to see how things turn out for them. At this point, it does not look like any of us can make the trek east in the middle of the work week, so if anyone wants to be a one-day correspondent for the Crew, contact us via email at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Round Three will wrap things up at Tractor Wells Park on Sunday, July 20 from noon to 4 p.m. Look for most of the Crew out there, including some of our new Bullpen members.

We will get you all the results as quickly as we receive them from the events. Keep up to date with us on Facebook and Twitter (@nmdarksidebc) for updates.

Enjoy the IPAs!


— Stoutmeister

  1. Gaby Loy says:

    Just a note….For the IPA Challenge at Second Street Brewery, we will be serving food for those attending the Challenge, We will not be open to diners not participating in the challenge. Food will be available for purchase….Thanks

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