The final round of the New Mexico IPA Challenge is nearly upon us! Out of the 16 entries to the tasters’ choice competition there are currently five available for tasting in the Duke City. My mission over the past few days has been to try each one in turn and bask in the glory of a veritable galaxy of hops. Stoutmeister joined me on three of these adventures and Mrs. Solo was also present for Bosque’s offering. Whether you are a fan of Northwestern-style IPAs, with their distinctive pine flavor, or have a hankering for more malts or tropical flavors, all of these are well represented and sure to please.
These are the five that we tried: Chama’s Radioactive IPA, Bosque’s Scale Tipper IPA, Turtle Mountain’s India Stupid Ale, Il Vicino’s Sabbatic-ale IPA, and Marble’s Challenge IPA. So as not to unjustly influence any voters at the Challenge, I will refrain from attaching any description to any particular beer.
Three of these were very similar in profile — strong malt backbone punctuated with multiple layers of tropical fruit and citrus flavors. Each beer had a unique combination of mango or peach, tangerine, pineapple, orange, and grapefruit. Another had a strong presence of pine and grapefruit which was very dank in aroma and flavor with a fine, bitter finish. One of these had a far more prominent pine flavor with less of the fruit character and finished with a strong, bitter, crisp bite.
The five brews I sampled are not your everyday, standard “house” IPAs. Many contain close to 10 pounds of hops per barrel and utilize up to 10 different hop varieties in their composition. There is not a single one that disappointed me. They are all really, really outstanding beers, each unique and wonderfully crafted. So whether you like your fruit first or pine or bitter or a combination one way or another on the front or back end, you’ve got it.
Owing to the cost of ingredients alone these IPAs are a rare seasonal and I highly recommend heading to your favorite watering hole and enjoying a pint or two before they disappear! One recommendation on consumption, let your pint rest a bit. The aroma and the flavor of the hops really open up like a flower or a good glass of wine with a slight raise in temperature and oxygenation.
And for the details for the final round (Stoutmeister said I should include this one more time), it kicks off at noon and runs until 4 p.m. at Tractor Wells Park, which is at 1800 N. 4th Street. You can still buy tickets online at nmbeer.org or you can get them at Wells Park. We’re not sure if they will still be selling any at the door Sunday, so get them now just in case.
After two rounds, Bosque leads with 41 votes, followed by Chama River (27), Il Vicino (23), and then a four-way tie with 18 votes for Blue Corn, La Cumbre, Santa Fe, and Tractor. It should make for an exciting finish.
Hope to see you all on Sunday, it will be as Stone Brewing put it best: “A stage dive into a mosh pit of hops!”
— Franz and Mrs. Solo
P.S. Last year Stoutmeister wrote a “Survival Guide” for first-time IPA Challenge participants. It’s all still valid today, so back and read the entire thing. Well, OK, skim it if you have to, but trust me, it’s helpful.