The people have spoken and there is a new/old king of the IPA in New Mexico.

Bosque's brewing staff poses with the IPA Challenge trophy. From left, head brewer John Bullard, assistant brewers Ira Strain-Bey and Ryan Jameson, and founding brewer Gabe Jensen.

Bosque’s brewing staff poses with the IPA Challenge trophy. From left, head brewer John Bullard, assistant brewers Ira Strain-Bey (holding the trophy) and Ryan Jameson, and founding brewer Gabe Jensen.

The 2014 IPA Challenge came to a close Sunday evening at Tractor Wells Park with Bosque Brewing taking home the trophy for the first time. It was the second straight victory for brewer John Bullard, who won his first Challenge last year when he was with Blue Corn.

“It feels good, man, it feels really good,” John said Sunday. “It’s way more rewarding this time with a brewery that supports me entirely. It’s really good.”

Bosque co-owner and founding brewer Gabe Jensen was all smiles after the final votes were announced. John and his assistant brewers, Ryan Jameson and Ira Strain-Bey gathered to hold the trophy aloft.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Gabe said. “I’m so proud of John and Ryan and Ira. Those guys, oh man.”

Bosque racked up 65 votes in the final round 106 total. Marble made it closer in the end, piling up 61 votes (including mine, the rest of the Crew who attended — Franz Solo, Mrs. Solo, Brandon — went with Bosque) to finish second overall with 77 votes. Chama River (72), Turtle Mountain (56), La Cumbre (55), and host Tractor (36) followed. Add it all up and no one at Bosque ever felt like they were going to run away with the trophy.

The very first tray of all 16 IPA Challenge beers was served to Stoutmeister. We know how shocked you all are at this news.

The very first tray of all 16 IPA Challenge beers was served to Stoutmeister. We know how shocked you all are at this news.

“No, I never thought that once,” John said. “I was pretty nervous today. This was the best Challenge I’ve seen yet. There was a huge amount of great beers in this lineup. It was tough competition. It was a lot of fun, though.”

Gabe said he felt the closer competition made for a more exciting, and nerve-wracking, finish to this year.

“Compared to last year, not that there weren’t a lot of good beers, but John ran away with it,” Gabe said. “This year, I didn’t know which one to vote for. There were several really good beers, even some that didn’t get that many votes, I thought they were right there. It’s obvious the level (of talent) is coming up.”

A total of 361 people voted at Tractor, which by most accounts was an all-time high for the final round. Despite starting a few minutes late, the entire process went smoothly and efficiently. The Tractor staff did a great job keeping the line moving and helping people throughout the day. Kudos to Skye Devore and all of her employees, they made this one of the best finales to date.

The Crew tackles the Challenge. Clockwise from bottom left, Stoutmeister, Brandon, honorary Crew member Lea, Franz Solo, and Mrs. Solo.

The Crew tackles the Challenge. Clockwise from bottom left, Stoutmeister, Brandon, honorary Crew member Lea, Franz Solo, and Mrs. Solo.

As for the beers, the field of 16 was outstanding this year. There was no undrinkable beer among them, though the gap between the favorites and the also-rans did emerge. Bosque’s Scale Tipper, Marble’s Challenge IPA, Chama River’s Radioactive, Turtle Mountain’s India Stupid Ale, and La Cumbre’s Project Dank were clearly the crowd’s choices, but the gap between them was not that high. (And yes, it was a very tough decision for all of us, too.)

The key to Scale Tipper’s victory? A big old dose of quality hops balanced with a malty backbone that made it a heavyweight masterpiece.

“This year was a lot bigger,” John said. “This was a way bigger beer than last year. I think that had a lot do with the flavor impact. Massive hopping rates, man.

“We even mashed higher to keep more of that malt presence in there.”

Many people that the Crew talked to felt that #8 (which was Scale Tipper) was the biggest and burliest beer of the bunch.

“I heard word of ours being over-the-top,” Gabe said. “I think by itself it was. Yes, we did that on purpose and I’m OK with it.”

The huge turnout of beer lovers included plenty of folks from other breweries. Among those we crossed paths with were Kaylynn McKnight and Ken Carson from Nexus, Zach Guilmette and David Facey from Chama River, James Warren from Blue Corn, and Nico Ortiz and Tim Woodward from Turtle Mountain. Add it all up and craft brewing is doing great throughout New Mexico.

“It’s growing fast, it’s strong, it’s alive, and we all support each other, that’s the best part of this whole thing,” John said.

Thanks to everyone who set up the IPA Challenge — a special shout-out to Christopher Goblet of the Brewers Guild for his tireless work — and to everyone who attended the event. We think a good time was had by all. This was one of the most fun events we have been to in all our years of covering and participating in the Challenge. Next year should be even more fun.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister and the rest of the NMDSBC

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Comments
  1. Just got back from Bosque after a pint of Scale Tipper – congrats to John and his crew and Gabe and his partners!

  2. […] team of writers who also brew in their spare time) in May as part of ABQ Beer Week, followed by the 2014 IPA Challenge in […]

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