Behold, the hopped mysteries of the pint.

Behold, the hopped mysteries of the pint.

“In the broader sense, I’m wondering how many medals New Mexico will score at Great American Beer Festival,” said New Mexico Brewers Guild director Christopher Goblet. “IPA is only one section within GABF, but let’s wave that ‘NMIPA’ flag proudly.”

He’s right. I make a formal motion for all of us to turn that flag into a formal #NMIPA hashtag and brandish it proudly. Full disclosure — I’m a fan of hops. I know it’s trendy, and I accept all the responsibility (and the chance I may be called a hipster) that goes along with declaring myself an IPA fan. But there’s something notable happening here in New Mexico. These hoppy beers that we get to order at the local pub are being recognized nationally.

Christopher Goblet, the Beer Ambassador for New Mexico, tests a sip of Second Street's IPA entry in this year's glassware

Christopher Goblet, the Beer Ambassador for New Mexico, tests a sip of Second Street’s IPA entry in this year’s glassware

So what’s the big deal with the VIPA Challenge? And, wait … isn’t there an IPA Challenge coming up? Yes, there is. The bigger question is how do we narrow down all of this hoppy goodness to just 14 samples on a tray when there are 25 New Mexico breweries entering their finest concoctions? That’s where you come in. This is your chance to put your hops knowledge to the test and make it count. By attending the VIPA Challenge this Sunday, you will be casting your vote for those final 14 brews that make it onto next week’s tasting trays. Then, when your friends show up for the IPA Challenge later this month, you can say you had a part in deciding who was on (or off) the island.

Some of our own Dark Side Brew Crew members will be official judges at the VIPA Challenge. I thought it prudent to ask a few of them what their hops preferences tended towards, just so you know what you may be up against should you choose to show up and cast your vote.

Brandon: “What I like most is an IPA that has some complexity in its makeup with the malt bill and hop profile, and a hop profile that shows different dimensions of each strain used.”

Franz: “I am a lover of hops in all forms. American style is by far my favorite over English and I love both brutal bitter and aromatic tropical creations. Currently I’m on a tropical sweet trend as my own batch of Sturmbrau Blitzhammer double IPA will attest.”

Adam: “Grew up English style, convert to the way of the West Coast in recent years.”

Laura: “My IPA preferences are citrus and tropical fruit with a great malt balance. But any well-made, complex, balanced IPA is very much appreciated by my palate.”

Brewers beware. And hops fans, you’ve been warned! The hop-sophisticates this Crew represents could be a veritable tipping point for the VIPA Challenge.

For $40 (single entrance ticket) or $70 for two, you’ll enjoy the right to be an official hops snob alongside the judges and cast your vote for the best hoppy brews from around the state. To sweeten the pot, you’ll get a T-shirt, the official IPA Challenge glass, an insulated six-pack cooler, plus $5 off admission to any New Mexico Brewer’s Guild event for the remainder of the year. Learn more at www.nmbeer.org/vipa. (Editor’s note: This is the Enthusiast Membership we were helping people to sign up for during ABQ Beer Week. — S)

Cast your vote for your favorite hops concoction on Sunday, and help usher in the next phase of #NMIPA. Our state has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to hops, and we humbly plead for your help.

nmipaThe full list of breweries who will be participating in the VIPA, as provided by the Guild (subject to change).

  1. Back Alley Draft House
  2. Bathtub Row
  3. Blue Corn
  4. Bosque (defending champion)
  5. Boxing Bear
  6. Canteen
  7. Chama River
  8. High Desert
  9. Kaktus
  10. La Cumbre
  11. Lizard Tail
  12. Marble
  13. Pi
  14. Ponderosa
  15. Red Door
  16. Roosevelt
  17. Sandia Chile Grill
  18. Santa Fe
  19. Second Street
  20. Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande
  21. Spotted Dog
  22. Taos Mesa
  23. Three Rivers
  24. Tractor
  25. Turtle Mountain

The format of the event, for those participating, is as follows. The doors at Sandia Casino, ballrooms A & B, will open at 11:45 a.m. Settle in and grab a table with friends. Bring your ticket(s) and a valid ID. At 12:15 p.m. things will begin with some opening remarks from the Guild, at which point you will receive the first tray of 13 IPAs. There will be palate-cleansing snacks, water, and other finger food available to keep the hops from hammering you into submission. Take some serious notes, then pick your seven favorites from that tray. After a break, you will get a second tray of 12 beers. Take your time, take some notes, keep your palate as fresh as possible, and ultimately pick another seven. These 14 beers will be your choices to reach the main rounds of the IPA Challenge. Please remember, you do not have to finish every sample, not even the ones you really like. Dump buckets will be available.

Above all, have fun, enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow hopheads, and may the best IPAs win!

Cheers!

— Julie (with an assist from Stoutmeister)

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