The decisive final round of the 2015 NM IPA Challenge is set to kick off this Saturday at noon at Boxing Bear. The first two rounds of the NMIPAC have seen strong showings by current leader Blue Corn (48 votes), second-place and defending champion Bosque (42 votes), and local heavyweight Marble (41 votes). Can anyone else roar into the picture? Or will one of these three breweries finally separate itself from the pack and take the trophy home?
As always, for the newcomers out there, the NMIPAC is open to all members of the public. It costs $20 to join in. You get a tray of numbered samples (which beer is which is revealed after the votes have been submitted) and then a pint of your choice at the end, which is your vote. The competition will run from noon to 5:30 p.m., with the vote likely to be announced within an hour of the event’s completion. The Albuquerque round of the competition usually has in excess of 300 attendees, so plan accordingly in terms of arrival time and transport to the event.
To help everyone out, newcomers and veterans alike, I also checked in on a few points with Boxing Bear brewer Justin Hamilton, our host for the afternoon.
- Boxing Bear is located at 10200 Corrales Rd NW, for those who have never been before. It is in the northeast corner of the shopping center that lies on that side of the Alameda-Corrales/Coors intersection. Because this is a shopping center with other businesses, please be mindful of where you park. There are no outright restrictions, but this is probably a time where carpooling, using Uber or a taxi, or even riding your bike up the nearby Bosque trail would be appropriate.
- The folks at Boxing Bear would ask that you do not bring in your own food, such as pretzels or other “palate cleansing” snacks. Either the Brewers Guild or BBB will likely sell such food, plus there will be the full BBB menu available, with sandwiches, appetizers, chips, and the like.
- Justin was unsure if there will be any tickets available at the door Saturday. You would be best off buying yours online here and playing it safe.
- There will be separate lines for tray pickup and pint pickup. There should also be dump buckets available for the IPAs you either cannot or simply do not wish to finish. Staff members will also be moving about, helping to clear trays when you decide you are finished.
If we get any more updates from Justin or the Guild about anything you need to know, we will add them above.
Now that all that is out of the way, the rest of this is for NMIPAC newbies. Consider it sage advice from the Crew.
- Aroma is your friend. La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway once said a beer’s aroma is its invitation to you. When you get your tray, take a moment to indulge in the hoppy aromas of all 15 beers. Maybe jot down a quick note about each on the paper provided.
- Go in whatever order you want. Some people go 1 to 15. Others will go 15 to 1. Some will go even numbers, others will go odd, some will just go all over the place. It is totally up to you.
- These are not shots at a college party. Take the time to sip each beer once or twice. If there is food available (or at least water), try to cleanse your palate a bit in between beers. Unless you show up at 3:30, do not rush yourself. Give every beer a fair chance.
- Once the beers on your tray have warmed, give them first another sniff and then another taste. Aromas and flavors often change with the temperature. A good beer holds its quality, at least in our humble opinion.
- You do not have to drink every drop of all 15 samples. In fact, we would encourage you to not to do that. You will dull your palate and the beers you try last will not get a fair assessment. Once you narrow it down to a few favorites, dump the also-rans. And remember, you get 16 ounces of your favorite at the end.
- This is your vote, not anyone else’s vote. You do not have to corroborate your friend or significant other or even the person sitting next to you. If you hear some of the more notable beer geeks, like us (though we would never claim to be true expert judges), picked say No. 10, that does not mean you have to pick it as well. And even if your favorite brewery in all of New mexico is rumored to be No. 7, if that was not your personal favorite, then don’t vote for it. Back at VIPA most of us were convinced No. 4 was Bosque. It turned out to be Canteen. Sometimes even brewery staffers and brewers themselves have a hard time picking out their beer. The fun of this is the blind challenge part.
- Have fun. That is what this is about. Oh, sure, it is about getting the trophy and bragging rights for one brewery, but ultimately all of the brewers will still be friends on Sunday, regardless of the outcome. (At least we hope so, anyway.) Come on down and enjoy yourself!
Oh, and finally, to all of those people bashing the NMIPAC set-up and its participants on social media because of the surprisingly low vote total of a certain brewery, we really, really hope you show up and put your palates to the test. Unless you would rather hide behind the anonymity of the internet and continue to spew venom at your fellow beer drinkers, then by all means, stay home. The rest of us will have fun without you.
Shots fired. Couldn’t resist.
See you all Saturday afternoon.