The 2016 edition of the New Mexico IPA Challenge kicks off this Saturday at noon with the preliminary round at Rio Bravo Brewing. If you need a reminder of how it will be set up, we wrote about that a while back. To further help you out, we asked Rio Bravo brewer Ty Levis for additional details.
“We are going to host the IPA Challenge in the brewhouse,” Ty said in an email. “We have decided to have participants file in through the doors at the east end of the taproom (like you were going to go out to the stage area) and we will have all the service and jockey box setups right there. From there participants will enter the main brewery through the side gate, where you will be able to sit at one of six-to-seven picnic tables set up inside along the row of brite tanks or alongside the brewhouse. We will allow participants to go out back to the bier garden where we will have some tents shading additional picnic tables, trying to keep all those IPAs out of the sun!!! Who let in the skunk?
“An important aspect to the IPA Challenge is that there are two huge flights of 14 beers and you will not be allowed to choose which flight you are given. Only the seven most voted for beers in each flight will move on to round two, which will probably lead to some amazing IPAs being left behind in round one. We hope to be in the running, but as you know ABQ is IPA Valhalla and I suspect that if you aren’t putting in 6-10 pounds of hops per barrel, you’re going to get left behind, thus the reason that a lot of these beers aren’t available anytime other than right around IPA Challenge competitions.
“You’re welcome to bring palate cleansers, but understand that you get your flight assigned to you, you won’t know who’s beers are in it and only your vote will decide the fate of the brewery’s beers that you taste in your flight. (Brewers Guild) Director John Gozgian will be the sole person who knows what brewery’s beer is located at what place in each flight, and I hear he’s signed up on ebay for this knowledge to be sold to the highest bidder. We will have a lot of fun hosting this event, John (Seabrooks) and I will be helping pour and serve flights all day.”
Get there early to make sure you get to enjoy your tray inside. And as noted, you can bring palate cleansers, so start stringing those pretzel necklaces after a hearty breakfast.
That brings us to the part of this that those of you who have been to an NMIPAC round before can skip over. For all of you planning to make this your first, here is how to get through it.
- Get there early. You probably could have guessed that, but this lessens the chatter around you that might influence your selections.
- Bring those aforementioned palate cleansers. Pretzels tend to work best, but figure out your personal favorite. These beers are not going to be kind to an inexperienced palate. Yours could be worn out before you get all 14 sampled, so give your palate a little break here and there. Water is good, but that is more for hydration than anything else.
- Remember, you might have Bosque or La Cumbre on your tray, but that is not your standard Riverwalker or Elevated on there. These are all specialty IPAs. Heck, they might not even be the ones later sold as Scale Tipper or Project Dank at the breweries or in bottles. Do not try to guess which IPA came from your favorite brewery; just vote for the best one on your tray. Be honest with yourself. You might be rewarded, you might be surprised.
- Take your time. This event is four hours long. Assess everything, from aroma to initial flavor to mouthfeel to finish. Take notes. Be thorough. These brewers put a lot into these beers, so give them an equally strong effort in your evaluations.
- Do not pick the beer you think everyone else would like. The hoppiest or heaviest need not win. Pick your favorite. This is your opinion, not your friend’s opinion, not your significant other’s opinion, just yours. One person. One vote.
- Try to avoid driving yourself, especially if this is your first NMIPAC. These beers will sneak up on you. Carpool with friends, bum a ride, use Uber, take a taxi, whatever. Yes, Rio Bravo has more parking than most breweries, but it will be gone in the blink of an eye. Plus, it is a summer weekend. APD and BCSO will be out in force. Don’t be dumb. If you have to drive, be willing to leave your car parked in the area overnight, if necessary.
- Most of all, have fun. This is a serious event, but remember, it’s also about expressing our love for our local breweries and supporting the Guild.
Got any questions? Comments after this is all over about what you did and did not like? Send them our way at email@example.com or just drop us a line on any of our social media platforms. And if you spot Brandon or I over there, stop by and say hello.