TAOS — After a long drive through some rather crazy construction zones, I (Stoutmeister) made it to Taos for the first round of the NM IPA Challenge. My reason for visiting was quite selfish, as it meant for a great chance to hang out with my friend Merril for the first time in far too long (she has never been in town during a beer event), but it also gave me a chance for a new perspective.
Albuquerque and Santa Fe dominate the state’s beer scene, as evidenced by 14 of 16 breweries participating in the knockout rounds from those two metro areas. The folks in Taos, and those from towns nearby, have a different perspective on what makes a great IPA. Need proof? Well, how about Red River Brewing’s Bad Medicine Honey Double IPA taking the most votes (23) in the first round of the NMIPAC.
More than 80 people showed up at the Taos Mesa Tap Room in downtown, a nearly four-fold increase from the last time the NMIPAC held a round up here (that was at the Mothership, which is admittedly quite far from town and not a safe ride home or to a hotel for those that drove). It was an impressive gathering, regardless.
There were four obviously hazy IPAs on the tray, with a few others that might have been hazy, but not hazy enough, or just IPAs that weren’t clarified properly. I found Bow & Arrow (#1 on the tray) to be the best, but it garnered just five votes. Still, in a more haze-crazed city, it might conquer the masses.
As it was, Red River did a hell of a showing. Second and third were a tie between Blue Corn and two-time defending champion Boxing Bear with 14 votes apiece. I did not mind either beer, though my personal choice was the Simcoe-heavy entry from La Cumbre (#10 on the tray). Merril went with #14, which turned out to be Quarter Celtic. Other than the final vote, we agreed on almost everything (that is another reason we are friends, I suppose).
The first-round leader from just about every NMIPAC that we have covered has never managed to hold onto the lead, so it will be quite interesting to see how Red River fares as the competition moves south. The next round will be at Second Street’s Rufina taproom on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Get your tickets at the NM Brewers Guild’s website. If 80-plus are gonna show up in Taos, expect 100-plus in Santa Fe, so get those tickets in advance!
Finally, we close with a quote from Red River’s head brewer, Chris Calhoun, who could not stop smiling from before the votes were announced until well after.
“I’m pretty surprised, pretty happy,” he said. “When we advanced out of the (preliminary) round, I was just happy to compete with the big boys like Bosque, Boxing Bear, Marble and La Cumbre. This is our first year, so to make to the next round is remarkable. Our honey double IPA is not traditional; we use locally sourced honey. It takes out some of the hoppiness that can overwhelm people.
“But still, to stand out on a tray of 15 (other) IPAs, that means something.”
Congrats to Chris and the Red River team. Now comes the big test to see how the ABQ and Santa Fe crowds respond. Either way, if you have not put Red River on your list of breweries to visit, it should be there now.
Luke will have full coverage from Rufina on Saturday, and then all of us will be at the grand finale at Bosque North on July 28. Look for an updated photo-heavy story about Bosque North soon!