Every year as a public service, the Crew likes to provide a sort of survival guide for those who are new to the NM IPA Challenge. Of course, this year will also be a new experience for many at Bosque North, the new brewery/taproom facility off Highway 550 in Bernalillo. Think of this as a giant FAQ to help get you through Saturday with the best experience possible (well, unless your favorite brewery fails to win, but we can’t control that).
How do we get to Bosque North?
The facility is located just west of the Rio Grande along 550. The hope was to have the main paved entrance way done in time for Saturday, but as of Wednesday’s sneak preview, it was not ready yet. Cross your fingers on that one. The building is impossible to miss, at least, but for those coming from Rio Rancho east on 550, for safety’s sake you might need to cross the bridge and flip a U-turn at the first red light.
Should anyone drive out there?
Truthfully, no, you should rely on a designated driver, or a ride share service. Another option is to book a room at the new hotel at the Santa Ana Star Casino and walk over. Just watch out for all the construction. Train #704 of the Rail Runner would drop you off at approximately 1:53 p.m. at Bernalillo Station, but that is a long walk to the brewery. Even from there, you would probably need an Uber/Lyft, and we honestly have no idea how many drivers will really be in the Bernalillo area. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m., so you would still have time to get there, but walking would be limiting your sampling time. Also, take note that while there is a lot of parking, there is not enough for every expected person (last year it was around 300) to drive separately.
How much space is at Bosque North?
There should be enough space, but this round is always the most crowded. For those who think, “Oh, it’s OK, people will leave after they make their selections,” um, no. Just about everyone stays until the end to find out the results. Take note that arriving early is always your best bet to ensure you have a table space inside, where your IPAs will not warm up too quickly. Yes, the outside patio is covered, but it still projects to be pretty warm Saturday (93 degrees, per the weather app on my phone). The upstairs patio does not have as much cover, but it is on the east side of the building, at least. Still, inside is better.
Is there food?
We always recommend you eat something hearty before you head up, but UPDATE: the kitchen will not be up and running, but Bosque has acquired the services of The Supper Truck to be on site.
Can we tour the brewery?
That will be up to the folks at Bosque if there will be any brewery tours. Without knowing their full plan, they might even open up the brewery area for additional seating, though we cannot confirm that (yet).
The next set of FAQs are for folks who are new to the NMIPAC, so for all you veterans, you can skip out and we will see you Saturday.
Are there any tickets left?
No, the event has sold out. There’s always the chance you can find one unlucky person selling a ticket or two if he/she cannot attend, but there are no guarantees.
How should we go about sampling all these IPAs?
Use your other senses before taste. Start with the appearance, which is more important this year than in the past. There are New England-style hazy IPAs on the tray alongside the more traditional West Coast-style hop bombs. They will be pretty easy to tell apart; what you do with that information is up to you, depending on how you like the two styles. After the visual inspection, smell all 16 samples. IPAs are meant to be enjoyed in terms of their aroma, too. Think of this as your way of discerning which ones might be in the style that you prefer.
Won’t people just vote for their favorite brewery instead of the best IPA?
The beers are numbered randomly. The numbers change every round, so I do not have an advantage even after participating in the first round in Taos, nor does Luke after being at the second round at Second Street Rufina. If you can pick out your favorite brewery’s entry, first, that is impressive (brewers often cannot figure out their own beer), and second, it is totally up to you how to vote.
Once we start tasting, do we drink them all? Do we go in order?
The order you drink them in is completely up to you. There is also no rule that you have to finish every sample cup. If you do not like one, or it just comes off as “meh,” set it aside. We always recommend you try every beer twice, unless it is so obviously bad to your palate, in which case dump that one and move along. You will be provided paper to take notes, so take advantage of that to help you remember what you’re tasting and smelling.
How should we judge what’s good and what’s bad?
That is entirely up to you. You can go for whatever you think is the best IPA to hit the points of what you consider true to style, or you can just pick the one you most want to drink. Remember, your vote gets you a full pint, so if you think the most bitter one on the tray is the most deserving, you’re going to have to drink 16 ounces of it. This is your chance to vote, so you do not have to go with the crowd unless you want to; this is as subjective as it gets.
But don’t the breweries really take this seriously? Shouldn’t we treat this like a Cicerone exam?
The breweries love getting bragging rights, but the purpose of the NMIPAC is to be both fun and a fundraiser. This is the single largest event where the NM Brewers Guild raises the money it needs to represent all of its members in Santa Fe. The next legislative session could see a lot of bills that could benefit breweries, and likely some that will be coming after breweries, if for nothing else than to raise their excise taxes to pay for the State’s budgetary woes (or pork projects, depending on who’s the bill’s sponsor). Just enjoy this chance to gather with your fellow beer geeks, engage in some friendly banter, and support the Guild and all the breweries.
If there are any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask the Crew, the Guild, or the participating breweries.
See you all Saturday afternoon!