IPA Challenge: Survival guide for final round at Bow & Arrow

The hops, lo they do call to us. They bid us welcome in the halls of Bow & Arrow, where the beer may live, forever!

Every year as a public service, the Crew likes to provide a sort of survival guide for those who are new to the New Mexico IPA Challenge. The final round will be held at Bow & Arrow Brewing this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and we highly recommend that you buy tickets in advance, as this one almost always sells out. 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 Bow & Arrow?

Odds are, more than 90 percent of you know the answer to this question, but just in case we have some truly new newcomers, there are a few ways to get there. From Interstate 40 in either direction, get off at the Sixth Street exit. The brewery is located one block south of the freeway on Sixth, with the technical address of 608 McKnight Ave. NW.

Should anyone drive? How much parking is there?

Bow & Arrow has a very small parking lot, with street parking not available on Sixth, though it is available on Bezemek Ave. on the south side of the brewery. If 300 people show up again and everyone drives solo, it will be chaos. But, the truth is that after sampling 15 IPAs and enjoying a pint of your favorite, you probably should not be driving anyway. Take a Lyft or Uber, or find that friend or family member who owes you a ride.

How much space is at Bow & Arrow?

The main taproom is spacious, but again, if 300 people are there at once, it will be crowded. There is some additional space throughout the building that can be opened up if necessary, but if you plan to go early, it may be difficult to find space to stick around in until the winner is announced after 4.

Is there food?

Bow & Arrow does not have food beyond a few snacks. We figure there will be at least one food truck, if not two, parked outside. Eat a big brunch/lunch before you arrive.

Ignore the 2009 typo and behold the standings in advance of the final round. Can anyone knock out Boxing Bear?

The next set of FAQs are for folks who are new to the NMIPAC, so for all you veterans, you can skip ahead and we will see you Saturday.

Are there any tickets left?

As of Wednesday, more than two-thirds of the tickets were gone. They are only available for sale online. New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director Leah Black told us that she does not expect any to be available at the door, but keep an eye on the Guild’s social media pages for final confirmation one way or the other.

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 15 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. 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. Whatever you think makes an IPA great is totally your own decision.

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 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!

— Stoutmeister

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