The masses have spoken, and the West Coast IPA has not lost its crown just yet.
Boxing Bear Brewing won its third New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy in the past four years, with its Bear Knuckle II fending off a host of hazy competitors.
Bear Knuckle racked up 102 votes to fly past Bosque (72) and Ex Novo (67), both of which entered hazy IPAs.
“It was good,” said Boxing Bear head brewer/co-owner Justin Hamilton “We had a fun IPA Challenge that went completely different this year. It was really cool to not only get the votes from the brewers, but getting votes from the general public.”
It was also the biggest win by margin of votes for Boxing Bear, which faced much closer finishes in 2016 over Canteen and 2017 over Bosque.
“The cool thing about this for us was we finally got a blowout (victory),” Justin said. “We won by more than two votes to win the Challenge!”
Defending champion Blue Corn was sixth with 43 votes, just behind host Bow & Arrow (47) and newcomer Icebox (47) of Las Cruces. Blue Corn was the only other brewery in the top six with a non-hazy IPA.
“I was more than happy to where we played the game last year with a hazy, this year we went back to a West Coast,” Justin said. “It was very neat to see that the general public is still kind of into it.
“Everyone had amazing beer this year. It was a really good competition, so we were really happy to pull forward and have a good time. There are so many breweries opening in the state and we’re still doing well.”
The victory also times out well for Boxing Bear, which will be throwing a big fifth-anniversary party on August 10.
“It’s a really good birthday present, it’s literally the best birthday present that we could ask for to get the IPA Challenge (trophy) back to Boxing Bear,” Justin said.
The competition was not without its hiccups. The line was initially slow moving, with the concentration of the tap handles at Bow & Arrow impeding the ability to fill multiple beers at once for the volunteers from the New Mexico Brewers Guild. Ultimately, though, things were straightened out, and things ran about as smoothly as the final round of an IPA Challenge can run. There are only so many breweries that have the capacity to host an event as crowded as the NMIPAC, and Bow & Arrow ultimately pulled it off.
Only a couple of us in the Crew could attend this year due to work and/or family matters, but we wanted to send out our thanks to Brewers Guild executive director Leah Black, all the members of the Board of Directors, and the many, many volunteers who stepped up to help this year. A particular shout-out to Angelo Orona for making sure the lines were clean and ready to go for the Challenge.
We will likely have more thoughts on the NMIPAC going forward this week. Until then, we shall rest.
After more beer, of course.