Analyzing the field ahead of the first public round of the NM IPA Challenge

Icebox Brewing of Las Cruces will host the first round of the 2021 New Mexico IPA Challenge.

The haze has overtaken the clear.

After years of West Coast-style IPA dominance, this year’s final 16 entries in the New Mexico IPA Challenge are primarily of the hazy New England style. So can one of them become the first winner of an in-person NMIPAC? Rio Bravo’s hazy Dice Roll IPA won the take-home edition last year, but the hoppy WC behemoths of yore have always come out on top in past years.

The first public round of the NMIPAC is Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Icebox Brewing’s main location at 2825 W. Picacho Ave. in Las Cruces. This will be the beginning of the process of deciding which of the 16 will be crowned champion. Tickets are still available online for the first round, and any remainder will be for sale at the door.

Here are the hazy entries:

  • Canteen Brewhouse, Burq Reynolds
  • Icebox Brewing, Hop Dumpster
  • Lava Rock Brewing, Lava Juice
  • Nexus Brewery, New Mexico Snow Storm
  • Palmer Brewery, unnamed hazy
  • Red Door Brewing, Tropical Synonyms
  • Second Street Brewery, Zombie Star
  • Sobremesa, Chronically Juicy
  • Thirsty Eye, unnamed hazy
  • Tumbleroot, Sunset Hazy
  • Turtle Mountain Brewing, Byways Haze

The West Coast-style IPAs:

  • Boxing Bear Brewing, Bear Knuckle (2019 champion)
  • Ex Novo Brewing, Threat Level: Turquoise (2021 GABF gold medal winner)
  • Hidden Mountain Brewing, Gatekeeper (2018 champion)
  • Quarter Celtic Brewpub, Mor-Buck
  • Three Rivers Brewing, Sky’s the Limit

Do the quick math and that is an 11-to-5 advantage for the hazy style. The odds would seem to favor one of them winning, but then again, there are two past champions from the clear category, and one recent Great American Beer Festival medalist.

So can a hazy finally pull off a win? Well, that will be up to the public, and with rounds in Las Cruces and outside Santa Fe, it will have an effect on the final numbers. It has been my personal experience that people outside the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas have very different palates, usually preferring beers that are more mild. The final round in Albuquerque sometimes draws more participants than the other rounds combined (particularly with one round being dropped, see below), so it can still come down to the Burqueños who prefer juicy/sweet versus those who prefer hoppy/aggressive.

A few other random notes about the 2021 NMIPAC finalists:

  • How different are the 16 finalists this time? There were 15 breweries that participated in the public rounds in 2019, and four of those did not enter the competition at all this year — Bow & Arrow (finished tied for fourth in 2019), Toltec (tied for seventh), Rowley Farmhouse Ales (10th), and Bombs Away (12th).
  • Of the 11 that did enter this year, six were knocked out in the preliminary round — Bosque (second), La Reforma and Rio Bravo (tied for seventh), Starr Brothers (11th), and Enchanted Circle and Marble (tied for 14th).
  • The five that were in the public rounds in 2019 and are again this year are Boxing Bear (first), Ex Novo (third), Icebox (tied for fourth), Hidden Mountain (6th, as Blue Corn), and Tumbleroot (13th).

One big note, if you did not see our story that ran Monday night, the third round of the NMIPAC set for Lauter Haus Brewing in Farmington was canceled due to low ticket sales and rapidly increasing COVID cases in San Juan County. That event was to have been held on Wednesday, November 17, and now it will not be made up. The remaining rounds appear to be safe, barring any sudden change in the state public health order.

If you have any last-minute questions or concerns about the NMIPAC, please contact us directly at, or via social media. You can also reach out to the New Mexico Brewers Guild or the hosting breweries.

We will post the results from the first round Wednesday night as soon as we receive them from the Guild, or if anyone planning to attend wishes to volunteer the services of their cell phone camera, please get in contact with us ASAP.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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