Lava Rock leads the NM IPA Challenge after a controversial first round

One of these 16 beers was not meant to be tapped.

One, five, six, 16 … many (beer) numbers were heavily deliberated, as the public gathered to vote for their favorite IPAs in the 2022 New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge at Second Street Brewery – Rufina on Saturday afternoon.

Just around 2,080 tasters were poured for around 130 guests in total, and zero people had an easy time choosing a winner.

It was a beautifully cloudy day, not quite hot enough to turn the IPAs into piney vapor stew, and Second Street’s air conditioning had kicked on with immaculate timing.

It was the perfect setting, and the ideal conditions for the hoppiest of competitions.

There were no issues as the beers were poured, no issues as the public submitted their opinions, and there were no hiccups as the results were read aloud.

The current and former head brewers of Hidden Mountain were on hand.

Except one number stood out in particular to the Second Street crew. The number three. Clearly, a number that gave them slight pause as their name followed. Number three, they knew, was definitely not their beer. I won’t give any details on the style or flavor profile, but the brewery knew the beer Santa Fe voted on was not the beer they had submitted.

After the competition, and unfortunately after the damage had already been done, the Second Street staff were allowed back into their cold storage to find that, indeed, the beer they had ear-marked for the event had been left untapped.

Below is the official statement from the NM Brewers Guild:

“The NM IPA Challenge is the longest running and most cherished fundraising event The New Mexico Brewers Guild puts on annually. As our brewery members have grown we have done everything we can to create a fair and neutral competition. This includes using a statistician to create a protocol for the elimination round, creating barriers of information between those who work the event, and not allowing anyone with a beer in the competition to handle the kegs. The one thing we can’t fully control is human error, and unfortunately that is exactly what happened at round 1 of IPAC.

“We let down our hosts and friends at Second Street Brewery when the wrong keg of their IPA was hooked up to the line. Although it was a Second Street Brewery IPA, it was not the special brew that was supposed to flow from the tap for each round of IPAC. Because of the safeguards we have in place, the error was only discovered after we revealed which brewery corresponded to each numbered sample, and it became clear that was not the correct beer submitted to the competition.

“We are working on a solution, but as you can imagine, finding the right one is difficult in a situation like this. We wanted to address this the right way as the intention is not to deceive. We feel tremendously upset that we made a mistake at what otherwise turned out to be such an amazing event and we will be taking the next couple of days to work out the best solution possible.

“IPAC Rounds 2 and 3 will go on as scheduled, this time with the correct Second Street Brewery IPA and further safe-guards in place. We are very excited to serve up New Mexico’s best IPAs in the next two rounds. Thank you all for your continued support of NMBG and thank you to the best beer community in the country.


Tess Vidalis”

The Second Street staff, before they found out the Guild tapped the wrong keg of their beer.

Update: Rod Tweet reached out to me after the guild released their statement. “It was kind of a surprise in the moment,” he said. “But these things happen. The most important part is that the event rolls on for a couple more contests. We had a great time hosting, and and a lot of fun at the event.”

As to how the Guild plans to fix the situation, Tweet mentioned that they were thinking of taking an average of the final two rounds and adding that to Second Street’s score. Whether that happens or not, remains to be seen. Below are the results for Round One as they currently stand, with brewery tray number first, and the amount of votes received:

1. La Cumbre – 16

2. Starr Brothers – 8

3. Second Street -2

4. Bosque – 12

5. Lava Rock – 17

6. Gravity Bound – 15

7. Downshift – 3

8. Tractor – 2

9. Ex Novo – 15

10. Boxing Bear – 3

11. Nexus – 10

12. Quarter Celtic – 2

13. Canteen – 14

14. Ponderosa – 6

15. Three Rivers – 6

16. Marble – 15

The choice of our writer shall remain confidential.

Whether the results reflect the votes Second Street might or might not have received, we may never know, but the voters in Farmington and Albuquerque will have a great opportunity to show us, so get on out to those events and vote with your hearts, and keep supporting our great local craft beer industry.

It’s not the first time there has been a controversy, and it won’t likely be the last, but remember, the good folks in the guild are doing their best to bring about a fair competition.

The next round is up in Farmington at Lauter Haus Brewing on Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., with the challenge coming to a no-doubt thrilling conclusion on Saturday at Santa Fe Brewing’s taproom inside Tin Can Alley in Albuquerque from 1 to 5 p.m. That’s all from Santa Fe.

— Luke

At the end of the day, it’s about beer. And beer should be fun.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Guy Ruth says:

    It would be so nice if we could treat this like a Best-of-Show judging, but that’s more pie in the sky thinking. I was actually thinking that I would love if I could taste 4 flights of 4 each so that every IPA is given a fair chance to shine. If all 16 are brought out at once, as has been the usual SOP, then the latter ones tried are much warmer than the first giving the volatiles more of a chance to be present.

    Looking forward to this Saturday at Tin Can Alley

  2. pp martinez says:

    think the only fair thing to do is scrap it and go for two rounds instead of three

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