Archive for the ‘IPA Challenge 2017’ Category

The Boxing Bear team, triumphant again!

In another close vote, Boxing Bear claimed its second straight NM IPA Challenge championship on Saturday afternoon at Steel Bender Brewyard.

Justin Hamilton and his staff claimed 104 votes, with Bosque running a very close second at 101. Quarter Celtic (82), Canteen (76), Starr Brothers (59), Marble (49), Tractor (43) and Bow & Arrow (40) were closed behind.

“It means a whole lot for us, honestly,” Justin said. “With each competition with put forth we support the (New Mexico Brewers) Guild. But the fact that it’s blind and that people are really judging as to what they like the best means a lot. It means a whole lot. We honestly had some of the best beers in the world as far as New Mexico goes.”

Yes, Justin, you get to keep it another year!

Bear Knuckle became just the latest repeat champion. Exodus won three years in a row for Canteen from 2010-12 (a different IPA had started it off in 2009), followed by repeat wins for Scale Tipper from Bosque in 2014 and 2015.

“It’s obviously a super competition,” Justin said. “We have the National IPA Challenge winners from the last four years (here). It means so much. It’s really cool to be a part of it. Obviously the last two years the competition has been the closest it’s ever been. We have so many amazing breweries coming up, Starr Brothers, Quarter Celtic. They obviously put up some amazing entries.”

For the record, La Cumbre won the Brewing News IPA Challenge in 2014 and 2017, sandwiched around Bosque winning in 2015 and 2016.

“Bear Knuckle is one of those things where we try to keep improving it,” Justin said. “Hop varieties change a little bit. The recipe is pretty solid. We’ve got a good base for it, it’s doing well for us.”

Another super-close vote this year.

Ultimately, Steel Bender was able to run a smooth ship Saturday afternoon. The weather cooperated (hooray!) and overall it was a well-run event. So far, at least, the complaints have not piled up about the final round, as they did with the preliminary rounds.

For Boxing Bear, the staff never lost sight of the ultimate goal of the NMIPAC.

“The main thing is it’s a big supporter for the Guild, for the community,” Justin said. “IPA is the most popular style in the country right now. It’s cool to see on a national level New Mexico doing well. Locally, it’s good to support the Guild with some awesome IPAs.”

Justin said he does not expect the reign to last much longer for Boxing Bear.

“There were a lot of beers that were out there that I could recognize,” he said. “That’s amazing, that you have things that are just really good beers in this city. It seems to be about another year, maybe two … people get the idea of what you’re doing as far as local IPAs go. Then three or four years, everything flip flops. They’re not catching up yet, but they will.”

Congrats to Boxing Bear on its back-to-back victories! We look forward to the next NM IPA Challenge next year.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Here are your results from round two of the NM IPA Challenge!

The IPA Challenge continued today in Santa Fe at Second Street’s brand new third location on Rufina Street. That’s right, THIRD LOCATION! Second Street hasn’t quite opened fully to the public, but they are just about ready for business, and without spoiling anything (because we’ll have the whole full review after they open), it’s one fantastic space with a ton of potential. But, since this a post about the NM IPA Challenge, I’ll get straight to the results:

Brewery – Tray# — Total votes

Boxing Bear – #14 – 52 (1st)

Canteen – #15 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Quarter Celtic – #1 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Bosque – #3 – 39 (4th)

Starr Brothers – #6 – 34

Marble – #11 – 31

Tractor – #10 – 30

Second Street – #8 – 28

Bow & Arrow – #2 – 26

Steel Bender – #4 – 21

La Cumbre – #13 – 16

Ponderosa – #9 – 12

Picacho Peak – #12 – 7

The 377 – #5 – 7

Blue Corn – #7 – 5

Choices, choices, choices …

These are the aggregate totals, so the big winners of the round were defending champion Boxing Bear (37 votes), Quarter Celtic (33), Canteen (29), Starr Brothers (24), and Bosque and Tractor (23 apiece). Those who found Second Street to be a much tougher venue included Steel Bender (4, after 17 in the first round), as well as Blue Corn (4) and The 377 (4), which led in the elimination round, but has not made an impact so far with the voters in Las Cruces or the City Different.

It was a another well-run event by the NM Brewers Guild. Everyone in attendance had a great time. It was definitely tougher than usual to choose a winner. Of course, there were some outliers on both sides of the coin, but another great testament to how good and diverse our IPAs are in New Mexico.

Why yes, Second Street’s Rufina location is awesome!

Someone asked me during the event if we’ve reached a saturation point. I think that with more breweries, more people have a greater opportunity of trying good beers, and becoming more discerning. The more discerning we become, the harder our brewers have to work at keeping up the quality. Quality floats, in my opinion. But, with these results, we see some familiar names.

Plus, we all know the rules always change on the last leg in Albuquerque. See you at Steel Bender next Saturday!

To all of our great New Mexico IPAs and the fearless brewers who brew them, cheers!

— Luke

If the first-round results are any indication, this is gonna be a close battle to the end! (Photo courtesy of Skye Devore)

First off, pardon the fact I did not publish this last night. I actually received the photo above while driving on I-40 back home (pulled off at Clines Corners to do the social media post) from Tractor co-owner Skye Devore (thank you!). Anyway, let us delve into the first-round results of the NM IPA Challenge, held Wednesday night at Picacho Peak Brewing in Las Cruces.

There was quite a bit of social media commotion after the elimination round last weekend, when many folks seemed to object to the fact all three hosts of the main rounds get byes. As if the universe needed to slap them upside the head with irony, Steel Bender, which only got six votes in the preliminaries but still advanced, ended up leading everyone in Cruces. So, yeah, all that griping that the final-round host didn’t belong? Good job, universe!

It was not a runaway win, however, as Steel Bender nabbed only 17 votes. Lurking right behind were two heavyweights, with two-time champion Bosque (2014-15) picking up 16 votes and defending champion Boxing Bear snagging 15 votes.

Three breweries then tied for fourth place with 13 votes. It was a good showing from Marble, which surprisingly never won this event, while four-time champion Canteen was right there, as was relative newcomer Bow & Arrow. Another fairly young brewery took seventh place as Starr Brothers earned 10 votes.

Quarter Celtic and Second Street, the host of the second round, tied for eighth with nine votes apiece. Tractor was 10th with seven votes, while La Cumbre had six votes for 11th place. Ponderosa, which was Brandon’s pick off his tray in the elimination round, only got four votes for 12th place. The 377, which racked up the most votes in the elimination round, only earned three votes from the folks in Las Cruces. Tying for 14th place with just one vote apiece was Blue Corn, a past champion, and host Picacho Peak.

Overall, 137 votes were cast, which is a pretty good showing for Las Cruces, or anywhere outside of Albuquerque. The second round, set for Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at Second Street’s new Rufina location, should get around the same, or hopefully even higher. It will be fascinating to see how the Santa Fe faithful vote in comparison to their southern brethren (which included a lot of folks making the drive up from El Paso). Rarely has the first-round leader held onto that distinction after round two.

The elimination round in Albuquerque had about 300 votes cast, so we fully expect a massive turnout on July 29 at Steel Bender, likely with well more than twice as many votes cast as the first two rounds. A lot will still be decided, but for now at least, some breweries have to be feeling good about their chances, while others figure to be heading back to the drawing boards for 2018.

As for the ongoing complaints on social media, we agree that the NMIPAC is not a perfect setup. It is designed first and foremost to be the single largest fundraiser for the NM Brewers Guild, not to be the perfect competition. That is the primary reason host breweries are willing to give up four hours-plus of business in the middle of their busiest season, all while offering up what is likely the single most expensive beer they brewed all year long for people to drink for free. They know that the Guild needs this money to fight the good fight against the anti-alcohol and tax-everything-to-death forces in the State Legislature. For a small but vocal minority of beer drinkers to spend all their time on social media trying to tear down this event, you are doing a disservice to the entire brewing community. It is one thing to offer up suggestions on future improvements (we, for one, believe that the other two host breweries should have followed Picacho Peak and not participated in the elimination round at all, thus freeing up those 18 votes that went to Second Street and Steel Bender to be distributed to the other 33 competing breweries), but it is another to rant about non-existent bias, to call this whole thing flawed. Is it perfect? Again, no, but it is the setup we have and what we must deal with until/if the Guild membership votes to make changes.

In other words, get out there and have some fun, damn it! Craft beer is all about that, right?

Thanks to everyone down south for heading out to vote and to Picacho Peak for hosting. Thanks to John Gozigian for his tireless work every round, and again, thanks to Skye for keeping us updated, even when on the (literal) road.

Luke will be covering the second round for us from Santa Fe, so look for his updates Saturday afternoon. A whole slew of us will then be at the finale.

Until then, I need a really, really long nap.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The voting totals on the right, the number on the trays on the left.

Another year has passed, so it is time for our New Mexico breweries to see who will claim the throne with the state’s best IPA, as the 2017 NM IPA Challenge kicked off today. With the prominence of our vast amount of great IPAs around these parts, this annual event has become a popular event for both craft beer fans and brewers alike.

Will this year see a repeat win from 2016 champs Justin Hamilton and Boxing Bear Brewing, or perhaps a third title in four years for John Bullard and Bosque Brewing, or will a new face claim top honors? Today gave some clarity to those answers as competition commenced.

This year’s event begins, as last year’s did, with an elimination round hosted by Duel Brewing at their downtown Albuquerque taproom. With a reported 39 entries this year, last year’s elimination format was expanded a bit, as patrons were given a flight of approximately 13 beers to sample and vote on. Since this was an elimination round, that means there was bound to be surprises … and, lo and behold, there were. 

Check out the results:

1. The 377 27 votes
2. Bosque 21
TIE 3. Boxing Bear 17, Starr Bros. 17
5. Blue Corn 16
6. Tractor 15
7. La Cumbre 14
TIE 8. Marble 12, Bow & Arrow 12, Second St. 12
11. Quarter Celtic 11
TIE 12. Canteen 10, Ponderosa 10
14. Sierra Blanca 9
TIE 15. Bathtub Row 7, Rowley 7, The Wellhead 7
TIE 18. Dialogue 6, Duel 6, Santa Fe 6, Palmer 6, Rio Bravo 6, Steel Bender 6 (AUTO BYE TO NEXT ROUND)
TIE 24. Chama River 5, Drafty Kilt 5, Kellys 5, Spotted Dog 5
TIE 28. Desert Valley 3, Nexus 3, Sidetrack 3, Turtle Mountain 3
TIE 32. Cazuela’s 2, Red Door 2
TIE 34. Enchanted Circle 1, Three Rivers 1

UPDATE: There will be 15 breweries advancing, as Picacho Peak will automatically advance as a host of a future round. The folks from the Las Cruces brewery elected not to enter their IPA into the preliminary round, since it did not matter how they finished. Second Street and Steel Bender also advanced under this rule, though Second Street would have advanced no matter what due to its vote total above.

This seemed to be a year of cross style IPAs, at least in this writer’s opinion. I personally was given a flight of beers 14-26, in which I noticed the following:

  • The “juicy” IPA trend is in full effect: a handful of entries on my flight were of the hazy, Northeastern-style that is becoming more popular these days. I had one of said beers as a top notch brew.
  • Belgian style: Another noticeable trend was the Belgian style popping up in a few samples on mine and other patrons trays. A yeasty base could be found in several competition beers. Yeasty notes, with clove, banana, and spices were paired with lots of hops splashed in.

All in all, it was a successful event, with the up and coming The 377 Brewery taking the bulk of the votes, but NM IPA Challenge vets such as Bosque, Boxing Bear, and La Cumbre still moved on to the next rounds of the challenge. With a good cross section of sub-styles represented, the next few rounds will be quite interesting!

— Brandon Daniel

Yes, we know this is an awesome poster, but we’re not sure if Bullard and Hamilton actually know how to use pistols of that sort.

In case you have somehow missed it, the preliminary round of the NM IPA Challenge is this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Duel Taproom in downtown Albuquerque. The purpose of this round is to narrow down the ever-growing field of breweries who make great IPAs in order to have a more manageable number to taste at the final three rounds.

To make sure we had all the details lined up, I fired off an email to NM Brewers Guild director John Gozigian. He was quick to respond, so thank you, John!

In a change from last year, there will be three trays of beers for people to sample. There were 39 (!) entries this year, so trays A, B, and C will have 13 different samples, each numbered. The goal is to have an equal number of each tray handed out for sampling, thus giving every participating brewery an equal chance to advance. You can only vote off one tray per person, but if you want to try more, then make sure you have two friends/relatives come with you and stand in line together. Then each of you will get a different tray, and once you’re done with making your selection off your own tray, pass the favorites around amongst each other. If you don’t have two people to bring along, find a table with good folks with different trays and see if they will share upon voting completion.

We are sending just Brandon to cover this event, so he may need some company. We promise, he won’t bite. (Unless you mention something about how the Stanley Cup Finals have gone the last two years, then you’re taking a big risk.)

Once the final votes have been tallied, the top 15 will advance to the final three rounds, which will take place at Picacho Peak Brewing (July 19) in Las Cruces, the new Second Street Rufina location (July 22) in Santa Fe, and the grande finale at Steel Bender Brewyard (July 29).

John said that the early demand is high for tickets, so to make sure you have a spot Saturday (and in the following rounds), your best bet is to visit Duel and buy a ticket, or head to the Guild website and buy it online.

Beyond that, our advice for NMIPAC remains the same as always:

  • If you can, don’t drive, instead use Uber/Lyft/a taxi/bike/bribe someone to be your DD. Remember, especially for downtown, parking can often be a hassle (though Saturday afternoon should be OK, just be prepared to walk a couple blocks in the heat).
  • You can bring pretzels to help your palate reset itself from hop bomb to hop bomb. There will be water provided as well.
  • Take your time. There is no rush unless you arrive at 3:30 or something. Enjoy the aroma of every beer (in fact, do this immediately upon getting your tray). Take time to sip, analyze, and then revisit your beers. You do not have to go in order of numbers, either. Do it however you want.
  • The last few champions, in case anyone forgot: Boxing Bear (2016), Bosque (2014-15), Blue Corn (2013), Canteen/Il Vicino (2009-12)

If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com, or contact us via social media.

Good luck to all the attendees and breweries!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister