Archive for the ‘IPA Challenge 2019’ Category

The Champ is here! Boxing Bear’s Justin Hamilton TKOs the competition for the third time in four years at the New Mexico IPA Challenge!

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.”

Pardon the glare, but Blue Corn had 43 votes. Otherwise, it was a runaway victory for Boxing Bear.

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.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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.

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After all’s been done, there’s just a bit left to be said before we head on to the next and final round of the 2019 New Mexico IPA Challenge.

I hope everyone enjoyed themselves on Saturday. There was a really nice turn out this weekend for the Santa Fe leg of the competition. Tumbleroot proved to be a perfect location to host the event. For all competition-goers, there was plenty of seating. All beers remained out of the sun, and at a nice cool temperature while the populace poured over them, and there was plenty of food on hand to keep stomachs full of something other than hops.

Hello, hops!

As far as the competition went, on Tumbleroot’s end, they did everything to make sure the crowd had cold, clean, and fresh beer to judge.

The Tumbleroot staff gathers for a quick huddle.

As mentioned in my last article, all lines were cleaned by the Guild the morning before. Tumbleroot even built five brand-new taps just for the event, making sure none of the beers were poured in a different manner, such as from Jockey Boxes. The folks in charge were all friendly and very capable of making sure that everyone got their beer in a timely manner. The whole thing was smooth. No lines. No wait.

I caught up with Tumbleroot brewer Andy Lane. He had a few thoughts to share about the competition and his beer.

“The IPA challenge in Santa Fe at Tumbleroot went off without a hitch. The beers flowed smoothly and everyone seemed to be very pleased with the service. We were extremely happy to host this event and we look forward to doing so again in years to come!

As for The Keymaster and the votes it took home, I am very pleased with how it is being received. I do wish we were higher in the pack but with this being my my first beer ever entered in the challenge, I am just extremely satisfied that it has been given the chance to compete against some of the biggest and most established beers in the state. That being said, I look forward to next Saturday where I imagine we’ll take home even more votes!”

As far as the results went … That’s a whole ‘nother story.

Yeah, we know, 2009 is quite the typo.

While the event was fun and smoothly-run, almost no one I spoke to was pleased with the results. There were folks from Albuquerque who were surprised “that Elevated hadn’t made it further.” And some Santa Feans certainly thought there would be more support for the Santa Fe beers, what with homefield advantage. But, to be fair, aside from brewers and a few beer geeks that travel to all the events, the crowd was new to me, and I drink here in Santa Fe.

Hi, Tom!

The results pretty interesting. I won’t get into which brewery brought what (of course), or who voted for what, but as for my experience, I think some of the mixed results could be attributed to the fact that so many hazy beers were on the list. Personally, at the end of my list, I had very few beers to choose from, simply because I wasn’t going to choose a hazy IPA. No offense to the hazies. I’m not against them. I’ll enjoy them, but they’re not the IPAs I’m looking for. And, this competition is still people’s choice.

Hi, Alanna and Jamie!

It’s the public opinion that matters. And, the public may be leaning in the hazy direction, or that also may just be something that’s happening a lot more, further away from Albuquerque, at venues like Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Taos, etc. In the last two years, the results showed us that the hazy IPA had moved in for good. But, would it stay?

Hi, John!

We always say this, but it’s true. It really is all going to come down to Albuquerque. They have the numbers. They’ll bring the votes. But, is New Mexico leaning away from the bright and bitter of the West Coast style? Or, are we sliding towards the sweet and juicy of the New England style?

This will be one of the most interesting finales yet. Is the West Coast IPA dead or dying out in New Mexico? What will stay on tap everywhere in three months? See how it all shakes out on Saturday!

Hi, Paul and Andy!

To more smooth and fairly run competitions, and the new East Coast/West Coast hop battle, cheers!

— Luke

Yeah, we know, the 2009 at the top is worth a laugh. But, the results are all 2019, particularly since 13 of the 15 breweries didn’t exist a decade ago.

Our man Luke was at the second round of the New Mexico IPA Challenge on Saturday afternoon, but we will cut him some slack and let him enjoy all those hop-forward ales while we do a quick recap of the competition.

Boxing Bear, which edged out Icebox 17 votes to 16 in the first round in Las Cruces on Wednesday, added another 32 votes at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery to take a commanding 19-vote lead into next Saturday’s final round at Bow & Arrow (get those tickets ASAP!).

Bosque added 23 votes to its total to move into second place with 30 overall. Last year’s winner, Blue Corn, tallied 19 votes for 20 overall, good enough for a fourth-place tie. Between them, Blue Corn (2013, 2018), Boxing Bear (2016, 2017), and Bosque (2014, 2015) have won the last six trophies.

Sneaking into the mix are Ex Novo, which added 14 votes to get to 22 overall, good enough for third place, and the aforementioned Icebox, which now has 20 votes. Bow & Arrow sits in sixth after adding 11 votes Saturday to get to 19 overall.

A total of 163 voters took part Saturday, well up from the 65 on a weekday at Picacho Peak in Las Cruces. There is a good chance that the final round will more than double the Tumbleroot total, so nothing has been decided yet.

At the very least, every brewery shut out in Las Cruces picked up anywhere from two (Enchanted Circle) to 12 (Toltec) votes on Saturday. Bombs Away (10), La Reforma (seven), and Marble (three) also managed to avoid a second straight shutout.

Luke will share more thoughts about this round on Monday, and we will preview the final round later in the week to make sure everyone is prepared, whether you are a veteran or a first-time participant.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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You do not have to be the Gatekeeper to enjoy the Keymaster.

For part two of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery’s first year in Santa Fe story, it would be a huge disservice to only talk about the beer. Yes, we’re all about the beer in the Dark Side Brew Crew, but when we talk to a brewery and distillery, with its main taproom doubling as an upscale craft cocktail lounge, and then tripling as a huge family-friendly event and music space — one that will be playing host to Saturday’s Santa Fe round of the IPA Challenge — I would be remiss to skip over such a huge part of the story, especially when it involves putting something interesting and craft into cans.

For the complete Tumbleroot story, I called, emailed, and hunted down director of front of house operations and mixologist, Joseph Haggard, to talk craft cocktails and what they’ll be soon putting into cans. I also tracked down owner/director of business operations Jason Fitzpatrick, to talk music and whether Metal Mondays will stick around, and then I circled back to head brewer Andy Lane to talk about his IPA Challenge beer named Keymaster.

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The voters in Las Cruces have spoken, nearly helping their one local brewery overtake a two-time past champion. (Photo courtesy of Tyson Brown)

The results are in from the first round of the 2019 New Mexico IPA Challenge, held today at Picacho Peak Brewing in Las Cruces. Two-time past champion Boxing Bear garnered 17 of the 65 votes cast, one more than the only Southern New Mexico brewery in attendance, newcomer Icebox Brewing (16).

Perhaps the biggest surprise, or disappointment depending on one’s perspective, was that five breweries did not earn a single vote. Bombs Away, Enchanted Circle, La Reforma, Marble, and Toltec all came up empty handed. Others that struggled included defending champion Blue Corn (one vote), Rio Bravo (one), Rowley Farmhouse Ales (two), Starr Brothers (two), and Tumbleroot (three).

The middle of the pack included Bow & Arrow (eight), Ex Novo (eight), and Bosque (seven).

If there is a silver lining for all of the breweries, there are still two rounds to go. Blue Corn, RFA, and Tumbleroot will surely be hoping for some home-field advantage at the second round in Santa Fe on Saturday. Tumbleroot will host at its spacious Agua Fria taproom from noon to 4 p.m., and tickets are available online. Keep an eye out for our man Luke among the hopheads.

In general, the Santa Fe round usually has more than 100 votes cast, though the Albuquerque final round tends to more than double what comes before it every year. The final round is at Bow & Arrow on July 27, and tickets are also for sale online.

Thanks to all the thirsty denizens of Southern New Mexico, and a few from El Paso, who came out to support the New Mexico Brewers Guild today.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Here’s the final list. Surprising? Yes, but it’s all for fun, so let’s have some! (Photo courtesy of the NM Brewers Guild)

A collection of 45 brewers and other brewery representatives gathered at Central New Mexico Community College on Saturday afternoon to judge the top IPAs in the state that will take part in the public rounds of the New Mexico IPA Challenge.

The results were, well, surprising, with a few well-known breweries left off the list, and a few underdogs advancing.

“I think it went really well,” said New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director Leah Black. “The feedback (from the brewers) has been amazing. I’m just really happy that it was more about camaraderie and all the powerhouse breweries from all over the state being in one room, and chilling out, and asking, ‘What do you think about this beer?’”

The final 15 were selected through a different process than in the past with the public vote.

“Groups of nine, there were five groups of nine,” Leah said. “They each got a flight of nine, and as a table they advanced three. Now it’s down to 15. They rule their least favorites, and then they had to come together as a jury and advance the three that they collectively thought was the best.”

The man behind that judging format was former Santa Fe brewmaster Bert Boyce.

“I gotta give a big shoutout to Bert, previously of Santa Fe Brewing, he was instrumental in helping execute the judging format,” Leah said. “It went smoothly.”

The crowd of brewers and their comrades selected the following 15 breweries. We are listing them with their finish in 2018, where applicable, and noting who will be new.

  • Blue Corn (2018 champion)
  • Bombs Away (did not advance out of preliminary in 2018)
  • Bosque (13th in 2018, champion in 2014-15)
  • Bow & Arrow (14th in 2018)
  • Boxing Bear (second in 2018, champion in 2016-17)
  • Enchanted Circle (new)
  • Ex Novo (new)
  • Icebox (new)
  • La Reforma (new)
  • Marble (third in 2018)
  • Rio Bravo (tied for sixth in 2018)
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales (did not advance out of preliminary in 2018)
  • Starr Brothers (did not advance out of preliminary in 2018)
  • Toltec (did not advance out of preliminary in 2018)
  • Tumbleroot (did not advance out of preliminary in 2018)

That, in turn, means the following notable names did not advance: Canteen, Cantero, La Cumbre, Nexus, Ponderosa, Quarter Celtic, Red Door, Red River, Santa Fe, Second Street, Sidetrack, Sierra Blanca, Steel Bender, Taos Mesa, Three Rivers, Tractor, Truth or Consequences, and Turtle Mountain.

In the end, though, there was no dissension in the ranks.

“No one in the crowd, no,” Leah said. “It just goes to show you that double blind (works).”

The first public round is this Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Picacho Peak Brewing in Las Cruces. Get your tickets online ASAP!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Once again, it is time to test those tastebuds with an onslaught of hops, only this time it’s after the professionals whittle down the list of candidates.

The 2019 edition of the New Mexico IPA Challenge kicks off this Saturday with the annual preliminary round, but there are changes afoot. The biggest change is that the preliminary round is no longer open to the public.

“This year, they wanted to make it a little more along the lines of GABF judging,” said Guild executive director Leah Black. “Where it really is blind tasting who gets in the top 15. That’s what we’re going to start with. We had just under 50 entries, and for whatever reason, they didn’t get their check in on time, but we ended up with 45 breweries. From 45 (down) to 15 this Saturday, then for each public round there will be the same 15 breweries there. It will be a buildup to what the hopheads love. You can go to all three rounds if you want to drive. It should be a lot of fun.”

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