Monday, July 21, 2008

A NM Beer Wins NM IPA Challenge!

The annual NM IPA Challenge was held on Saturday at the Marble Brewery. I'll admit, at first I wasn't as excited for this year's event as I had been for the others. Last year, there were some subpar entries and when I heard that the price was going to be 20 bucks for this year's event, I was about to stay home.

But come on, this is my life we're talking about. Not only do I have to do this for myself, I have a duty to cover events like this for both of you who will read about it here. So we arrived at Marble right about 3:00, and the event was in full swing already. There was one line where you paid and were given a ballot, then another line down the bar where you were given your samples. A few brewers were in the back doing the pouring. This system kept the crowd from bottlenecking, and also must have been nice for the staff. I have seen previous events where the cashier was bumping into the pourers who were bumping into each other. This year everything was more spread out and flowed smoothly.

Was this the reason the samples seemed more generous this year? The sample size was at least four ounces in each cup, which seems like more than I remember in the past events.

Oh, and the price was 15 dollars, not 20 as I had been informed previously. From what I hear, people were complaining about the price increase and the brewers lowered it, but I can't confirm this.

We sat down with one of our regular drinking companions. Sadly, another regular decided he wasn't going to pay 20 bucks this year and boycotted the event. Like last year, there were nine samples to judge. The entrants were the same except Marble Brewery was replacing the Corrales Bistro, which if you remember what Corrales entered last year you will agree that it was a welcome change!
I'll give a quick rundown of the beers based on the notes I took. The first beer was on the dark side of amber, with very little carbonation but decent bitterness. The second was the same color as the first but had a sweetness that I thought overtook the hops but was pretty good. The third was a step above the others, with a good hop smell and bitterness that represented the style. Number four was decent, but it had no smell at all and that hurt it overall. Number five was, well, I don't know what number five was. It wasn't an IPA, that's for sure. It had a funky yeastiness to it that I didn't like. It should have been number seven because of all that yeastiness. As in Monistat. To it's credit, one person at our table thought it was pretty good.

The sixth beer was mildly bitter and had a strange aftertaste that one person likened to "banana pudding". I don't know if this was intentional or was a bacterial result but we all liked the beer. Number seven was a solid IPA, with nice hop smell and proper bitterness. Then we tried number eight. Right away, we could all tell this beer was special. The smell alone put it above the rest. The taste was perfect floral hop balance, bitter but not overpowering, without the need for malt to tame it. We moved on to number 9. There wasn't much in the way of hops; more of a darker malt beer than anything else. This isn't because we tried it after eight either. All of the beers were sampled in order, then resampled back and forth in no particular order. Eight was still first for me, with number three coming in second because it couldn't hold up in repeated tasting against number eight. I would put number seven next in my top three beers of the challenge.
And here are the results, which, by the way, is the reason I am so late in writing about the event. I knew the winner Saturday evening, but no one I talked to up until Tuesday afternoon was able to give me a list of which beers were which.

So here is the actual lineup for the event, followed by my guess of what beer it was at the time of tasting in parenthesis:

1. Turtle Mountain (High Desert) Biggest surprise of the day for me. This tasted nothing like last year's champion beer, which makes me wonder if they didn't brew up something special last year just so they could have bragging rights. Not that that is illegal. Two years ago Chama won with their Dangerous Intentions Pale Ale. I guessed it was High Desert just because I thought it might be a beer that came from far away and didn't travel well.

2. Three Rivers (Il Vicino) I don't know why I thought this was Wet Mountain IPA from Il Vicino. As I said earlier, this was more sweet than bitter, and while Il Vicino has a malt that comes through, it is not as sweet as this beer.

3. Marble Brewery (Marble Brewery). I honestly couldn't tell this at first and had to give in to peer pressure. It wasn't that I didn't believe that it was Marble; it was more like I didn't have that smug "Yup. This is Marble. I should know" reaction that I should have had considering I have had it on tap at my house since May.

4. Second Street (Second Street) Yay. I guessed right for once.

5. Santa Fe (Santa Fe) I remember having their IPA and not liking it. I didn't like this beer. I put two and two together.

6. High Desert (Three Rivers) Well, I knew it wasn't from Albuquerque.

7. Il Vicino (Turtle Mountain) I thought this might be Turtle Mountain because I liked it, and I voted for Turtle Mountain last year. I should have listened to my friend Marcus because he had it pegged as Il Vicino from the moment he tasted it.

8. Chama River (Chama River) While we knew this wasn't Chama's regular IPA, we had all recently had a growler of their March Hare special release, and this smelled and tasted like that. I don't know if that was the exact beer they entered, but we guessed right.

9. Rio Grande (Wellhead) I guessed Wellhead because they were listed as a participant, and they were the one brewery I hadn't guessed yet. It turned out that they weren't there, and Rio Grande was entering for the first time. I actually did say at the time that the beer tasted like Rio Grande's IPA.

The top three in votes:
3. Marble Brewery
2. Turtle Mountain
1. And the winner of the 2008 NM IPA Challenge: Chama River!

Congratulations to Chama for winning two out of the last three challenges. And congratulations to my girlfriend and I on our good taste: We have voted for the the winner four years straight.
I heard some grumbling that Chama didn't enter their regular IPA, but if there isn't a rule saying you have to present your regular offering, why not put out the best IPA you can make? I wish all the breweries would put a special release in the event. Either that or make them all go with their regular IPAs, just so it can be totally fair.
Marble did a great job hosting the event for the first time. It is a lot closer than Turtle Mountain so for that reason alone I hope it can be held there again.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What?! You honestly thought beer number 2 was Wet Mountain IPA?! Come on man I drink this beer every week and said there was no way 2 was il Vichino's Wet Mountain IPA. Any way, fuck it lets drink!!!!!!