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.
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.