Sunday, July 5, 2009

The 2nd Annual 4th of JulIPA Challenge!

The 4th of JulIPA challenge may be over, but the throbbing headache lingers as a reminder of the great night of IPA tasting and judging.

This was the second year we and many of our best friends did our patriotic duty and rated the best IPAs in the country. Ok, so we don't have access to ALL the IPAs out there (in fact, only one is not available in New Mexico), but this is an Albuquerque beer website, so I wanted to have more of the beers readily available here. And while some of our friends are willing to drink Juarez tap water mixed with grain alcohol in order to get a buzz, they are all big fans of IPAs and were ready to take on the challenge.

The real challenge was getting all the beers into growlers for sampling. The format is a blind tasting, so since only four of the breweries involved had beers available in growlers, I had to get sis-packs of all the others and pour each beer individually into coordinated numbered growlers. Thankfully Jenn was there to help, and our friend Jesse Pedersen helped as well. Too bad they had to put up with me stressing the whole time we were pouring and labeling the growlers. I was seriously going nuts because people were showing up while we were still pouring, and I didn't want anyone seeing what we were pouring. Running out of growlers to house the beers wasn't exactly a blessing either. Idiot me forgot to ask people to bring extra growlers. It worked out, because we had enough for each of the thirteen beers, plus a few for secondary samples. If we ran out,I had bottles on coolers to refill the empty growlers. Everything else was pretty well thought out. The only missing piece was constant participant and close friend Andreas, who had a family emergency to deal with. I made it my personal quest to drink his share in his honor.

Once we got underway, things started to roll more smoothly as more people arrived. Some even traveled from New York City just for the honor of attending the event. It may be possible that they have family here as well, but I'm certain that their first priority was the 4th of JulIPA Challenge. Certain. What else are you going to do on this holiday, watch fireworks?

Of course, some fireworks are more interesting than others, especially when stationed in the right places. Some people can make sparklers look almost fun to play with. You can see at this point, people were well into the tasting. Thirteen IPAs of varying strength can be hard to handle for some people, I guess. Side effects may include flushing, impaired vision, and firecrotch. I thought about keeping the number of IPAs at ten or less, but I just didn't want to exclude any of the beers on my original list.

Oh boy though, maybe I should have kept it short and simple! I know IPAs have the power to magically make you stronger and better looking, but the ability to levitate while hating the rest of the world is new to me. David Blaine can learn something from this particular acrobat. Contrary to this and previous pictures, however, there was some serious IPA tasting going on here. I just didn't want to put in a bunch of pictures of people deeply contemplating their next sips; it starts to look like a wine tasting website. And I don't have the class to hang out with wine snobs.

So when the hop dust had settled, I was faced with the task of adding up the scores. And this wasn't a task I could have done on the 4th- I didn't trust myself with numbers by the end of the night. I'm glad I found my bed without any mishaps. The beers were rated from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Here's the final tally!

13. Boulder Brewing Mojo IPA(2.57)- I was really surprised at this. Mojo, to me, is a very good IPA brewed with Amarillo hops, though a taster commented "leaves my tongue dissatisfied". Sounds like my kisses. I gave it a 4.

12. Mission St. IPA (2.71)- This may be the best deal in town, a $5.99 IPA private labeled for Trader Joe's. I like it for an everyday IPA.

11. Big Sky Brewing Big Sky IPA (2.75)- Another surprise. I think this beer may have fared better if it had just been bottled. I have had it on tap and it is great! We need bottled on dates, brewers! Somehow, one of the tasters got a "pecan crusted salmon taste" out of the beer. I don't think that has anything to do with the age of the beer. Must be drugs talking.

10. Flying Dog Brewing Snake Dog IPA (3.05)- This beer often passes under the radar locally, but I guess there is a good reason for that. "Keep eating hot dog flavored potato chips as they help" may be sound advice when drinking this beer. Thanks to Big Lots for cheap discontinued snacks.

9. Anderson Valley Brewing Hop Ottin' IPA (3.06)- Barely outscored Snake Dog. May be overpriced at $9.99 for what is in the bottle, though it seems one taster was "Too distracted by vodka watermelon" to give it a proper tasting.

8. Great Divide Brewing Titan IPA(3.12)- Their Hercules DIPA may be top notch, but Titan is in the lower tier for regular IPAs. One taster said Titan "Tastes like paint, looks like a sunset". I'll take good taste, thank you.

7. Il Vicino Brewing Wet Mountain IPA(3.43)- A local favorite that didn't get as high a score as I think it deserves. It may have suffered from it's draw in the tasting, being 13th of the beers labeled. I gave it a 4.1.

6. Sierra Nevada Brewing Torpedo Extra IPA(3.44)- I like this beer more when I don't know what it is, apparently. I gave it one of my highest scores of the day, but I didn't know I liked it that much.

5. Odell Brewing IPA (3.50)- Wow. This was last year's winner, but many people thought it was too sweet. "Tastes like the first time I made love" was one taster's comment. did a wine drinker get in here?

4. Turtle Mountain Brewing IPA (3.67)- Thanks to Westsider Kelly Wild for bringing this. I was running out of time and didn't know when I was going to get over there for it. Glad to see this local make a strong showing.

3. Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA (3.76)- The only beer in the Challenge not available locally, Green Flash makes a great IPA. So great, one Marble local boldly stated "This is Marble. Hope to fuck I am right or I have a new favorite beer". You are wrong.

2. Marble Brewery IPA (3.91)- Marble was incorrectly guessed as many of the different beers this night, perhaps a testament to the impact that the brewery has had on local IPA lovers' minds. I, of course, guessed it right. That's why I'm the AbqBeerGeek. That, and I bought the domain.

And the coveted grand prize of the 2nd Annual 4th of JulIPA Challenge goes to...

1. Chama River Brewing's Jackalope IPA!!!! (4.22)- The tasters were going on and on about how good this IPA was, and my 4.8 score was the highest of the day. "Yahtzee!! Dingdong!!! Hands down the winning IPA!!!" from one taster pretty much sums up the way most of us felt about this beer. Congratulations to the Chama River brewers for making the favorite IPA in the Challenge, and for showing us we don't even have to leave Albuquerque to get the best of the best in this greatest IPA brewing country in the whole world! I'm going to go pick up a keg this week!

A huge thanks to all who attended. You made it so much fun...they should make the 4th of JulIPA an annual holiday!


Anonymous said...

I had a ridiculously good time.

Andreas was greatly missed! Who else can rank the mysterious "garlic" IPA?

Finally, I had fun pouring the beer in the growlers. But I'm a glutton for punishment...look who I married (JK).

Unknown said...

Wow man, I love this lets do it again but for Labor day. I will bring beers back from the south east this august. But I love the comment about my levitation skills.

Reid Rivenburgh said...

As an outsider: Sounds fun. FYI, I picked Chama at the Il Vicino IPA-off on Saturday. It's one of my favorites, though I also really like Blue Corn's IPA.