Sunday, July 10, 2016

NM IPA Challenge: Only the Strong and Smoked Survive

With the first round of the NM IPA Challenge being an elimination round, one thing was certain: there were sure to be a number of bad beers. In the past, this was certainly true, even when there were only 14 breweries total to judge, let alone 28. But many NM breweries stepped up to the point that there weren't any "immediately spit the beer onto the floor" IPAs. So there's that.
Rio Bravo welcomed a full house of lupulin-crazed drinkers, including a man donning a pretzel necklace to help fuel him through the 28 oz. of beers he was served. The Rio Bravo space proved to have the perfect combination of factors to make for a successful event: plenty of seating and five minutes or less from my house. And the NM Brewers Guild people have been doing this for so long, there were no hitches when it came to getting the beers, aside from a lot of foam. Someday, someone will perfect the jockey box. Maybe Tesla. Or Kia.
The beers were divided into two trays of 14 beers apiece, so if you came with a friend, you might have gotten a taste of all 28. I talked to a few people who had tried both, and the consensus was that the tray with 1-14 had the better IPAs. I felt that way as well- in fact, I believe that directly contributed to Quarter Celtic's 24 votes. They were the standout beer from that group, but I don't know that they would have fared as well in tray 1. Newbie Starr Bros. was second in tray 2 with 17 votes, as they showed up with a respectable offering. Local favorite and reigning champ Bosque Brewing was third with 13, but I can't say their beer stood out at the time. Same with Marble, who only ended up with 6 votes. Santa Fe's newest IPA was entered but only got 3 votes. Should have saved some of that Western Bloc for the challenge! The real surprise in tray 2 was Chili Line out of Santa Fe, who brought a smoked IPA. Flavored or gimmick IPAs usually don't fare well in the Challenge (Eske's, anyone?), but Chili Line's smoked IPA got 10 votes and will go on to the finals. I could get all BJCP about the style guidelines for IPAs and how dare they enter this but who really cares? People liked it enough to vote for it.
Tray 1 started strong from the beginning, with La Cumbre in slot 1, and they gained 13 votes. That tied with tray 1 surprise Taos Mesa, who I had as a close second in my final decision. I ended up going with top vote getter Boxing Bear, who came away with 33 votes. They may be hard to beat this year. Stalwart Canteen (albeit with Zach in charge of brewing for the first time) tied for the lead with 33. A disappointment this year was Chama River. The beer tasted a little off, something I haven't encountered when trying beers at the brewpub.
A good experience overall, and a great job by the Rio Bravo staff checking on everyone and clearing tables. The two rounds outside of Albuquerque always bring out surprise votes (are Farmington palates that much different? Yes.), so you never know who will be near the top come July 23. See you then at Tractor for the finals!

1 comment:

Travis Black said...

Thanks for covering this P, a few of the breweries I haven't even heard of, thanks for putting them on my map. I was wondering if you have ever thought about outlining some of the history of the brew scene here with some info about the players, where they started and where they ended up. Thanks for great writing beergeek! -trav