Saturday, July 28, 2018

NM IPA Challenge Final Round

The Bear had a good run, but a strong showing in round 2 and the most votes in the final round sealed the victory for Blue Corn in the 2018 NM IPA Challenge. Their grapefruit bomb of a beer was the fan favorite, somehow even beating out Red River's "liquid yuck". Red River did manage to get 26 votes in the final someone affiliated with their brewery a politician or something? Wait, the answer is yes?? Ahhhh, I'm starting to see the bigger picture now...And ok, maybe I'm being harsh. But do you really think that Red River's IPA is a better beer than La Cumbre's National IPA Championship winning Project Dank, which it placed ahead of? Really? Would you bring a growler of it to friends or brewers in another state and proudly say, "This beer was the best out of 40+ IPAs at the New Mexico IPA Challenge."? Merit-based voting. Honest voting.
Marble and Boxing Bear both got 40 votes in the final round, though Marble's dismal 3 votes in round 1 really hurt and left them in 3rd place.
Biggest surprise this year? Probably that the majority of the breweries went for the dank IPAs rather than juicy or hazy. I thought this year would be much heavier on the haze. Only Boxing Bear and Bow and Arrow really had what I would classify as a true New England style IPA, though Santa Fe's was close and definitely more on the juicy side. And might again have been the one I voted for, had I voted. Either that or Second Street. They know IPAs. How about you guys take over the space Monks' left in Albuquerque?
Bosque had a mediocre showing to kick off the opening-ish of their new digs. I liked the beer on its own at the tasting room but it didn't stand out from the crowd. They finished near the bottom with Bow and Arrow and Taos Mesa, though nowhere near as low as Duel. The mighty have fallen a bit, but not that low. Nice new spot. Definitely has a production brewery feel, but that view of the Sandias from the second floor are killer.
Many IPAs I had noted as "good", which is nice when you're paying to taste a tray of beer. There were plenty of years where you knew that 4 or 5 beers on the tray were a big NO!after one sip, but that was not the case this year. And that's the way it should be. So many locals boast about how great NM IPAs are; let's not have any infected ones in a "best of the best" challenge.
Good job by the Guild this year on not running out of plastic cups like last year. I did note that a Walmart was only a 3 minute drive away...was this the reason Bosque was chosen for the final and busiest round? We'll see if that trend continues next year.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

NM IPA Challenge Round 2: A Return to Normalcy

There. That's more like it. In the second round of the 2018 NM IPA Challenge, Red River, the darlings of round 1, placed in the bottom 25% in round 2, held at Second Street in Santa Fe. The city different didn't buck convention when it comes to choosing their favorite, as Marble gathered the most votes (25). Blue Corn was right behind with 24, and after that strong showing in the first round is now leading the competition with 38 total votes. Red River only got 8 votes this time around, but their dominance in the first round keeps them secure in the second spot with 31. Boxing Bear is right behind with 29, Marble with 28, and La Cumbre rounds out the top five with 25 total votes. The final round is going to draw the biggest IPA Challenge crowd ever, with perhaps the entire town of Red River making the drive to Bernalillo. In an unrelated note, i saw people from a local business buying beers at a brewery for customers if the customers voted for the business in a "Best of the City" competition. My opinion is if you have to ask for votes, or even worse have to pay for them, then you most likely don't deserve to win. Anyway, Bosque's new location is going to draw a huge crowd, and this final is really going to come down to the last votes. Get out there and vote what your taste buds tell you is best!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

NM IPA Challenge Round 1

As the second round of the IPA Challenge begins at Second Street in Santa Fe, it's only fitting that I catch up on Round 1, held in Taos. Now, I know that people in Taos have been conditioned over the years to like mediocre beer, as evidenced by the popularity of Eske's Green Chile beer, but the voting results really raised eyebrows. Is it just the strange tastes of the quinoa kids in Taos, or was there some subterfuge afoot? Red River Brewing, only a scant 36 miles from Taos, somehow managed to get 64% more votes than the closest competitor, Boxing Bear. That's one more vote than Duel, Kaktus, Marble, Quarter Celtic, Bow and Arrow, Bosque, La Cumbre, and Santa Fe COMBINED. Hmmmmmmmm. Now, it's hard to pick out a certain beer in an IPA Challenge (save for maybe Boxing Bear's entry this year). While I can't say for sure that people were stuffing the ballot box, I can SAY FOR SURE that people were stuffing the ballot box!!! Sure, I could be wrong. Happens multiple times a day. But here's my prediction: Red River falls back. Boxing Bear continues to show well. May the merit-based vote accumulator win!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

NM IPA Challenge: The Three Trays

Duel Brewing had their finest tap selection since opening as they hosted the elimination round of the NM IPA Challenge. The format was simple: the 38 IPAs were broken up into three trays to be distributed equally to the participants. Apparently some event-goers didn't get the memo, as there were complaints about not getting a tray with all 38 entries. Don't you have to wait long enough to get your tray of 12-14 samples?? Just do what the pros do and show up with three people and get to try from all three trays. Then come up and yack to me about stupid shit for an hour. I was not a pro, as I have only one friend and so only got to try from 1-27, though did sneak a sample of 29 and 31. I found tray 1 to be superior to the second, with 5 good IPAs, 4 bad, and 3 ok. This may not seem like a great ratio, but five out of 12 will get you in the baseball hall of fame. Tray 2 was a bit closer to the Mendoza line, with 8 bad, 1 good, and 3 ok.
Of interest to me:

I think the hazy beers got some votes based purely on looks: Boxing Bear's 26 votes were second only to Marble's 29, though I didn't think that beer was in the top 5.
Marble's beer stood out as I tried it with a "Huh!" which means good, but I was surprised to see it get the most votes as it wasn't HAZY.
Bow and Arrow's had a great NE IPA look, but it lacked in taste. This is where I think the look helped, as they gathered 16 votes.
Santa Fe Dining had a good showing, with concepts Blue Corn and Kelly's both making the finals. You remember Kelly's: the place where everyone used to go and pack the patio when the beer was bad. Now they have good beer and the place is empty.
Red Door had an interesting beer that finished like a lager. They're going on to the finals as well.
Rio Bravo wasn't one I'd put money on to make the next round, but their beer stood out. Nice job.
La Cumbre surprised me by NOT doing something hazy, and their beer was really good.
Kaktus' 11 votes may have been more than their previous entries combined.
Santa Fe stood out to me above the rest with a variant of Reluctant, their hazy IPA. Not quite in the murky category, more wheaty looking. But what a great beer. Only 12 of us had the good taste to vote for this one.

The way the Guild tallies votes is effective but antiquated. How about grabbing an Ipad and entering the data as you receive the votes. Then, 30 seconds after the last vote is in, boom, you can announce the results and we can get out of that hot and humid atmosphere. Those big windows at the front of Duel combined with the high ceilings make for an overstretched air conditioning system. That charcuterie board might be worth hanging around for though.
Duel, Second Street, Taos Mesa, and Bosque all received a bye as they are all hosts this year. Excited to see what Second Street and Bosque bring to the finals. You know Bosque wants to bring home the trophy to their new billion dollar baby.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

U.S. Open Beer Championship Winners Announced: The Local Slant

Did you all mark your calendars for this one? The U.S. Open Beer Championships was right up there with Arbor Day for me up until a couple of years ago because it just didn't have the publicity afforded to the ones we're familiar with, even though it has been held since 2009. So while it isn't as well known as GABF and World Beer Cup and though its website ( makes mine look modern, it is still a legitimate competition. It has the unique distinction of allowing homebrewers to enter alongside commercial breweries. One guy even took Silver in the DIPA category! There were 6,300 entries from around the world in 117 categories, and looky here: New Mexico brought back some parting gifts. The 377 Brewery took Gold in the Wood/Barrel-Aged Sour Beer category for Belgian Sour Quad. Nice! One of the few non-chain places in the airport area and it's a winner. Will the local sour chasers be searching this one out? Another underdog brewery, Flix Brewhouse, took a Bronze in the Baltic-Style Porter category for Darth Malt. Great name, great beer, apparently. Santa Fe took two Bronze medals, the first for Santa Fe Pale Ale in the ESB category. Who knew all these local Pale Ales were really ESB Ales? La Cumbre Pyramid Rock Pale Ale, Santa Fe Pale Ale, Bosque IPA winning at World Beer Cup a few years back in the Australian Pale Ale category...FAKE NEWS!!! The second Santa Fe Bronze was for their fantastic 7K IPA in the West Coast IPA Category. Yeah, there's a New England IPA category. Will be one at GABF this year too, finally. Anyway, have I told you how much I enjoyed the 7K on tap at Albuquerque Sunport at the place that stays open late in Terminal B? Hint: Terminal B is the one where you turn right. Back to the beer in a second, but first, someone explain why there are so many late flights out of huge airports yet all the restaurant/bars seem to close by 10pm? NY, LAX, Vegas...yet we have one flight out of little ABQ Sunport at 11:45pm and the bar there is open up almost until boarding. I love that. And I got there after a crazy day of work and had myself the best 7K I could imagine. Two, actually, of the large ones. And then I went into the restroom and chugged an Underberg mini, got on the plane, and settled in with my earplugs and sleep mask. And listened to myself think about how important it was that I get some sleep. Listened to that annoying voice all the way up to landing.
Congratulations to our local winners!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Can ABQ Bear Another Hazy IPA?

You don't have to have a magic 8 ball to know that Hazy/ NE style IPAs are all the rage. It's old news for me to even write about it. And you know that, yes, Albuquerque IPA drinkers would love to have another quality hazy IPA to try. Look at La Cumbre, who has seen remarkable success beginning with El Jugo and followed up by Postcards From Hell (collab with Modern Times), In the Money, etc. You know, the beers you had to line up for. And people got so used to lining up there that they even did it for the South Peak Pilsner can release, even though people when it was available previously on tap at the pub, people weren't drinking it at the pub and it got dropped from the regular lineup. Sun Fade, their most recent hazy, should be available throughout the summer and I saw a lot of it in Phoenix recently. Bosque did a few really good ones, and I think they should keep trying them. Seems like (naturally) a lot of focus has gone to opening the new place, and I haven't been blown away by any of their recent releases. Marble has Desert Fog, a hazy IPA that may or may not get canned someday. Quarter Celtic and Canteen have done a few but none hit the mark of a NE style, and I'm using the look/mouthfeel of Monkish, Tired Hands, Other Half as my reference. Not they have to do the beers as well as those named do, they just have to be similar in style. Red Door, Ponderosa, Bombs Away all have done or are still brewing the style.

But what about Boxing Bear? Is Justin Hamilton content with the success of his back-to-back NM IPA Challenge winning IPA? Well, probably. That would be enough for me. But he's been intrigued by the NE style IPA since before it blew up. And he sorta tried his hand at one in the MavBear collab with Josh Trujillo at Marble. He's finally releasing his very own at Boxing Bear, Albumurky. I like the name, though we'll see if San Diego's Pure Project has any objections since they seem to be the original "murk" meisters, with beers named Murklands, Murkwoods, Murk Mobile, Murk of the Beast, UC Murkley...
Hamilton says that while MavBear came across as having higher bitterness than a typical NE IPA, Albumurky is more true to style. It is 6.8% ABV and is hopped with Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra. Definitely looking forward to this one.