Sunday, July 14, 2019

NM IPA Challenge: A New Hope

A format change from last year put the elimination round of the NM IPA Challenge in the mouths of the brewers this year, which could be seen as a blessing if you tried some of the beers last year. I did kind of enjoy going to previous events with a couple of people and sharing from both (or in last year's case) all three trays. I can see that people would be bummed they didn't get to try all the entries and decide who made the finals. It also seems like the Guild would welcome the cash flow from a public elimination event but I've been worn out from getting one keg for a party. I can't imagine the fun of organizing 45 kegs and trays for a million people. Yeah, 45. That's the astounding number of breweries who competed in 2019. The usual favorites were all represented, with some first-timers like La Reforma (home of the traditional Mexican IPA!), Ex Novo, and Icebox on the list as well. And who better to judge who got to the final round than the people who brewed the beer, or at least represented a brewery who entered? Well, me for one, but that's another argument. The judges were tasked to narrow the field to 15, which will compete on July 17th in Las Cruces, July 20th in Santa Fe, and wrap up with the finale at Bow and Arrow on July 27th (tickets available here. And the results...

Wow. Missing anyone? You'd expect Marble, Bosque, Boxing Bear, 2018 champ Blue Corn. But Rowley? IPA is not their strong suit, or so I thought. Icebox and La Reforma??? Good job guys! Rio Bravo is in, but not Canteen? No Quarter Celtic, whose brewer won this competition at least five times by my count. But probably the biggest upset (with some of the most upset followers) is La Cumbre not making the finals. The GABF gold winning, two-time National IPA Champion is out. Hard to believe, especially considering that their entry was the current Project Dank, which I thought was one of their best versions. In years past, I would have argued that the people who did the voting were dopes, and that would be mostly true. But who are we to blame if brewery people do the judging? Blind tasting eliminates all biases, unless you are biased against hazy/clear/darker IPAs. So does it suck that some of our favorites didn't make the finals. Yes. Is it fair? I'll leave you with this from a brewer whose beer didn't make it to the finals, "I like the way we did this and if that's how the judges voted then cool. Good luck to all that made it."

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