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Hopping to it: 44 New Mexico brewers battle for top honors in IPA challenge

It’s a battle for bragging rights.

Forty-four New Mexico breweries – including the 2016 and 2017 back-to-back winner Boxing Bear Brewing Co. – are participating in this year’s New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge 2018: The Hounds Seek Revenge. The other breweries, including Bosque Brewing Co., which had won back-to-back challenges before Boxing Bear, are ready to snatch the trophy from Boxing Bear.

This year, some breweries are trying their luck by entering hazy India Pale Ales, which have not been a staple in years past.

“The hazy IPA has gotten really popular,” said John Gozigian, Executive Director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild. “This year we have several. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Last year, Quarter Celtic’s was a New England IPA. It’s the only one that I can think of in any IPA challenge. There have been some that were hazy, but that was not intentional. This year, they will be intentionally hazy.”

From 44 IPAs entered in the elimination round at Duel Brewing in Albuquerque, only 15 IPAs will advance to three rounds being held in Taos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo. Voters will choose the top 11 IPAs that will move on to Rounds 1, 2 and 3. The four breweries hosting the events get an automatic bye during the elimination round. Votes during Rounds 1, 2, and 3, will be accumulated and counted to determine the winner of this year’s IPA Challenge.

Attendees at the elimination round will receive one flight tray with numbered tastings. The 44 entries will be divided into three flight trays that will be randomly distributed.

“There are a bunch of new ones,” Gozigian said. “Last year, we had 30 something in the elimination round. We are up by a dozen from last year.”

Newcomers include Albuquerque’s Bombs Away Beer Company, Steel Bender Brewyard, Toltec Brewing Co., Santa Fe’s Tumble Root Brewery Distillery, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Cloudcroft Brewing Co. and Red River Brewing Co.

The IPA Challenge will head north to Taos Mesa Brewing Taproom on July 18. This will be the only evening event, starting at 4 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. A few years ago, the IPA Challenge was held at Taos Mesa Brewing’s location in El Prado.

Round 2 takes place in Santa Fe, with Second Street Brewery’s Rufina Taproom hosting on July 21.

“The new taproom and cannery is a great location because it is big inside,” Gozigian said. “When you’re tasting beers, you don’t want the sunlight. It’s better to be under cover of a roof. We will be dispensing on their draft system. It’s a great venue. We did it there last year and decided to go back there again.”

Round 3 attendees will not only find out the winner of the IPA Challenge but will also get a first look at Bosque Brewing Co.’s new location in Bernalillo on July 28. The brewery will open to the public on July 30.

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