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New format for IPA Challenge: Elimination round closed to public, no automatic advancement

The 2019 New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge kicks off in Las Cruces on July 17 and wraps up in Albuquerque on July 27. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Brewers Guild)

A portion of the popular New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge has changed, but hop heads in different areas of the state still have a chance to vote for their favorite. In past years, the public was able to participate in the elimination round, which would whittle down about 35 entries to some 15 entries that would move on to other rounds held around the state. Breweries that hosted a round also had their entries automatically advance to the next round. This caused some dissension. The initial elimination round is now closed to the public and there will not be an automatic advancement of entries.

“(The board) decided that they were going to try something different this year and a little bit more on a pro-level,” said Leah Black, New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director. “Kind of how (the Great American Beer Festival) and the larger competitions do. So the first round is not open to the public. It is purely one representative per brewery that is submitting beer. It’s going to be a blind tasting that will eliminate 38 entries right now down to 15.”

The 15 entries will then travel to Las Cruces, Santa Fe and then Albuquerque for blind public tastings. Attendees will get to sample the 15 entries and cast their vote for their favorite. Guests also will get a full pint of their favorite in a commemorative glass they get to keep. The first round will be held on Wednesday, July 17, at Picacho Peak Brewing Co. in Las Cruces. Tumbleroot Brewery Distillery in Santa Fe will host the second round on July 20. Albuquerque’s Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. will hold the final round on July 27. The results of the three rounds will be tallied and a winner will be announced on July 27 at Bow & Arrow.

There are no set rules on the style of IPA a brewery can enter. The breweries have full creative license to enter what they believe to be their best IPA. Previous years have featured fruit IPAs, hazy IPAs and IPAs intentionally heavy on the hops.

Last year’s champion Blue Corn Brewery has an entry in this year’s challenge, as does past back-to-back winner Boxing Bear Brewing Co. There are plenty of newcomers entering their IPAs this year, including Brew Lab 101 Beer & Cider Co., Cantero Brewing Co., Desert Valley Brewing Co., Enchanted Circle Brewing Co., Ex Novo Brewing Co., Icebox Brewing Co., Kilt Check Brewing Co., La Reforma Taqueria Brewery and Distillery, Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, and Truth or Consequences Brewing Co., according to Black.

“The big hitters Bosque, Santa Fe, Marble, those guys are all entered in, too,” Black said. “I was really happy to see (that) because we wondered by doing it differently if people were still going to be excited about it. We actually had 38 entries, so I’m really happy about that.”

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