This year’s New Mexico Brewers Guild IPA Challenge was one of the closest competitions when it came to votes. The top three most popular entries were one vote apart from each other.
In the end, Rio Bravo Brewing Co.’s Dice Roll Imperial Hazy IPA prevailed as the winner. The beer, created by brewers Austin Giorgetta, Ty Levis and Lindsey Baker, is available on tap at the brewery and will soon be available again in cans.
“Dice roll is a unique beer in our lineup, as it was the start of our hop chronicles series,” said Giorgetta, who is brewing operations manager at Rio Bravo Brewing. “The idea of hop chronicles is to bring new, exclusive, and experimental hops into our lineup.”
The hazy IPA’s name has an interesting story behind it.
“Dice Roll received its name because the hops didn’t arrive on time and our brew day was already set,” Giorgetta said. “Instead of wasting a day, I asked our production brewer Ty (Levis) if he had a quarter. He did, so we decided to flip a coin on what hop to substitute the hop that did not show up. We then took it a step further and rolled dice on the percentage of the winning tosses amount to use.”
The New Mexico Brewers Guild was forced to take a different approach with this year’s IPA Challenge due to COVID-19. The challenge could no longer welcome large groups to gather for blind tastings. Breweries, which in past years made a special IPA for the challenge, now opted to submit an IPA already in their lineup.
“We didn’t want to pressure anybody that you have to create a brand new beer, because obviously, supplies are limited,” said Leah Black, executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild. “It costs money to brew these special beers. Ingredients are expensive, and right now people are barely brewing to get by because their capacities are less than normal.”
The guild decided to can the 36 entries submitted by breweries around the state. Canning presented another challenge, because of a can shortage. The guild put out a call for help, and Marble came through with cans. The brewery also allowed the guild to use its labeling system to label more than 5,000 cans.
“(Marble) had just a little over the exact amount that we would need to pull this off, so they gave us heavily discounted cans, so that was great,” Black said. “We got together with Stixon, who did our labels, and I got together with Lisa Burke – she’s from Marble as well – and she helped design our labels. It was a whole new process for me working on this end of it. It was really fun to organize.”
Central New Mexico Community College’s Brewing and Beverage Management also lent a helping hand in canning all the entries.
“It was two really long days, but they took all the data of the keg that they received,” Black said. “… They checked oxygen levels on the kegs. They added CO2 and tried to make sure all the beers were the same CO2 levels and none of these students knew what the beer was. … It was such a fun process. A lot of kinks to work out on the way, but we did it, and it was just a really cool thing to see come together.”
The cans were divided into three groups of 12-packs and numbered. People could purchase the packs at selected breweries to do their own blind tastings at home and cast their vote for their favorite online.
“People were saying they had a lot of fun with this one because they got their small groups out in their backyard and it was a way to get together responsibly and talk about beers and maybe catch up with friends,” Black said. “We want to be the catalyst, that’s what beer is about anyway is getting everybody together and community.”