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Vote early and often

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Calling all IPA craft beer drinkers. It’s time to unite during the 11th annual New Mexico Brewer’s Guild’s IPA Challenge that kicks off today in Las Cruces.

Don’t worry if you can’t make it down south, the challenge also stops Saturday at Taos Mesa Brewing in Taos and on Aug. 16 at Santa Fe Brewing Company in Santa Fe. It wraps up Aug. 17 at Marble Brewery in Albuquerque.

“Everyone who buys a ticket is a judge,” said Chris Goblet, beer ambassador with the New Mexico Brewers Guild. “They get a tray filled with 14 samples of IPA. They are all numbered 1-14. They can smell them, taste them, pair them against one another, pick their favorite and cast a single vote for their favorite. We collect those (votes) over the four different events across the state. At the end of the Albuquerque event at Marble Brewery, we tally up the numbers of individual votes and that brewery will be named winner.”

Ticket holders also get a commemorative pint glass filled with the beer they cast their vote for, Goblet said.

About 14 New Mexico breweries have confirmed they will be part of the event including Il Vicino, Tractor, Turtle Mountain, Blue Corn, Chama River, Broken Bottle and Second Street. Il Vicino has won the past three years in a row with its IPA Exodus.

“We use a specific hop that brings out the full-flavored citrus hops,” David Facey, Il Vicino Brewery assistant general manager, said of Exodus. “One thing I really enjoy about Exodus is the nose or the bouquet. It smells floral with citrus notes balanced with aggressive hop forward flavor.”

Il Vicino won in 2009 with its IPL (India Pale Lager), as well as in 2005 and 2004 with its Wet Mountain IPA.