The New Mexico Brewers Guild’s IPA Challenge celebrates 20 years this summer.
The friendly competition between the state’s best breweries continues this August with the first public voting event kicking off from 1 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 6, at Second Street Brewery Rufina Taproom in Santa Fe. Round 2 continues from 5 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 10, at Lauter Haus Brewing Co. in Farmington, and the final event, hosted by Santa Fe Brewing Co., wraps up from 1 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 13, at Tin Can Alley in Albuquerque. Tickets can be purchased at nmbeer.org/events.
“It started out as a very small, friendly competition and then more and more breweries came into existence,” Tess Vidalis, New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director, said. “It expanded and now it’s a huge thing.”
Initially a public tasting was held and participants cast their votes on who would advance to the competition rounds. About 2 years ago, the rules were rewritten and now representatives from each of the breweries with entries determine which IPAs move on to compete.
“They literally had to restructure and rewrite all of the rules and regulations because people were getting heated about that because they get so into it,” Vidalis said. “And so now we accept 45 different signups initially. So it’s the first 45 to sign up and then we do an initial private elimination round. And everyone who is tasting in (that round) is one representative from each of the entry breweries. And so that’s all private judging in order to get them down to 16 finalists. And then those go on for three rounds of public judging.”
The private elimination round will be held Saturday, July 30, at Boxing Bear Brewing Co.’s Firestone location. The public is welcome to stop by between 3 and 5 p.m. to find out which finalists will be moving forward.
Boxing Bear won with its Bear Knuckle IPA at the 2021 event. This year’s logo was designed in commemoration of Justin Hamilton, Boxing Bear’s director of brewing operations. Boxing Bear’s graphic designer created the art for this year’s IPA challenge logo.
“I love the hop king character,” Vidalis said. “It’s totally based off of Justin Hamilton and a picture he sent us last year.”
At each of the competition rounds, ticketholders will receive a numbered tray with a small tasting of each of the 16 finalists. Participants will then get to cast their vote for their favorite and will receive a full pint of their preferred IPA in a commemorative glass.
“This year, to help mitigate (the flow of traffic at the Albuquerque and Santa Fe events), we are going to be doing three different sessions,” Vidalis said. “And then we’ll have the first wave of people coming in at 1 p.m., the second at 2 p.m., and the third at 3 p.m. Everyone can stay as long as they want through the entire event. But this will just help wait times and make sure that there’s enough space for everyone to sit down and start judging.”
Vidalis and the participating breweries are excited about celebrating two decades of the New Mexico Brewers Guild’s IPA challenge.
“This is just going to be a celebration of everything that we as a state have accomplished in our community and the brewing community,” Vidalis said. “It’s just amazing to see the growth that has happened and how tight knit everyone still is even with all the expansion and so many new people getting into the game. I’m just really excited about hosting the 20th anniversary this year.”