So you’re wondering who has the best IPA in your metropolis. But how in the world can you figure this out?
You can’t drink all of them at once. You’ll pass out before you finish and never know who won.
You can’t drink one a day until you’ve gone through them all. That would take too much time. And over time, people change. Hair styles change. Interest rates fluctuate.
There is an answer: The Annual (insert name of your town here) IPA Challenge.
It’s simple as 1, 2 3 … 4. OK, 5. Maybe 6.
- Assemble a group of friends, family, distant relatives, dentists, co-workers, sanitation engineers, Methodists, or just people you’ve passed once or twice on the street. The one thing they must have in common? They’re love of India Pale Ales.
- Find someone who doesn’t like that hoppy swill guaranteed to make you pucker more than a teenage girl taking a selfie. This individual will be in charge of procuring the samples, keeping things on time, knowing the order of the tasting, and generally chauffeuring everyone else around. The bossier the better.
- Pick an afternoon when almost everyone can attend. A Saturday not during the college football season is usually a safe bet.
- Make a list of all the breweries in an area of your choosing. If you live in a big city, maybe there are enough breweries in the chosen area that you can walk to and/or take public transportation. If you live in a smaller area, maybe it’s all breweries within a certain distance from the city center. Your choice. Then pick a route (clockwise and counter-clockwise work just fine) that lets you hit all the breweries in your chosen area.
- Visit each brewery, procuring samples of all of their IPAs for everyone (except the boss) and let the judges rate them from 1-5. Try to keep the identity of each IPA secret, if you can. NOTE: It’s OK if judges know the names of their fellow judges.
When you’ve hit every brewery, tally the points awarded for each different IPA, divide by the number of judges, and voila, the best IPAs will be the ones with the highest score.
That’s exactly what we did for the second consecutive year in Bozeman, Montana. And for the second year in a row, the winner is …
Well, not yet. First the details.
A distinguished group of IPA judges was assembled a few Saturdays ago to hit all the breweries in a 10-mile radius of downtown Bozeman. The breweries in the challenge, in order of visitation, included Bridger Brewing, Bunkhouse Brewery, White Dog Brewing Co., Bozeman Brewing Co., 406 Brewing, Map Brewing Co., Madison River Brewing, Bar 3 Bar-B-Q & Brewing, and Outlaw Brewing.
That’s nine breweries. In one afternoon. Can I get a “Hallelujah!”
The hope was to taste two IPAs at each brewery. But not every brewery had two IPAs. Two had three. And two had one. So the total number of IPAs tasted per person still ended up being 18.
Top three IPAs in town, as voted by the panel of experts, are the following:
Bronze Medal (tie) — Hop Juice Double IPA from Madison River and Horse Thief IPA by Outlaw Brewing. Each earned a 3.5 on the 5-point scale from the judges, who noted the following for the Horse Thief:
“Good IPA. Not a robust taste, but still tasty.”
“Nice IPA balance of hops and everything else. Bitter … in a good way.”
“Definitely an IPA. Hoppy. Tastes good.”
And had this to say about the Hop Juice DIPA:
“Well-balanced malt and hop flavors. Good IPA.”
“Very good. Flavorful. Balanced. Delicious.”
“Tastebuds are numb because this is &*%$ing awesome.”
Madison River’s double IPA hits you with 9% ABV and an IBU rating of 101, while the Outlaw’s IPA is a more standard offering at 5.6% ABV and 63 IBUs.
Silver Medal — Midas Crush West Coast IPA from Map Brewing is 6.9% ABV but 100% IPA goodness. The beer edged out the two third-place finishers by earning a 3.55 from the expert panel, who noted:
“Flinty. Quite nice. Interesting – hoppy and citrus.”
“Nice. Light. Good citrus.”
“Light, well balanced. I may be drunk but it tastes great.”
And finally, the winner … for the second year in row.
“Excellent IPA. Great balance of malt and hops.”
“Best real IPA. Floral tones. Lightly dry hopped.”
“Lovely. A classic IPA. Bitter, yet sweet. Nice mix of flavor intensities.”
There were a number of other IPAs that fared well during the challenge. And to those, we give an Honorable Mention nod. Checking in with a 3.1 average score were the Vigilante IPA from Bridger Brewing, the Double IPA from White Dog, and the Hop Punch IPA by 406 Brewing.
So there you have it. Another successful Annual Bozeman IPA Challenge.
Now I challenge you to create your own IPA challenge in your town.
— Eric Van Steenburg