If you’re not still preoccupied by the infamous East Coast–West Coast hip-hop rivalries of the ’90s, you’re likely well aware of this decade’s coast-to-coast debate: Which side of the country produces the best IPA?
The answer, believe it or not, is neither. With Albuquerque at the helm, New Mexico is quickly emerging as one of the greatest IPA producing states in the country. And you don’t have to take our word for it: A New Mexico entry has won the Brewing News National IPA Championships the last four years in a row (La Cumbre Brewing Company Project Dank took home the honors in 2017). And two Land of Enchantment–based beers recently earned the title of Best American Beer at the Great British Beer Festival (Marble Brewery’s Double IPA in 2012 and Project Dank in 2014).
When asked what separates New Mexico IPAs from the rest of the (six-) pack, Jotham Michnovicz, director of operations at Bosque Brewing Co., singles out factors such as malt balance, clean yeast characteristics, and a focus on brewing beers that highlight the flavor and scent of the hops, not just the bitterness. The result are IPAs that are juicier and hoppier than anywhere else in the country. “We’re over here in New Mexico doing our own thing,” Michnovicz said. “New Mexicans, in general, crave big and bold flavors. There’s just a really high level of creativity.”
Taste the difference for yourself with five of our go-to New Mexico IPAs. Then, perhaps, we can finally put yet another East Coast–West Coast battle to rest.
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6.6% ABV, 82 IBU
Santa Fe Brewing Company is the state’s oldest brewery, and the Happy Camper IPA -- first brewed in 2010 -- is the perfect introduction to New Mexico IPAs. It doesn’t hit you over the head with hops, and its five-hop blend leans floral and citrusy, while balanced with some serious maltiness. Your buzz won’t just be from the beer, though: You can feel good knowing that the company reuses 70 to 80 percent of its wastewater, employs solar panels on its brewery’s roof, and runs its own hop farm in Rinconada.
7.2% ABV, 100 IBU
A quintessential New Mexico IPA, Elevated accounts for approximately 60% of six-year-old La Cumbre’s total production. The blend of eight different hops -- a total of about five pounds per barrel -- has impressed plenty of judges: Elevated won gold at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival and bronze at the 2012 World Beer Cup. It’s so well balanced, we suggest swapping it for your typical day-in-the-park Pilsner.
7.2% ABV, 100 IBU
New Mexico breweries believe in a little friendly competition, and this Boxing Bear IPA knocked out its challengers last year, winning the 2016 New Mexico IPA Challenge. (Extra points should be awarded for the fact that head brewer Justin Hamilton and assistant brewer Dylan Davis are Albuquerque natives.) With its strong citrus aroma and bitter flavor that lingers on the tongue, Bear Knuckle is a highly sippable IPA.
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6.5% ABV, 95 IBU
If you want to try this brew, you’ll likely have to visit the Albuquerque brewpub, as it’s only bottled in limited runs. Pine-scented, tropical, and containing “an outrageous amount of hops,” as Michnovicz puts it, Scale Tipper -- which has topped the podium of the New Mexico and national IPA challenges -- is more balanced than that description would lead you to believe. But what we really love is that it fizzes slightly on the tongue.
8% ABV, 100 IBU
Want to impress your friends with your serious beer-drinking skills? Order this higher ABV, golden-hued brew. It’s hoppy and bitter and nods more towards caramel than citrus. But it’s also way leaner than you’d expect from a double IPA (not that you need to share that detail with your crew). The sole discernible flaw is that Marble only distributes this brew (and its others) in New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Arizona. Guess a trip to New Mexico is in order, huh?