Friday, November 23, 2012

Non-Snob 2012 California IPA Tournament, Rules and Regulations

We here at Non-Snob are a bunch of IPA fiends.  Convenient, since California's completely inundated with quality IPAs.  Down here in San Diego County, Stone, Ballast Point, and Green Flash are sort of the Big 3 IPA producers.  Up in Sonoma County, Russian River, Lagunitas, and Bear Republic are obviously putting together their own heavy hitters in the IPA market.  One day we started wondering, if you put the San Diego three against the Sonoma three in a blind tasting, which county would fare better?  And who'd win overall?   But of course, that's a pretty narrow-minded approach.  How can you leave Alpine on the sidelines?  Or Anderson Valley?  And what about the guys in the middle, like Firestone Walker?  Or on the relative outskirts (geographically speaking), like Sierra Nevada?

Since we're not ones to do things half-assed around here (except when Andy loses his tasting notes and puts up a post anyway), we decided to try and answer those questions, and with that, I'm proud to introduce our 2012 California IPA Tournament.  Over the past few months, we whittled an initial field of 36 IPAs down to a single overall champion through a massive series of blind tastings.  This introduction will present the tournament field, the guidelines we followed, and a few other (ir)relevant details.

Through a combination of luck and several weeks of research (i.e. browsing the stocks of San Diego's finest and not-so-finest beer purveyors), we settled on 36 beers that fit our criteria, which were as follows:
1) Relatively easily accessible in bottle or can form, i.e. no beers that are only available at the brewery or have severely limited distribution.  This automatically eliminated a large chunk of the breweries in California, including San Diego's own Hess and Monkey Paw, as well as, among others, Mammoth, FiftyFifty, Beachwood, Jupiter, and non-bottling/canning restaurant/brewpubs like Rock Bottom, Pizza Port, and BJ's.  The list of those eliminated under rule #1 is long but distinguished.  Sorry, folks.
2) West Coast-style IPAs only.  None of the Non-Snobbers like English IPAs at all, so we immediately eliminated those from contention- so Eel River, Manzanita, Mendocino, Butte Creek, SoCal, Indian Wells, and Lost Coast, among others.  We realize that in some cases the line between English and West Coast IPAs can be a bit hazy, but we had to draw that line somewhere.
3) Standard IPAs only.  No special releases, doubles, imperials, triples, ryes, whites (we allowed rye and wheat as accent grains,- e.g. Cismontane, Knee Deep, Port- as long as the beer isn't styled as a rye or white IPA), blacks, Belgians, seasonals, etc.  Under this rule, breweries such as Bootleggers, Iron Fist, Free Range, and Tied House were cut.

And so, the 36 contenders:
21st Amendment Brew Free or Die (San Francisco)
Alesmith (San Diego)
Alpine Duet (Alpine)
Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' (Boonville)
Ballast Point Sculpin (San Diego)
Bear Republic Racer 5 (Healdsburg)
Bison Organic (Berkeley)
Black Diamond Jagged Edge (Concord)
Blue Frog (Fairfield)
Buffalo Bill's Alimony (Hayward)
Cismontane Coulter (Rancho Santa Margarita)
Coronado Islander (Coronado/San Diego)
Drake's (San Leandro)
Eagle Rock Populist (Los Angeles)
Firestone Walker Union Jack (Paso Robles)
Green Flash West Coast (San Diego)
Hangar 24 Columbus (Redlands)
High Water Hop Riot (Chico)
Karl Strauss Tower 10 (San Diego)
Kern River Just Outstanding (Kernville)
Knee Deep (Lincoln)
Lagunitas (Petaluma)
Left Coast Trestles (San Clemente)
Mad River Jamaica Sunset (Blue Lake)
Marin (Larkspur)
Mission (San Diego)
Moylan's (Novato)
Napa Smith Organic (Napa)
Nectar Ales (Paso Robles)
North Coast Acme (Fort Bragg)
Port Wipeout (San Marcos)
Rubicon (Sacramento)
Russian River Blind Pig (Santa Rosa)
Sierra Nevada Torpedo (Chico)
Speakeasy Big Daddy (San Francisco)
Stone (Escondido)

The field.

Andy sagely proposed following ASP tournament guidelines, which seemed very much appropriate given that we're in San Diego.  The tournament was structured thusly:
Article 7: Formats
7.01   [IPA]’s World Title Events shall consist of 36 [Beers] and the following  format will be used: 
(a) Round 1 is 12 heats of three [Beers] with 1st place progressing to Round 3 and 2nd and 3rd place progressing to Round 2. 
(b) Round 2 is 12 heats of two [Beers] with the winner advancing to Round 3. 
(c) Round 3 is 12 heats of two [Beers] with the winner progressing to Round 4. 
(d) Round 4 is 4 heats of 3 with 1st progressing to the Quarter Finals and 2nd and 3rd being placed in Round 5. 
(e) Round 5 is 4 heats of two [Beers] with the winner progressing to the Quarter Finals.
(f) Quarter Finals onwards will be one-on-one rounds with 2nd place being eliminated until a winner is decided.

Yes, that's a lot of drinking.  Five judges conducted the tastings: Non-Snobbers Brendan, Andy, Samer, and Matt, plus Snob Brent (he's not a snob, but we call him a snob because it pisses him off), who we elected to sit in my place because one of us had to arrange the tastings to ensure that they were 100% blind (of course I still drank, I just didn't judge, except for a single instance where a tiebreaker was required).  Sorry, Alex, but living in relative BFE has its disadvantages.  Round 1 was fully randomized (with a bit of educated reshuffling); successive rounds were partially randomized, but it's too much of a pain in the ass to explain it all right now so I'll just do it round by round because you'll probably forget anyway.  We realize that freshness is a concern when you're drinking IPA, and we did our utmost to ensure that we got everything as fresh as possible, but of course a fair amount of that was beyond our control.

The results will be released machine-gun style over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

P.S. Just a couple of random tidbits- in case anyone's wondering, we eliminated Shmaltz because their beers are produced in New York.  We realize that 21st Amendment could be removed under similar criteria (their beers are made in Minnesota), but we allowed 21st in because they're in the California Craft Brewers' Association.  Also, we chose Sculpin over Big Eye for Ballast Point because Sculpin's a West Coast IPA whereas Big Eye's more English.  And apologies to such newcomers as Noble Ale Works, Black Market, Golden Road, and Rough Draft, but your IPAs only started coming out in bottle form after we'd already started.

No comments:

Post a Comment