Fresh from a silver medal performance at the Great American Beer Festival for its Vacation Kolsch, Daredevil Brewing chalked up another win this past weekend, though closer to home. In the MashCraft Mr. Wicked’s Hop Bonanza, the Speedway, In. brewery bested 16 others in a judged IPA competition.
And not only that, Daredevil beat out an insanely popular, two-time Hop Bonanza winner! More on that in a minute.
The Daredevil win is not actually a surprise because we all know what delicious beer they make. Lift Off IPA captured our hearts a couple of years ago and we bugged the crap out of liquor stores as the new brewery attempted to keep up with high demand. And this summer, Rip Cord (Double IPA) captured a gold medal at the Indiana Brewers’ Cup.
So Daredevil won the Hop Bonanza with one of those two beers, right? Nope. Sorry. Like falling for your longtime date’s younger sibling, Daredevil has a new beer that is sure to catch your eye.
MashCraft Brewing co-owner and head brewer, Andrew Castner, fashioned this beer competition after one in Denver but he put his own stamp on it. This year, 17 breweries (four from out of state) brought their beers to be blind judged by two professionals and two beer enthusiasts.
For the second year I was allowed a front seat with the sequestered judges and quietly minded my business while they focused on theirs. I noticed, as they sniffed, smashed, chewed and gulped the beer samples in front of them, that some tasting styles were different than others.
Beers came and went until Andrew made the announcement that only ten beers remained. Veteran BJCP judges Sandy Cockerham and Andrew Korty led further discussion with Adam Gotch and Jordan Overton, about finding the IPA beer with the proper hop presence. Before tasting, the judges were given a general description of each beer with a letter designation.
Things I heard:
- “Drinkability” vs. “Boozy”.
- “Impression” vs. “Bias”.
- “A little hint of cheese.”
- “(Letter) was delicious but there was nothing IPA about it.”
- “French toast thing happening here.”
- “Shouldn’t there be something said for being delicious but not true to style?”…“No.”
- “Ahhh. That’s so frickin’ good.”
- And regarding the winner, “It’s just juicy as hell.”
The final four beers offered up their last chance to shine. I knew who was voted the winner, unanimously that is, but only by its letter. I returned to the taproom for the final announcement.
When Andrew announced that Fat Head’s wet-hopped Hop Stalker and Head Hunter finished 3-4, a huge roar went up. Not only is Fat Head’s deeply respected, but Head Hunter IPA (100 on RateBeer) has more awards than can possibly be mentioned. (You can check out Fat Head’s as the cover story of this month’s BeerAdvocate magazine).
As the results were being read, I happened to be talking to Daredevil’s new director of sales, Mark Kocher, and I asked what beer they brought. When he said their beer was wet hopped, which I had not known, then I knew who won. Mark’s excitement said it all when Daredevil was announced as the victor.
Later, I chatted with Daredevil co-founder, Shane Pearson, when he was able to call during a busy travel day.
Shane told me how NEx IPA (learn more here http://daredevilbeer.com/new-beers-taproom/) was conceptualized. “It came about a couple of ways. One, we had been talking for awhile about doing a New England-style beer, which is actually where the name came from-we’re calling it New England experiment. It’s just because of the aggressively hopped style that we like and thought it would be fun to make one. And then we also had access to some fresh citra wet hops, and so those things just kind of came together. And we incorporated those into the recipe for the NEx IPA.”
It seemed amazing to me that the original brew of this beer beat out Head Hunter in a blind testing with certified judges. Shane said, “We’re really happy with how it came out. We spent about six months thinking about how we wanted to make it and kind of tinkering with it, because it’s really the same approach we take with all of our IPA’s.”
Certainly a beer this delicious has to make a return in one fashion or another. Right? Shane assured me, ”We’re going to brew it once in awhile but we will kind of reserve the right to change it (laughs), which goes along with the experimental part. We’re planning to continue to brew it and so it’ll be in that style that we made this time. It may be similar, we may change it, but we kind of like the way it came out. So we’ll make it again, we just have to decide how often.”
For Daredevil, participating in the Hop Bonanza event is about supporting their good friend Andrew Castner and MashCraft, and enjoying the fun that it creates. Winning a medal is a bonus.
“You know,” Shane continued, “we’re not in the business to win medals, we’re in the business to make beer that people enjoy. But it’s always nice when your beer is recognized for being a high quality beer. Obviously they had some world-renowned, world class breweries (Stone, Founders, Shorts) and beers at that event and it’s great. And now we’re brewing beer again today. But it’s always nice to be recognized for what you do.”
For Castner, he finished second place this year with his MashCraft IPA, a beer that was voted out early last year. But, he told me, this beer has evolved to the point where he wants it, and while he relishes his finish, there is no shame to be voted out early with so many great beers involved.
Now I’m no matchmaker but you should get to Daredevil Brewing quickly and make the move on your new flame, because the experimental “NEx IPA” is going to be leaving soon.
Daredevil Brewing is located at 1151 Main St., Speedway, In.
You can find me on twitter @indybeersleuth.