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Alpha King Challenge

Who will be crowned in a battle of the brews?

Alpha King Challenge

Congratulations to Kyle Carlson of Tamarack Brewing Co. in Lakeside, MT - 2016 Alpha King!

Kyle Carlson of Tamarack Brewing Company, a family brewery in Lakeside, Montana, was named the 2016 Alpha King during the 18th annual Alpha King Challenge at Rock Bottom Brewery located in downtown Denver. Among 152 entries from 107 different brewers, Tamarack's Headwall Double IPA took first place for its hop-forward yet well-balanced qualities. In addition to the Alpha King crown, Carlson and the Tamarack brew crew will be awarded an upcoming feature video and $500 in cash.

"This is our first year entering a beer in the Alpha King Challenge," says Carlson. "About a year ago, we were talking with Mark from Überbrew, who had just been crowned Alpha King for his delicious black IPA, and he encouraged us to enter a beer next year. So, shout out to Mark and the crew at Überbrew for the encouragement and comradery."

Like so many others, this year's Alpha King winner began home brewing beer in his garage about ten years ago and eventually landed a job racking beer and cleaning kegs. Carlson has been with Tamarack Brewing for a little over five years and is now the Head Brewer. Nestled below a local ski hill, Blacktail Mountain, and wedged on the west side of Flathead Lake, Tamarack brewing is surrounded by some of the most rugged and diverse wilderness.

"This allows us, as brewers, to live our life with unbridled adventure. We try to bring our experiences back to the brewery and integrate that spirit into all of our beers."

Tamarack’s Headwall Double IPA was listed at 80 IBUs upon entry with 9.7% ABV and boasts complex piney, tropical and floral aromas delivered by a heavy use of Mosaic hops along with Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe. Carlson describes it as a dangerously drinkable Double IPA that delivers a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face of lupulin bliss. While the Alpha King crown is a highly coveted award and there are always many contenders in the lineup, the Headwall Double IPA best showcases the use of hops in this year’s competition.

"I don't really believe in a 'balanced' IPA, yet Headwall strikes some sort of balance in terms of bitterness, hoppiness, and drink-ability that I find quite appealing," Carlson stated. "The thing that really stands out for me in Headwall is the amount of hop flavor that is packed into the beer while forcing your entire palate to analyze what the hell just happened."

Placing second in the competition is last year’s Alpha King Champion Mark Hastings of Überbrew located in Billings, Montana for his Alpha Force RapDom Triple IPA. Third place goes to John Bullard of Bosque Brewing out of Albuquerque, New Mexico with his Moon Cannon Imperial IPA. Other breweries in the top twenty-two include: Cellarmaker Brewing Company, Comrade Brewing Company, pFriem Family Brewing, 4 Noses Brewing Company, Lawson's Finest Liquids,Melvin Brewing, Moonraker Brewing Company, Track 7 Brewing Company, Second Street Brewery, Pinthouse Pizza - South Lamar, Cannonball Creek Brewing Company, Ocelot Brewing Company, Artifex Brewing Company, Highland Brewing Company, Topa Topa Brewing Company and Barley Brown's Beer.

Registration for the 2017 Alpha King Challenge begins mid-August and is open to commercially licensed breweries throughout the United States. The competition is limited to 150 beers with each brewery allowed to submit two beers. Entries are judged on overall quality and balance of flavor and must have a minimum of 60 IBUs (excluding barley wines). Alpha King Challenge is co-sponsored by Yakima Chief – Hopunion, Brewing News Publications and Three Floyds Brewing Company.

A Battle of the Brews

Since 1999, Yakima Chief - Hopunion, Brewing News Publications and Three Floyds Brewing Company, have been scouring the country for the best hop-laden beers in the land. Named in honor of Three Floyd’s Alpha King Pale Ale, the Alpha King Challenge is an annual competition held during the Great American Beer Festival® and is open to commercially licensed breweries throughout the United States.

Each year, a team of brewers and veteran beer writers test the vigor of 150 hop-forward beers and crown a new Alpha King, deeming his/her beer to be the holy grail of well-balanced and drinkable, yet highly-hopped ales. Entries are judged on overall quality and balance of flavor, and must have a minimum 60 IBUs (no barley wines allowed).

While many will contend, only one will win the crown.

Rules of Engagement

  • All beers must be brewed by, and available for purchase through, a commercial brewery
  • Maximum 2 entries per licensed brewery
  • No Barley Wines
  • Suggested minimum 60 IBUs
  • Entries will be accepted in bottles or cans: (5) 12oz, (4) 16oz or (3) 22oz. No growlers.
  • Once registration is confirmed, shipping information and deadlines will be provided.
  • Competition is limited to 150 entries and registration will close once the limit has been met.
Questions regarding the Alpha King Challenge can be directed to alphaking@ychhops.com.