Head Brewer, Mark Hastings, Crowned for Alpha Force Double Tap Tactical IPA
Denver, Colo. – September 29, 2015— Überbrew, a small 10-barrel microbrewery out of Billings, Montana brewing a broad range of bold, innovative beers, won first place last Friday during the 17th annual Alpha King Challenge at Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Denver. Überbrew took the crown with their Alpha Force Double Tap Tactical India Pale Ale defeating 115 entries from 74 hop-forward breweries. This trailblazing brew was the first black IPA to ever finish in the Challenge’s top three and was created by Head Brewer, Mark Hastings along with Connor Cranston and Matt Eisele.
Alpha Force Double Tap Tactical IPA, not to be confused with the other beers in the Alpha Force series, is a dark brown to black, hop-heavy beer with 8.5% ABV and over 100 IBUs. It is one of three black IPAs that Überbrew has created, including Black Hops Tactical IPA and Black Hops 2. As the creator of these popular beers, Hastings is no stranger to the techniques of brewing a solid dark IPA. He and his team chose seven hop additions in the mash, kettle, dry hop and bright tank, including Warrior, Citra® and Simcoe® varieties.
“[With a] hop pellet nose; some dank, some green fruit, but mostly grapefruit; slight earthy nose with hints of roast and fennel/anise; soft bitterness with a big juicy hop flavor—this beer does not taste like it looks at all,” says Hastings. “We try and brew just about anything we can think of that is IPA-like or hop centric. Our black IPAs and double black IPAs seem to be very popular here at the taproom and in competitions.”
Alpha Force Double Tap was Hasting’s third year attempting the crown after establishing Überbrew in June 2012 with partner, Jason Shroyer. While the brewery is relatively new, Hastings has been working in the brewing industry off and on since 1994, taking a 10-year hiatus to manage restaurants. During the hiatus, Hastings witnessed his first Alpha King Challenge as an attendee and decided that if he ever started brewing again, he would enter one of his beers.
With many repeat winners and top contenders in the top 15, winning this year’s Alpha King Challenge with a black IPA seemed nearly impossible, as this particular style of beer has historically not been considered in IPA competitions. During deliberations, the judges agreed that voting for a black IPA seemed unlikely, yet the usage of hops and overall quality of the beer was undeniable. In the end, all agreed that Alpha Force Double Tap best captured the essence of hops. The progressive decision made by each Alpha King judge indicates a growing spectrum of acceptable beer styles in the competition.
Along with winning $500 cash and a featured video, Hastings was presented with a traditional-style crown, custom-designed to reflect the theme of the Alpha King Challenge. Inspiration for the crown was drawn from cone-shaped, Norman battle helmets and was combined with the symmetrical leaf pattern of a hop cone. The crown also consisted of an amber, beer-drop encrusted circlet topped by four hop and barley elements which hold the royal blue crown jewels featured in the original Alpha King logo.
Alpha Force Double Tap Tactical IPA is currently being sold in kegs for tap takeovers for a limited time. Überbrew’s well-rounded variety of hop-centric beers are also served on tap in their Billings tasting room. Distribution includes south central Montana and northern Wyoming, in partnership with Fort Collins Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Placing second and third in the competition were Melvin Brewing Company of Jackson, WY with 2 x 4 Double IPA and Belching Beaver Brewing Company of Vista, CA with Pound Town Triple IPA. Both breweries are former Alpha King Champions earning the crown in 2012-2013 and 2014, respectively. Other breweries in the top 15 include: Cellarmaker Brewing, Sun King Brewing, Pizza Port—Carlsbad, Barley Brown’s Beer, Altitude Chophouse & Brewery, Cannonball Creek Brewery, Sunriver Brewing, Canteen Brewing, Second Street Brewery and Pinthouse Pizza.
Registration for the 2016 Alpha King Challenge begins September 5th 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.