We all have our favorite beers, but what if you had to pick your favorite without knowing what it was?

The TC Ale Trail, along with sponsors Drink My Brewcast, Michigan Hop Alliance, and MI Local Hops, brought back the Traverse City IPA Challenge for its second year. The TC Ale Trail promotes Traverse City brews through several creative events, such as Paddle For Pints. The Traverse City IPA Challenge, held downtown at Little Fleet, involved a blind tasting of ten different IPAs.

“I wanted to create another event that would join the local breweries together in one venue,  and what better place to do it than at The Little Fleet,” said TC Ale Trail Co-Founder Troy Daily.

At most beer festivals and events, attendees can choose from a tap list of old favorites and new experimental brews. However, the Traverse City IPA Challenge required attendees to use what they know – and like – about beer to find a new favorite.

Upon arrival, attendees were given a tasting glass, tickets for ten tastings and food, as well as a ballot for voting and tasting notes. The tickets for tastings were simply numbered 1-10; breweries were kept secret until voting had been completed.

Without knowing who brewed the beer, tasters had to evaluate each beer without previous knowledge or judgement. This required tasters to assess aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor profiles with each sip. Tasting notes could then be added to the ballot sheet to help make a final voting decision.

“The IPA challenge is a great way to blindly try new IPAs without the prejudice of knowing where it’s coming from,” said Chad Rickman, who attended the event and is an devoted IPA fan. “I try to guess what brewery makes each one and most of the time I’m surprised.”

Each IPA was crafted by a local brewery, most of which are a part of the TC Ale Trail. Breweries competing included: Right Brain Brewery, Rare Bird Brewpub, Beggar’s Brewery, Brewery Ferment, North Peak Brewing, The Filling Station Microbrewery, Bravo Zulu Brewing, Old Mission Brewing Company, The Workshop, and Brewery Terra Firma.

At the end of the evening, the taps were revealed and a winner prevailed. Third place went to newcomers Bravo Zulu Brewing. Second place went to Rare Bird Brewpub, for the second year in a row. And the trophy for “Traverse City’s Best IPA” went to The Filling Station Microbrewery. headbrewer Andy Largent gladly accepted the hop-shaped trophy as brewers and tasters cheered for his success.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery