Beer Maverick

The 2019 Alpha King Challenge

Have you heard of the “shadow” beer competition that goes on alongside GABF, The Alpha King Challenge? San Diego breweries performed well there, too.

You’ve probably heard of San Diego’s great success at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival: 18 medals, making SD the winningest county in the US by a large margin, with more medals than all but one state (Colorado). The San Diego Union Tribune has an awesome chart of the history of San Diego’s GABF performance. To maintain that high number of medals in the face of a massive increase in entries is a real testament to the quality of San Diego craft beer.

But have you heard of the “shadow” beer competition that goes on alongside GABF? The Alpha King Challenge was founded in 1999 by Yakima Chief Hops and 3 Floyds Brewing. The competition is named for 3 Floyds’ flagship Alpha King American Pale Ale. The stated goal of the competition is to “crown the most well-balanced and drinkable beers with 60 IBUs or more — the top IPAs and DIPAs on the market.” Only 150 entries are allowed and the competition is judged by a team of brewers, industry experts and veteran beer writers each year during Great American Beer Festival.

After 20 years of awards, San Diego breweries have been crowned Alpha King seven times: Belching Beaver (2017 and 2014), Pizza Port Carlsbad (2011 and 2010), Port Brewing (2008), Oggi’s Pizza and Brewery (2005, when they were still brewing in Vista), Pizza Port Solana Beach (2004). The brewers responsible for those wins are among the most recognizable in our county: Thomas Peters (x2), Jeff Bagby (x3), and Tomme Arthur (x2).

San Diego didn’t win in 2019—that honor went to Alvarado Street Brewery’s Double Cone Double IPA. But Belching Beaver Brewery’s Thizz is What it Iz, winner in 2017, placed second in 2019. And three other San Diego breweries (3 Punk Ales, Resident Brewing, and Mason Ale Works) had beers in the top nineteen.

This page might not be permanent, but for now at least it includes the list of 2019 winners and finalists.