Knee Deep scores big at Bistro IPA Festival

Beer insiders know that the the Bistro IPA Festival in Hayward is a reliable indicator of who is making some of the best India pale ale in the U.S.

At Sunday’s 17th annual festival, Knee Deep Brewing, which recently celebrated its grand opening at its new 18,000-square-foot facility in Auburn, won first place with its Citra IPA in both overall and the People’s Choice category. It’s the first time that has happened.

The award will likely bring plenty of new attention to Citra (7% ABV, 45 IBU), which tends to get overshadowed by some of Knee Deep’s bigger and more dramatic offerings like Hoptologist (9% ABV, 102 IBU) and Simtra (11.5% ABV, 130 IBU).

Knee Deep brewmaster and founder Jeremy Warren said today that the award could mean big things for sales of Citra. He already was poised to adjust the production run. Warren knows what he’s talking about. Knee Deep first came to prominence when its Hoptologist beat Pliny the Elder at the Bistro Double IPA Festival a few years ago. Sales of Hoptologist took off, and Knee Deep hasn’t looked back.

“The Bistro IPA Fest is kind of like the Super Bowl of IPA fests on the West Coast,” Warren said. “I think it’s definitely going to be doubling production.”

Warren described Citra as, “Very bright in color, with an intense grapefruit/citrus aroma, a very well-balanced hop flavor and, at 45 IBUs, it is not overly bitter.”

In other words, if you tend to find IPAs too harsh on the palate, Citra might be a good one to try.

Last year, Citra won bronze at the Bistro competition. This year, Warren said he was thrilled when he learned his beer had won both the judges’ prize and the People’s Choice (those in attendance vote on their favorites).

“It was shocking. There were a lot of really good IPAs there,” Warren said. “When I found out about the People’s Choice, I got emotional. I had to jump off the stage before I started crying.”

Vic Kralj, who co-owns the Bistro with his wife, Cynthia, said Warren’s beer has been on the rise for several years.

“He’s been medaling here for a reason. The kid is making great beer,” Kalj said.

There were 75 entries in the competition. A look at the line-up indicates a who’s who of top craft breweries, including many IPA stalwarts: Lagunitas, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Firestone and Drake’s. Pizza Port’s entries finished second and third this year.

“This is our 17th annual festival,” Kralj said. The IPA is the fastest-growing category in beer. The West Coast by far dominates the category. It pushed it and changed it to what it is today, with a lot of hops brewers had never even attempted to use.”

He added, “The winners here almost always wins a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. If you win here, you’re making a damn good beer – probably one of the best in the country.”

Warren said he is leaving Tuesday for the World Beer Cup in Denver, where several of his beers will compete against some of the best beers in the world.

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