The history of the Alpha King Challenge dates back to more than two decades ago, when hop and brewing industry veterans Ralph Olson and Bill Owens shared the idea of finding the hoppiest beer in America. Together they set out on a mission to find the ultimate hop forward beer. As hop enthusiasts, they sought to praise brewers for their ability to create the best representation of hops. From the beginning, they decided they were not looking for the best hoppy brew based on IBUs alone, and agreed that the best must also be drinkable and well-balanced. And so began the creation of the greatest battle of beers.
Since then, the Alpha King has evolved to become one of the most highly esteemed beer and brewing awards in the industry. Placing in the competition has helped many brewers advance their careers, providing opportunities and creating connections with other leaders in the industry. Winners proudly showcase the crown and mash paddle prizes in their breweries and on social media and festivals, proving they are masters in the craft of translating hop flavors and aromas to beer.
We hope to help elevate the Japanese brewing industry through beginning the + Alpha Championship in Japan in a similar way to how Alpha King has been done in the United States. With IPA being the clear favorite among both craft brewers and drinkers, we hope to showcase the best of what Japanese craft beer has to offer and help bring breweries who are making exemplary examples of the style to the forefront with this recognition.
In the United States, being crowned Alpha King Champion is to be acknowledged as being the king of IPA. We hope for the + Alpha Champion to be held to the same level of esteem in Japan, and intend to hold the competition annually.
The purpose of the + Alpha Championship (+AC) is to determine the most well-balanced and drinkable hop forward beer brewed in Japan. The competition includes but is not limited to IPAs and DIPAs of any style. The only rules that apply are as follows:
Deadline for entry: March 9th 2022
Group 1 Judging Date: March 12 (entries due March 9-11)
Group 2 Judging Date: March 19 (entries due March 16-18)
Final Weekend: March 25-27 2022, Winners announced March 27th
How do we enter?
Step 1: Fill out the pre-registration form below on this page. We will contact you via e-mail and provide a beer entry form with essential details on your beer. Please return this form to us by Wednesday March 9th.
Step 2: Your entry will be assigned a group number (1 or 2), and submit your entry to The Watering Hole during the group receiving period. (see above schedule for your group date)
How many breweries may enter?
For the second year, entries will be capped at 50 breweries.
How are the beers judged?
Entries are judged by a group of assorted brewers, bar industry personnel, media industry, and certified beer judges, through a series of blind elimination rounds. Finalists will be determined for the winning beers based on flavor, aroma, bitterness, drinkability, balance and of course its powerful hop punch. Judges select 6-8 top finalists, depending on total entries.
Among these finalists, the Plus Alpha Champion will be selected by Watering Hole patrons over a 3-day event in March 25-27th. Patrons will vote by blind tasting for their favorite beer among the finalists, ranking the flights from the best beer to the last.
In addition to the Plus Alpha Champion grand prize, additional awards will be given for 2nd and 3rd place.
A 'Judges Choice' award will also be given to the beer which received the highest overall score from judges during the preliminary rounds.
When are winners announced?
For the + Alpha Championship, winners will be announced on Sunday March 27th at the Watering Hole.
What do the winners receive?
The top three entries for the competition each receive complementary hops courtesy of Yakima Chief, and the first-place entry will also receive a one-of-a-kind trophy to keep for their victory, and bragging rights for one year for having the top IPA made in Japan as the + Alpha Champion.
A secondary trophy will also be awarded to the Judges Choice.
The + Alpha Champion and Judges Choice can be the same beer, if so voted.
How should I ship my entries?
Entries must be received at the Watering Hole on or prior to March 11th for Group 1, and March 18th for Group 2. The shipper is responsible for any shipping charges, both to and from the venue.
Watering Hole +AC
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Japan
Is there a cost to participate?
The only cost breweries incur is the beer making and the shipping of the samples. Entry into the competition is free. Entries must be in draft form, and at least 10 liters in size. Finalists will be asked to reserve up to 40 liters of the same beer for final judging and the 3-day People's Choice award event, this reserve beer will be purchased by Watering Hole, with a cap of 1100 yen/per liter plus appropriate shipping fees.
What containers do you accept for beer shipment?
Breweries must send their entries in kegs, minimum of 10 liters in size, of any standard coupler type.
Who is putting on the +AC?
The +AC is sponsored by Yakima Chief Hops, Evergreen Imports, Japan Beer Times, Transporter, BET Co., Ltd, and The Watering Hole.
Can I enter 'happoshu'?
Entries which are classified as 'happoshu' may be entered so long as adjuncts are not used to contribute a flavor to the final beer. No adjunct flavoring should be discernible to judges, only malt, hops, and yeast should be noticeable.
Judges evaluate beers based on 6 criteria, hop aroma, hop flavor, bitterness, balance, drinkability, and the overall 'hop punch!'
A tasting flight with score sheet.
Judges focus on the task at hand, harder than it looks!
Some rounds are highly competitive and require careful deliberation.
Aroma is often the hallmark of beer character, and requires careful attention.
Judges discuss varies entries among themselves while deciding final scores.