The history of the Alpha King Challenge dates back to 25 years 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, along with the most balanced and flavorful hazy beer being made. The competition includes but is not limited to IPAs and DIPAs of any style.
The only rules that apply are as follows for hoppy beers.
The following rules apply for hazy beers.
Deadline for entry: December 4th, 2023
Group 1 Hoppy Judging Date: December 6th(entries due December 5th)
Group 2 Hazy Judging Date: December 7th (entries due December 6th)
Finals Weekend: December 15th-17th, Winners announced December 17th
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 December 4th. Because space is limited, entry will be based on a first come, first served basis.
Step 2: Submit your entry to The Watering Hole during the group receiving period based on the beer being entered. (see above schedule for your group date)
How many breweries may enter?
For the third year, entries will be capped at 25 breweries for each category, hoppy and hazy. Breweries may enter both a hoppy, and a hazy beer, pending participation limits.
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 a scoring system with rates flavor, aroma, bitterness, drinkability, balance and of course its powerful hop punch for hoppy beers. Hazy beers will be judged based on haze quality, flavor, aroma, balance, and overall drinkability. Judges select 4 beers from each category, which will face off in their respective finals flight. Hoppy and Hazy beers do not compete for the individual prizes, but they will compete for the Judges Award choice.
After the elimination round, the two champions will be selected by Watering Hole patrons over a 3-day event held December 15-17th. Patrons will vote by blind tasting for their favorite hoppy IPA and favorite hazy IPA among the finalists, ranking the each flight from the best beer to the last.
A 'Judges Choice' award will also be given to the beer which received the highest overall score from judges during the preliminary rounds, both categories will be combined for this award.
When are winners announced?
Winners will be announced on Sunday December 17th at the Watering Hole.
What do the winners receive?
Winners from each category and the Judge's Choice recipient will receive complementary hops courtesy of Yakima Chief, and the first-place winners will also receive a one-of-a-kind trophy to keep for their victory, and bragging rights for one year for having the top hoppy or hazy IPA made in Japan as the + Alpha Champion or Haze King!
Winners will also receive complementary tickets to attend the 2024 Hop and Brew School, hosted by Yakima Chief Hops in Yakima, Washington, USA!
The + Alpha Champion or Haze King and Judges Choice winner 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 December 5th for Group 1, and December 6th for Group 2. The shipper is responsible for any shipping charges, both to and from the venue.
Watering Hole +AC (please indicate Group 1 (Hoppy) or Group 2 (Hazy) for each submission)
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. If there is insufficient beer available for the finals, a brewery will be disqualified and the next-place finisher will compete in their place.
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. Fruits are not allowed in both the Hoppy IPA or Hazy IPA category.
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.