Alpha King Challenge

Each year, the competition is typically held during the Friday of the Great American Beer Festival at Rock Bottom Brewing in Denver, CO. However, we value the health and safety of our global communities, and in light of COVID-19, the 2020 Alpha King Challenge was not held in-person this year. Instead, the competition was held virtually at 3 Floyds Brewery with an official LIVE stream announcement of the winners on Oct 16th at 4pm CST.

Watch the (virtual) crowning of the king here:

Congratulations to the new Alpha King, Burke-Gilman Brewing Company in Seattle, Washington!  They stole the show with Fresh Hopotheosis, a juicy fresh hop DIPA with Citra®, Mosaic®, Idaho 7®, Strata® & Galaxy™.

Top 20
(in no particular order)

Wizard Works Brewing Company
Milwaukee, WI
Wizard’s Wrath English Strong Ale w/ Chinook, 70 IBUs

Toppling Goliath Brewing Company *2nd Place*
Decorah, IA

King Sue DIPA w/ Citra®, 100 IBUs  

Four Seasons Brewing Company
Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Switchback IPA w/ Amarillo® & Mosaic®, 60 IBUs

Half Moon Bay Brewing collab with Hop Dogma Brewing
El Granada, CA
9th Grade Mullet DIPA w/ Simcoe®, Mosaic®, Nelson & CTZ, 85 IBUs

Minneapolis, MN
Tile Factory IPA w/ Nugget, Mandarina Bavaria, Mosaic® & Cascade, 70 IBUs

Burke-Gilman Brewing Company *1st Place*
Seattle, WA
Fresh Hopotheosis DIPA w/ Citra®, Mosaic®, Strata®, Idaho 7® & Galaxy™, 90 IBUs

The Virginia Beer Company
Williamsburg, VA
Wet Powder Fresh Hop DIPA w/ Citra®, 65 IBUs

Ball Brewing
Glenwood Springs, CO
Small Craft Advisory DBIPA w/ Mosaic®, Moutere and Vic Secret, 90 IBUs

Victor 23 Craft Brewery
Vancouver, WA
Jet Fuel IIPA w/ Chinook & Eureka, 100 IBUs

Stone’s Throw Brewing
Little Rock, AR
New Hops, Who Dis? Triple IPA w/ Cascade, Columbus, Warrior®, Sabro®, Azacca®, Mosaic® & Enigma, 100 IBUs

Barnaby Brewing Company Juneau, AK
Hipsters Juicebox DIPA w/ Centennial, Cascade, Citra®, CTZ, Simcoe® & Azacca®, 77 IBUs

Revision Brewing Company
Sparks, NV
“DIPA” IIPA w/ Mosaic®, Simcoe® & Citra®, 75 IBUs

Medusa Brewing Company
Hudson, MA
Ruction West Coast IPA w/ Simcoe®, Cascade & Chinook, 65 IBUs

Outstate Brewing Company
Furgus Falls, MN
Edge Catcher NEIPA w/ ®, Centennial, Cascade & Mosaic®, 77 IBUs

Hi Sign Brewing
Austin, TX
Super Astronaut IIPA w/ Centennial, El Dorado®, Cascade, Citra® & Amarillo®, 65 IBUs

Seattle, WA
Pleasure Race Fresh Hop NEIPA w/ Centennial, 65 IBUs

Soundgrowler Brewing
Tinley Park, IL
Orange Haze Hazy West Coast IPA w/ Amarillo®, Warrior®, Centennial and Citra®, 70 IBUs

Metazoa Brewing Company *3rd Place*
Indianapolis, IN
Puma Thurman IPA w/ Citra®, Mosaic®, Idaho 7®, Loral® & Amarillo®, 80 IBUs

Twin Oast Brewing
Port Clinton, OH
Two Legit DIPA w/ Citra®, Mosaic® & El Dorado®, 80 IBUs

Woodstock Brewing
Phoenicia, NY
Endless Cycle NEIPA w/ Columbus, Mosaic® & Citra®, 70 IBUs

During the competition, all beer entries were judged by a selected team of brewers, industry experts, and veteran beer writers. The competition follows a series of elimination rounds to determine a list of top finalists as well as three placed winners. The first-place winner receives the Alpha King crown and a sponsored video.

2021 Alpha King is tentatively scheduled for October 8, 2021.
Additional details will be made available in Spring 2021.

The purpose of the Alpha King Challenge is to determine the most well-balanced and drinkable hop forward beer. The competition includes but is not limited to IPAs and DIPAs. The only rules that apply are as follows:

  • Beer entries must be 60 IBUs or greater
  • Submitted by a licensed commercial brewery
  • Only one entry per brewery (not brewery location)
  • Beer entries must be shipped to 3 Floyds, for delivery between Oct 5 – 9th

The competition is limited to 150 entries, which are fulfilled on a first-come basis. Historically, spaces have filled up quickly so brewers are encouraged to plan ahead and submit their registration as soon it is open.



How are the beers judged?
The beers are judged through a series of blind elimination rounds, determining the winning beers based on flavor, aroma, bitterness, drinkability, balance and of course it’s powerful hop punch. Judges select 20 top finalists in no particular order, along with the first, second and third place winners.

When are winners announced?
For the 2020 Alpha King Challenge, the winner will be announced during a virtual event hosted at 3 Floyds Brewery on Oct 16th at 4pm CDTThe LIVE stream link will be posted soon.

What do the winners receive?
The top three entries for each competition each receive a cash prize, swag bag, mash paddle, and the first-place entry will also receive a one-of-a-kind AKC Crown. (Prize value will vary depending on location. Head to a specific event page to get the event specific prizes.)

How should I ship my entries?
YCH recommends that you package our entries with double layers of padding to avoid breakage, especially if you are shipping glass. Wine shippers work great as they are molded foam that will cradle the containers. Beer will be sent immediately to cold storage, so plan your shipping accordingly. Most entries do a max of 2 shipping days depending on the current weather conditions.  3 Floyds will notify breweries if their package arrives with too many broken containers, not leaving enough sample to be judged. 3 Floyds will work with the brewery to determine if there is time to resubmit your entry on a case by case basis. Make sure to include a copy of your registration confirmation so we know who the beer belongs to.

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.

What do I do if my submission name, ingredients, etc. change?
If you need to change any of the information on your entry, please email [email protected]. Changes can be made up to 2 weeks prior to the shipping window dates.

What containers do you accept for beer shipment?
Breweries can send their entries in cans, bottles, or crowlers. Please no growlers.  Either bottles/cans: 6 x 12 oz, 4 x 16 oz, or 3 x 22 oz.


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. Ralph Olson was the original owner and general manager of hop supplier Hopunion, which eventually evolved to form Yakima Chief Hops. Bill Owens was a brewer at Buffalo Bill’s Brewery and the publisher at American Brewer Magazine. He is also credited for creating the first craft IPA in 1987.

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 a hop. From the beginning, they decided they weren’t 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.

The name of the event was inspired by Three Floyds Brewing from Munster, IN, and their famous Alpha King IPA. It was strong, hoppy and delicious – the perfect example of the beers they were looking for in the competition. Inspired by Three Floyds & Hoppy Beers, Ralph and Bill decided that the competition should be hosted during the Great American Beer Festival – the largest American beer-judged competition and beer festival of the year. Three Floyds agreed to lend the name of their beer to the cause, and the Alpha King Challenge was born.

Sponsored by Hopunion, C.B.S., American Brewer Magazine and Three Floyds Brewing, the first competition included less than 10 beers and only two judges, Ralph and Bill. The first official Alpha King was Larry Bells of Bells Brewing, crowned for his Two Hearted Ale in 1999. Over the years, the competition gained popularity, slowly adding more and more beers to the lineup of entries. Participants, fellow brewers and beer enthusiasts began to gather from across America to witness the crowning of the next Alpha King, moving to larger venues each year to accommodate the growing crowd.

Additional sponsors contributed, such as White Labs, and more judges were invited to experience and determine the hoppiest beer of the year. In 2001, Brewing News, owner of American Brewer Magazine, began assisting with judge procurement, selecting beer industry writers and official judges of the Brewers Association.

In 2012, the Alpha King Challenge moved to its current location at Rock Bottom Brewery. Since then, the Alpha King crown 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 in their breweries, proving they are a master in the craft of translating hop flavors and aromas to beer.

As of 2020, the current sponsors of the event are Yakima Chief Hops and Three Floyds Brewing, as they search for the holy grail of highly hopped beers each year. The selected judges now consist of volunteer brewers from the craft beer industry. The Alpha King Challenge continues to be a highly anticipated and well-respected competition amongst the craft beer community.