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What is a Black IPA?

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Style- Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale

Brief History- The history is somewhat disputed but it can be directly tied to legendary and sadly missed brewer Greg Noonan from the Vermont Pub & Brewery. Back in 1994 Greg began brewing a new beer called Blackwatch IPA, but Greg named the style of the beer Cascadian Dark Ale. The popularity was immense and the beer gained a cult following In 2006 Stone Brewing Co. head brewer Mitch Steele tried Blackwatch IPA and was blown away and openly admits that the beer was the inspiration for Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, the beer that is considered a front runner and flagship beer for the style. The biggest dispute with this beer style is the name, with purists calling it Cascadian Dark Ale and many others simply calling it a Black IPA. Regardless of the debate, the style has continued to grow in popularity with many breweries now offering a take on the style.

Standard Characteristics- The Black IPA has the appearance of a robust porter in both beer color and tan frothy head along with a medium to full body. The aroma is dominated by hops up front which can run the gamut of any variety of hop bouquets. The background notes are of roasted malts giving the beer a smooth characteristic in body and mouthfeel and impart a creamy hop characteristic on the palate. The key to this style is a perfect balance between malt and hop. The ABV for this style has a huge range going from 5 percent to 10 percent ABV. This is a relatively new style and is very open to interpretation and experimentation.

Nose- The aroma is dominated by hops which can lead to a wide spectrum of detectable aromas, with Black IPA’s brewers tend to lean away from aggressively citrusy hops and opt more for pine, floral, resiny hops, although the style is open to interpretation. The notes of roasted malts which can emanate aromas of bitter chocolate and dark roasted coffee act as background notes.

Body- The body is similar to porters leaning more towards the medium to full range with a moderate amount of carbonation, but a wide variation is acceptable. This combination gives the beer a smoother character then traditional IPA’s mainly due to the malt choices.

Taste- The taste is where this style truly shines and separates itself from other beers. The hop bite is present throughout and generally hits the palate first. The malt profile soothes the hop bite and cleanses the palate with rich roasted malts giving subtle hints of coffee and bitter chocolate, both enhancing and subduing the hops. The beer should have a dry finish as with all IPA’s.

Food Pairing- The combination of aggressive hops and roasted malts make this the perfect beer to have with all red meats. Try pairing with a porterhouse steak, venison, and elk steaks as all are perfect choices for this beer. The malt profile will enhances the mineral quality of the meat and highlight the flavor while the hops will immediately cut through and leave a pleasant aftertaste on the palate. Some in this style can be paired with desserts, but experiment a bit with this pairing.

Recommendations- Black IPA’s are an acquired taste for some, but if you are familiar with and love IPA’s and love darker beers, than this is a style that must be tried! Some of the best currently available are:

Breaker Brewing Company- Black Diamond IPA

Bear Republic- Black Racer

21st Amendment- Back in Black

Stone Brewing Co.- Sublimely Self Righteous Ale

Sierra Nevada- DevESTATEtion Black IPA; New Holland- Black Hatter

Odell Brewing- Mountain Standard Double Black IPA

Firestone Walker- Wookey Jack

Smuttynose- Durty

Avery- New World Porter

Uinta Brewing Company- Dubhe Imperial Black IPA

Remember, always enjoy responsibly!
Cheers- Derek Warren

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