Restrictions drive creative thought. In writing, for example, when one forces themselves to write only in iambic pentameter or when one forgoes use of the letter “e,” the story is all the more compelling because the writer had to be more resourceful in negotiating those self-imposed limitations. Likewise, every episode of MacGyver would be but five minutes long if the protagonist had the necessary tools with him at all times; it’s when he jury-rigs a contraption from random objects that the plot becomes interesting. Denver’s Black Shirt Brewing Co. follows this philosophy; they, too, set boundaries for themselves, force themselves to think outside the box by metaphorically tying one hand behind their backs. Their limits: only brewing red ales.
According to the Black Shirt website, “Our beers will always be red in color and fermented with ale yeast, but aside from those parameters, we will change your perception of what Red Ale is and how layered, elegant, complex, and delicious beer can be.” The beers at Black Shirt share a common, red bond but diverge from their source in wildly different patterns. By focusing on one beer style, the brewers at Black Shirt push the boundaries of said style, redefine what “red ale” means, and develop ingenuity in the brewing process. One of their diverse-yet-alike beers is American India Red Ale (7.18% ABV).
Color: Surprise! American India Red Ale is red in color. It’s rusty red with tints of orange and possesses a vaguely tan head. It’s opaque from the suspended hop sediment.
Aroma: Piney hops dominate the aroma but undertones of malty, biscuit, bread notes are also discernible.
Taste: American India Red Ale features a noticeable hop bite; it’s resinous, the bitterness lingers in the aftertaste, and the strength of that bitterness seems to intensify (albeit slightly) as one continues to drink. As in the aroma, there is a malty backbone. The secondary, malty flavors are not unlike toasted English muffins.
Mouthfeel: With medium weight, this beer starts with a wet mouthfeel but the hops quickly dry things out.
Those with the most resources are the least creative; there’s no need for inventiveness when the path of least resistance is laid out in the open, paved with flashing, neon arrows pointing the way. When constraints are put in place, however, the imagination must churn out a solution, it becomes necessary to blaze one’s own trail. That’s the Black Shirt way. If they hadn’t adhered to the red beer parameters, American India Red Ale would be just another IPA. Instead, they gave the classic style a twist and set themselves apart. Try any of Black Shirt’s beers to experience what niche brewing is all about.