Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Erm, no.

I am all for making new beer styles, and for the creative fusion of existing beer styles. Some call it innovation, others call it messing about, but sometimes it works perfectly and the end product is simply a delight. Sometimes though, the end product looks great but tastes crap, and I have to wonder if the brewer in question has forgotten the power of colour in the perception of how a beer should taste.

Take for example the oxymoronic "Black IPA" that all of a sudden appears to be the latest beer rage. I had a pint of Laughing Dog's Dogzilla Black IPA at Beer Run here in Charlottesville last night, it was my first trip as I am celebrating soon to be an employed person! The beer was certainly dark, indeed it put me in mind of a good porter, especially given the tan head, however the nose was the classic American IPA citrus. Taste wise the hops simply overpowered everything else in the beer, I may as well have been drinking a standard IPA.

This got me to thinking exactly what the point of a style bastardisation such as Black IPA would be? Judging by the colour and body of the beer, I got the feeling it was basically a porter hopped with C-hops, but without the body and malt that would balance out the hops sufficiently. Also, why try to coin such an oxymoronic beer style? Black India Pale Ale? How can black be pale? India Black Ale maybe, India Porter maybe more so, but an ale that is black and pale at the same time? Please, come on!

Colour is an important signifier of what is likely to be in the glass, to get that colour makes use of crystal malts, maybe some chocolate malt, maybe some roasted barley or even black malt, so you expect a certain sweetness to the beer that was simply absent in the one I had last night.

On a positive note, the Bluegrass Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout was magnificent!


  1. I'm not a fan or dark beers that are really hoppy - I just think there's something about them which doesn't quite work for me.

    As for Black IPA, I don't mind too much it so long as IPA is seen as a term in its own right, distant from India Pale Ale, where it just means a very hoppy beer. It's all very confusing, in name and taste!

    Give me a good Black IPA before I'm willing to full-on accept it!

  2. I thing the choice of hops is key, and C-hops for me just don't work as the lead hop in dark beer. Super hoppy smoked chocolate porter with only Fuggles on the other hand is lovely (made that earlier this year)!

  3. Without style bastardisation we would not have the existing beers we have though. At some point lager was probably light and someone made a dark one and we have dark lager, a style which is not seen too much in the UK or Ireland where lager is yellow fizzy stuff.

  4. other way around TOA, dark lagers have been around far longer than the pale ones.

  5. Oh really? Wow you learn something new every day...

  6. Yup, that is one of the reasons the pilsner style became so popular, because it was golden rather than darker. For a long time brewers thought it was impossible to make a pale lager in Munich because of the water. Vienna lager pre-dates pilsner by about a year or so and was pretty much red in colour. Schwarzbier dates back to the 14th century.


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