IPAs traditionally use pale, lightly roasted malts - hence the “pale” in both the name and the color. Black IPAs keep everything the same, but substitute the kind of roasted malts used for darker beers like porters and bock lagers. The result is an aromatic, hoppy beer with an undercurrent of dark roastiness.
That is, when it’s done well. We’ve had some black IPAs where the malt character was still so understated that the beer seemed more like a trompe d’oiel - close your eyes and you would think it was a regular IPA. We’ve had others where the citrusy bitterness of the hops just seemed to clash with the dark chocolate and coffee-like bitterness of the malts.
So far, we haven’t had a really good one that a) made us excited about finishing the glass or b) presented itself as a distinct style and not just a hopped up porter or stout. There are some black IPAs out there getting good reviews:
• Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale from Stone Brewing Company
• DogZilla Black IPA from Laughing Dog Brewery
• W’10 Pitch Black IPA from Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
We’ll keep our eye out for these and see if they revise our opinion of this potentially new style.
Have you tried any black IPAs?