Black Flannel Academy

Black IPA

Seemingly oxymoronic, this is a dark beer that remains hop forward, delicately balancing roasted malts and heavy hopping rates to create a wonderfully unique brew. It has fallen in and out of favor with brewers over the years, but seems to be enjoying a small resurgence recently.

Roast

malt

hoppy

ale

Color

Straw

Gold

Amber

Dark Amber

Brown

Black

Straw

Black

Brown to Black / 25 – 40 SRM

Perceived Bitterness

Very Low

Low

Moderate

Pronounced

Assertive

Highly Assertive

Very Low

Highly Assertive

Highly Assertive / 50 – 90 IBU 

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

0%

3%

6%

9%

12%

15%

ABV 5.5 – 9.0% (OG 1.050 – 1.085 with FG 1.010 – 1.018)

Sweetness

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Low (Dry)

Medium

High

Sweetness Low to medium

Balance

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Malty

Balanced

Hoppy

Balance is Hoppy

HISTORY

Very few beer styles have a documented, agreed upon origin story. Most are the product of decades, or even centuries, of technological, agricultural, market, and tax issues. Their lineage, at the very least, is hardly traceable to a single source.

The Black India Pale Ale, funny as the name might be, is credited as the invention of an icon in Vermont Craft Beer, and the person who largely made our beer state the brew haven it is today: Greg Noonan (alongside Glenn Walter). All of us at Black Flannel have been impacted by Noonan’s legacy in some way or another. He was a founder of the Vermont Pub and Brewery, where he was one of the trailblazers for craft beer in the United States beginning in the late 80s. It would be hard to measure the impact Greg had on craft beer in the US, but if you ask any brewer who cut their teeth in the Vermont scene, they’ll point to him as the patron saint. Among the many ways he has inspired us, Noonan was a founder and friend of the Green Mountain Mashers, the local homebrew club where some of our brewers developed their passion and knowledge for beer. After he passed away in 2009, the club renamed their annual homebrew competition the Greg Noonan Memorial Homebrew Competition in his honor, and every year we still gather at the pub to raise a glass to Greg after the beers have been judged. We continue to be inspired by his dedication to educating people about craft beer, which is one of the reasons we’ve developed our education program (and this blog!).

In our posts on American IPA and Double IPA, we mentioned that an explosion of hop-forward beers carried our industry from the 1990s into the early years of this century. After IPA took hold of our noses and palates, brewers were interested in finding new and compelling ways to showcase the hops that were getting so much attention. Noonan brewed a beer that was black–typically a color associated with rich, malty, cocoa and roast forward stouts and porters–but still emphasized the fresh citrus and pine flavors from American hops. The style took hold, and brewers all over the country have tried their hand at the style on and off ever since. It’s admittedly a beer that’s gone in and out of favor with drinkers and brewers over the last several decades, but it’s a style we love, so we’ve been excited to see a lot more of them on tap lists recently.

You’ll find these beers labelled a few different things as brewers try to alleviate the confusion between “black” and “pale ale.” India Black Ale, American Black Ale, and Cascadian Dark Ale–named after the Cascade hop that drove much of the early IPA boom–are all used interchangeably to describe this style. We call ours a Black IPA because we like that this beer defies expectation. It seems both dark and deep and light and fresh, so the paradox in the name seems to fit. If you’ve never had one, it’s definitely worth checking out–there’s nothing else quite like it.

CLASSIC CHARACTERISTICS:

Aroma – Hop forward, featuring American hops (citrus, pine, resin). Significant malt backbone featuring cocoa, toast, notes of toffee or caramel.

Appearance – Pale gold to light amber. 

Flavor – High bitterness. Noticeable malt, but low in the balance. Clean, dry, hoppy finish.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light to medium body. Clean finishing with lingering bitterness.

Vitals – 7.5 – 10% ABV, 60 – 120 IBU

Service Notes:

Serve fresh in Pint glass at 38º

BJCP DESIGNATION: 21B, Specialty IPA-Black IPA

Overall Impression:

A beer with the dryness, hop-forward balance, and flavor characteristics of an American IPA, only darker in color – but without strongly roasted or burnt flavors. The flavor of darker malts is gentle and supportive, not a major flavor component. Drinkability is a key characteristic.

Aroma:

A moderate to high hop aroma, often with a stone fruit, tropical, citrusy, resinous, piney, berry, or melon character. If dry hopped, can have an additional floral, herbal, or grassy aroma, although this is not required. Very low to moderate dark malt aroma, which can optionally include light chocolate, coffee, or toast notes. Some clean or lightly caramelly malty sweetness may be found in the background. Fruitiness, either from esters or from hops, may also be detected in some versions, although a neutral fermentation character is also acceptable.

Appearance:

Color ranges from dark brown to black. Should be clear, although unfiltered dry-hopped versions may be a bit hazy; if opaque, should not be murky. Good head stand with light tan to tan color should persist.

Flavor:

Medium-low to high hop flavor with tropical, stone fruit, melon, citrusy, berry, piney or resinous aspects. Medium-high to very high hop bitterness, although dark malts may contribute to the perceived bitterness. The base malt flavor is generally clean and of low to medium intensity, and can optionally have low caramel or toffee flavors. Dark malt flavors are low to medium-low; restrained chocolate or coffee flavors may be present, but the roasted notes should not be intense, ashy, or burnt, and should not clash with the hops. Low to moderate fruitiness (from yeast or hops) is acceptable but not required. Dry to slightly off-dry finish. The finish may include a light roast character that contributes to perceived dryness, although this is not required. The bitterness may linger into the aftertaste but should not be harsh. Some clean alcohol flavor can be noted in stronger versions.

Mouthfeel:

Smooth, medium-light to medium-bodied mouthfeel without significant hop- or (especially) roasted malt-derived astringency. Dry-hopped versions may be a bit resiny. Medium carbonation. A bit of creaminess may be present but is not required. Some smooth alcohol warming can and should be sensed in stronger (but not all) versions.

Comments:

Most examples are standard strength. Strong examples can sometimes seem like big, hoppy porters if made too extreme, which hurts their drinkability. The hops and malt can combine to produce interesting interactions.

History:

A variation of the American IPA style first commercially produced by Greg Noonan as Blackwatch IPA around 1990. Popularized in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California of the US starting in the early-mid 2000s. This style is sometimes known as Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA), mainly in the Pacific Northwest.

Characteristic Ingredients:

Debittered roast malts for color and some flavor without harshness and burnt qualities; American or New World hop varieties that don’t clash with roasted malts. Hop characteristics cited are typical of these type of hops; others characteristics are possible, particularly if derived from newer varietals.

Style Comparison:

Balance and overall impression of an American or Double IPA with restrained roast similar to the type found in Schwarzbiers. Not as roasty-burnt as American stouts and porters, and with less body and increased smoothness and drinkability.

Vital Statistics:

OG: 1.050 – 1.085
FG:  1.010 – 1.018
ABV:  5.5 – 9.0%
IBUs:  50 – 90
SRM:  25 – 40

Commercial Examples:

1st Amendment Back in Black (standard), Deschutes Hop in the Dark CDA (standard), Rogue Dad’s Little Helper (standard), Southern Tier Iniquity (double), Widmer Pitch Black IPA (standard)

BA DESIGNATION: American-Style Black Ale

  • Color: Very Dark to Black.
  • Clarity: Opaque.
  • Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium-low caramel malt and dark roasted malt aromas and flavors are present. Astringency and burnt character of roast malt should be absent.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Hop aroma and flavor is medium-high to high, with fruity, citrusy, piney, floral, herbal or other aromas derived from hops of all origins.
  • Perceived Bitterness:  Medium-High to High.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity esters are low to medium. Diacetyl should not be present.
  • Body: Medium.

Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.056-1.075 (13.8-18.2 °Plato)

Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.012-1.018 (3.1-4.6 °Plato)

Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.0%-6.0% (6.3%-7.6%)

Bitterness (IBU) 40-70

Color SRM (EBC) 35+ (70+ EBC)

STYLE COMPARISON:

Hop profile of an American IPA, but with a more significant malt backbone. Less malty and more hop forward than an American Stout. More bitter and with more yeast character than a schwarzbier.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two-row brewers malt
  • Caramel malt
  • Roasted malts (used judiciously)
  • American Hops
  • Clean, American Yeast

BREWING PROCESS:

A single infusion mash is traditional, and hopping rates vary depending on desired bitterness and aroma profile. Fermented around 68º for a clean yeast profile.

SUGGESTED FOOD PAIRINGS:

AT THE BREWPUB:  Smash Burger and fries

TAKEOUT: Tex-mex

CASUAL DATE: Savory crèpes

SUGGESTED SPIRIT PAIRINGS:

FROM BF DISTILLING CO: Black Flannel Vermont Common Whiskey, Rum

SUGGESTED MUSIC TO LISTEN TO:

NEW: Tool

OLD: Liszt, Totentanz

BEER COCKTAIL RECIPE:

Black Martini

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 2 ounces Black IPA
  • Juice from half an orange
  • Shaved dark chocolate for garnish
  • Orange peel for garnish

DIRECTIONS:
Add vodka, crème de cacao, black IPA, and orange juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously, producing tons of foam. Strain into a martini glass, top with any foam left in shaker, then garnish with shaved chocolate and orange peel.

BLACK FLANNEL BREWING CO. EXAMPLE: Pneuma

Brewing Notes:

Pneuma is defined as the vital spirit, soul, or creative force of a person. (It’s also a great song by the band Tool). This style lends itself to a high level of creativity to deliver on the unique vision of the brewer.  Some prefer more roasty character being this is a dark beer while others prefer to match the regular IPA style in an effort to play with the heads of the consumer (close your eyes and taste this).

We brew Pneuma with a mixture of different base malts for a deep bready backbone, a big enough caramel malt presence to back up the hops, and carefully treated Carafa and roasted wheat malt for color and just a touch of dark malt character. Brewed with a massive whirlpool addition of Centennial, Simcoe, and Chinook hops and clean American yeast, our goal with this beer is loads of traditional American hop character with just a touch of dark chocolate and light roast.

Tasting Notes:

A huge punch of orange peel, lemon zest, and pine resin up front backed up by very light caramel sweetness and a present but not overpowering roasted character. The medium-light body leads to lingering pleasant bitterness and hop flavor.