No Rest For The Villains: American Black Ale, Sample

America that drinks beer loves its IPAs, and it is a fact. It doesn’t matter if they’re juicy or hazy or crisp and clear from the west coast, we love them for their hoppy goodness. Whether it’s full of moist and tangy aromas or tropical touches of citrus zest, whatever, just give us our IPA.

But the IPA spectra, as we know, extend far beyond the pale – far beyond the hazy or the west coast. Pick your color: we’ve got white, red, brown, black, plus Belgian and rye (hmm, maybe you better forget about that whole raw phase), not to mention all the strength levels. , from the session to the imperial, double, triple… hopwine, anyone? Without a doubt, other varieties are also on the way. Cold IPA is apparently a thing now – and we even have Josh Weikert pondering the potential of a German-style IPA.

Confused? Wondering if “IPA” really means anything if it means everything? Hey, welcome to the craft beer of the 2020s. Fear not either: for now, we’re focusing on one of the most underrated and beloved, but then forgotten, sub-styles: beer. Cascadian brunette. (The what?) We’re talking black IPA, or what the guidelines of the Great American Beer Festival call American dark beer.

CDA and other acronyms

Black IPA – or what we in the Great Pacific Northwest (PNW) call Cascadian Dark Beer (CDA) – is actually a variation of a standard American IPA. The first known example was brewed in 1994 by Glenn Walters and legendary brewer and author Greg Noonan at the Vermont Pub & Brewery. According to the story, Noonan’s black IPAs later inspired Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead, whose beers inspired Mitch Steele at Stone Brewing… and in 2013, that was the trendy style every craft brewer had to do. Then it kind of disappeared – too soon, we said. There are still a few around, but not many.

The style was also popular in the West, turning into CDA. This was in part a pedantic response to the contradiction in terms: how an India blade ale be black? But it was also a reference to its popularity in the region and the generous portions of PNW hops that differentiate beer from porter, stout or other dark beers. Cascadia encompasses the panhandle of Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, northern California, and western Montana, also known as Sasquatch Country (yes, Bigfoot is real; just ask the folks in Sierra Nevada).

You can call it whatever you want, as long as you prepare some for us.

The DNA of CDA

Let’s break it down. We are talking about a standard strength beer (6 to 7.5% alcohol in alcohol), with hops forward that presents expressive flavors and aromas of hops, often with notes of pine, citrus, fruit to kernel and softwood. Could you use something more tropical? Sure, but for Cascadian authenticity you should stick to the classics – Cascade, Centennial, Citra, etc. My favorite is the Chinook, which can deliver a powerful yet sweet bitterness. The aroma of chinook tends towards pine, with sweeter spicy and fruity notes. It’s a hop that shines in a CDA. (Fun fact: Besides being the name of an indigenous people there, Chinook is also the name of a trade jargon that was the ancient lingua franca of Cascadia.)

Color wise, it’s all in the name: black. People often compare this style to American stout. What sets black IPA apart is the use of de-bittered roasted malts such as Weyermann Carafa, Briess Blackprinz or Briess Midnight Wheat to achieve that color (and some flavor) without any harsh or burnt quality. For an American stout, we’d like some of those roasted coffee or dark chocolate flavors, but we’re sweetening them up here. But we want that color – a deep dark brown to almost jet black.

Otherwise there should be enough malty medium to balance the bitterness of the hop, but it should also be well muted, for a dry finish. The mouthfeel also shouldn’t be heavy, closer to medium, or even medium-light.

And guess what? It is a beer that is ideal for brewing extracts or partial must. A base of dry or light liquid malt extract, plus a few dark malts and some expressive pine flavored hops will make your inner Sasquatch happy.

Pay attention to your water. If your brew water is milder, add a teaspoon of drywall along with the steeping beans. Gypsum helps improve the efficiency of malt extraction, balance the flavor of the hops, and improve the clarity of the wort.

A clean fermented American brewer’s yeast works well here, allowing the malt and hops to shine. Fermentation should be in the middle of 18-19 ° C (60 ° F), on the cooler side for ales, to keep these esters under control.

Remember, this is a dark IPA – it may have slight flavors of caramel or roasted malt, but it should never taste ashy or burnt or anything similar to a dry stout. It is a harmonious balance, where the flavor of the darker malts is moderate and supports the hops, not the dominant flavor of the beer.

Still not convinced that this is an IPA? To paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who worried about a different kind of blasphemy: you’ll know it when you taste it.


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