Sunday, March 1, 2015

#37 Smoked Black IPA - Tasting

Recipe     -     Brewday     -     Tasting

ABV: 7.1%
IBU: 91
Serving Temp: 38F
Carbonation: 2.7 vol
Grade: B+

I just got home from Burlington, Vermont, home of the Vermont Pub and Brewery and the first black IPA--Blackwatch--so it sounds like a good time to review my own black IPA.  Like with the saison, I want to make it clear that this is not a style I enjoy.  I don't like black IPAs, or really Chinook hops or smoked malt for that matter, so this recipe feels a lot like an alchemist boiling excrement and expecting to make gold.

So how did it turn out?  Bitter.  Lots of bittering hops plus dark malt combines for a beer that is borderline abrasive.  The only reason I say borderline is because people seem to love their abrasive ales these days, otherwise I would say the bitterness and black patent could be both dialed back just a bit.  Same goes for the smoked malt.  Bitterness is one thing, but it's real easy for smoked malt to detract from a beer if you get too much, and that's what ended up here.  I think maybe 1/2 to 2/3 the smoked malt would do the trick.

But on the other hand, I think the pieces are all there for an awesome beer.  The smokiness, when scaled back will fit surprisingly well with the dark malts.  The body is nice and light--the sugar really did the trick--and finishes exceptionally dry which I really like.  The hops are also perfect.  Chinook is definitely the hop I was looking for as the spicy and resinous flavors blend behind the aggressive malts, leaving only the piney bitterness poking through.

The hallmark of a special recipe is that the ingredients combine to form something better than the some of their parts (take water, malt, hops, and yeast for example), transforming the pieces into something new; balanced yet interesting, complex yet cohesive, flavorful.  I've brewed a couple beers that I felt that way about--the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Clone, Westvleteren XII Clone, and Jamil's Irish Red--but as you can tell, none of these were my recipes.  This beer may not taste quite that good, but I think with some refinement this recipe could indeed be something special.

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