Ben Stange on April 1, 2015 2 Comments There are a lot of conversations in the home brewing and craft brewing world about creating a “New Style” of beer called Black IPA (also called the Cascadian Dark Ale or the American Black Ale). The truth is that, even without its own style designation, the Black IPA is here to stay, and it is delicious. The beer is fundamentally a very dark, roasty version of the modern American IPA. It’s full of American-style aroma hops, but they are countered very strongly by the roasted grains and chocolate flavors associated with porters and stouts. A Little History The origin of the Black IPA is often disputed, with both East Coast and West coast breweries claiming to have invented the style. On the West Coast, it is often referred to as Cascadian Dark Ale to reinforce their claim to its progeny (and to reference the Cascade Range, which is known for its bountiful hop farms). On the East Coast, it is typically named Black IPA. The earliest documented evidence of the style is from the Vermont Pub and Brewery, as they have a recipe in their logs from 1994, but it was Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale in 2006 that really brought the beer to craft beer lovers’ attention. It was that beer that first held the Cascadian Dark Ale name. Now that some time has passed and the Beer Judge Certification Program is revising their style guidelines, it appears the Black IPA will finally get its own style subsection, along with several close cousins, including the Brown IPA, Red IPA, White IPA, and, well, you get the idea. Most of us only care about style briefly while we’re trying to decide which six bottles to shove into our mixed six-pack at the beer store. Still, even if an American stout was not described by the BJCP as “A hoppy, bitter, strongly-roasted Foreign-style stout (of the export variety)”, I think most beer fans would already know what to expect from that beer. The same also applies to the Black IPA. What does it taste like? Whether you consider the beer a hopped-up porter or a darker take on an American IPA, the end result is just as delicious. It mixes the delicious roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavors of your favorite porter with the citrusy, sometimes piney, bitterness of American hops. It really is like you’re drinking an export stout with some extra bitterness and a lot of hop aroma. Tips for Brewing Black IPA If you’re designing your own recipe, start with a good porter recipe and switch out the hops to American hops. Make sure you don’t get too much bitterness from the grains. Alternatively, focus on the hop bitterness instead, and then add some big flavor, aroma, and dry hop additions to the recipe. The hardest part is finding the right balance of bitterness, aroma, and toasty malt grains. Some brewers like to take their favorite IPA recipe and add some black patent malt, essentially making their IPA darker in color but not changing much by way of flavor. While this may result in a good beer, just adding burned malt misses out on the complexity inherent in the style. To really capitalize on the complexity, blend your malted grains a bit to hit different flavor profiles. Add specialty malts that darken the color while adding several flavors, including toasted bread, chocolate, some coffee flavors, and some of the maltier, sweeter flavors to balance out the hop bitterness you’re adding. It may take a little trial and error, but that just means you get to brew more beer. If you don’t want to go through that much trouble, I have a Black IPA recipe that I would suggest you try brewing. This is easily one of my favorite recipes to brew, mostly because of how much I love the end product. It’s not as bitter as some I’ve had, but it is well-balanced and delicious. This version uses Sorachi Ace hops, but you can use whatever American aroma hop you like, or a combination of several. Do yourself a favor, though: don’t skimp on the dry-hopping time. You’ll thank us for it later.