This time of year, my mind turns to Black IPA. This somewhat controversial style has an identity problem. It’s the IPA that looks like a porter. As a result no one knows what to call them. But whether you refer to them as the mysterious sounding “Cascadian Dark Ales,” the awkward catch-all “American-style Black Ales,” or just plain “bip-uhs,” to me they build a bridge from the high-heat of summer to the cooler, darker nights of fall. The best have a fresh, bitter hoppiness that reminds me of bright sunshine. That’s followed by the dark chocolate and toasty-roasted malts that recall a roaring fire place on a cold night.
I’d prefer to be drinking my BIPA as summer fades. I probably should have had it brewing by now in order to enjoy it during the transition between seasons. But, what with climate change, autumn doesn’t really kick in until about November in my part of the world, so I’ve got time.
I’ve brewed IPAs before but never their darker cousins, so I’m off to the home brew store to talk to my sage, Joe. (He really should have a more dramatic name. Something with gravitas that’s vaguely Tolkien-esque, like Gaspar or, better yet, Bieronymus.)
Anyway, I want to see if he has any Citra or Sorachi Ace or some other new-fangled hop lying around. I want to get a little crazy with this American-style Black Ale. I’m planning on using Cascade and Warrior for bittering and flavor. But I think dry hopping with something seemingly more exotic will add complexity and a bright note. Not to mention that using a more off-the-beaten-path hop will make me sound cooler when I tell my wife (the only person who listens to me talk about beer) about the brew. “Yeah, I totally dry-hopped this puppy with Nelson Sauvin.” I can already see her falling asleep in love all over again....