…Into the Black…

One of the lasting impressions of the Vermont Brewers Festival a couple weekends ago was the spirit of innovation that still pervades the craft beer scene. You’d think that after all these centuries of brewing, there would be nothing left untried. But walking around the grounds of Waterfront Park in Burlington, I noticed so many new and different takes on standard and traditional beers, that I couldn’t help but be optimistic about the industry.

A notable example: several breweries were offering what they termed a “Black IPA”. I tried a couple of them, and heard about a couple others. What was this beer, a new style or a hybrid? Where was the line between it and a “regular” IPA, between it and a robust porter? While the style itself hasn’t yet been officially sanctioned by the BJCP, as far as I know, it’s clear it’s a style worth pursuing. The examples I had were very dark, with lots of dark/roasted malt flavor (more chocolate and black than roasted barley, but there was that too…) and a lot of caramel sweetness. Oh, and hops too – one was very American-style – Chinook, Cascade, Willamette, in some combination, another was very English – Fuggles, Bramling Cross, Goldings, etc… I heard afterward that some brewers are referring to the American version as “Cascadian Ale”, largely because that’s the hop they are using predominantly, but also because it is being brewed by Pacific Northwest breweries, in sight of (more or less) the Cascades…

I decided on the spot that I wanted to try my hand at this beer. So did a couple of brewing friends. I think there are 5 or 6 of us currently brewing it or about to, hopefully we can get together in a few months and compare our efforts.

Rust Never Sleeps IPA
5 gallons, all grain

Ingredients:

  • 8.5 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1/2 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1/4 lb. black malt
  • 1/4 lb. chocolate malt
  • 1/8 lb. roasted barley
  • 1 oz. Phoenix hop pellets (10% aa)
  • 1 oz. Whitbread Gold Varietal hop pellets (6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Fuggles whole hops (5.7% aa)
  • White Labs Pacific Ale yeast (WLP041)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:
Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 166°F. Mash in grains and hold at 153°F for 60 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts sweet wort. Heat to boiling, add Phoenix hops. Boil 30 minutes, add WGV hops. Boil 30 minutes, remove from heat. Add Fuggles hops, let stand covered 15 minutes. Remove Fuggles hops, chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 70°F for 7 – 10 days, or until active fermentation stops. Rack to secondary, age cooler (58 – 60°F) for 14 – 20 days. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition 4 to 6 weeks at cellar temperature.

OG: 1057
IBU’s: 61

Notes on style: In the end I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to brew the American version or the English, so I compromised. English hops, American yeast.

Notes on yeast: The Pacific Ale Yeast is reputed to be derived from the strain used by Rogue Brewing, Newport, Oregon, which Rogue’s brewer John Maier labeled “PacMan”, because it fermented everything in sight… I find it well suited for hoppy beers.

Notes on hops: WGV and Fuggles are, of course, classic English flavor and aroma hops. Phoenix is a relatively new high-alpha bittering hop, and this is the first time I have brewed with it. And yes, I consider what I did with the Fuggles to be a kind of dry-hopping…

9 Replies to “…Into the Black…”

  1. Got an email today from a Brewmaster friend of mine, Patrick Dakin, who reminded me that many consider that the first iteration of this style was probably brewed around here, at the Vermont Pub & Brewery, Burlington, VT, by my old friend and mentor, the late Greg Noonan. Once again, Greg’s influence is felt in the craft brewing world.

  2. Hi,
    I’m interested in giving this a try, but I would like to throw in American hops instead of English. Would you have a suggestion for the hopping schedule?
    Thanks,
    Anthony in Montreal

  3. Anthony – I would think any combination of American hops could be used here. I would definitely consider finishing/dry-hopping with Cascades, but could see a combination of Chinook, Cluster, Nugget, etc. for bittering, maybe some of the newer varieties in the middle, such as Tomahawk, Zeus, Citra, Columbus… Like any IPA, there are an infinite number and variety of combinations and schedules. I guess I would do a 90 minute boil here, with a medium-high alpha hop (8-9%) for the 90, a high alpha (11 – 14%) for 45 and finish with a dose of Cascade for 5 and then also dry-hop in the secondary with whole Cascade… just a suggestion! Let me know what you decide to d and how it comes out!

  4. Alright, so I ended up throwing in Pearle at 90, Sarachi Ace at 45 and finished with Amarillo as the local shop was out of Cascade (ridiculous, I know!). I use 1/4 inch piping in my mash/lauter tun and had difficulty sparging as I think the dust from the crushed grain clogged the filter a few times. The OG came in at 1.050. We plated that Pacman yeast for use in future batches. Fermentation has been slow as I have difficulty maintaining temperature. The weather this week in Montreal has gone from above freezing to below, snow to rain to ice to snow, and our apartment temperature has been fluctuating constantly. I’ve been hovering around 60F which is too low for fermentation to really kick off, but now that temperatures have normalized somewhat I’m hoping for it to start accelerating this week. I’ll give it an extra week in the primary. Now comes the waiting game… Fortunately my marzen should be ready this week to tie me over.

    1. I like the use of Perle and Sorachi here – that should provide a really interesting combination. I wish you patience, not only for the extended aging of the beer but also to get through the rest of the Montreal winter!

  5. Well, we couldn’t resist the temptation to try a bottle and wow, it is simply amazing. Aroma as expected from an IPA. Chocolate hits you first but eases until the after taste is cut abruptly by the hop bitterness. Smooth going down but leaves the mouth dry. Great head retention too. Thanks so much for this posting and I can’t wait to see how the beer will develop in the coming weeks! Some of the local microbreweries up here have started putting out Black IPAs and they are being well received because they are not heavy.

  6. I actually worked at Benelux for a short stint, but that was four years ago when they just opened. I stopped frequenting them because the head brewer was hell-bent on making the strongest belgium beer possible and almost all their beers were overtly strong on the caramel. I’ll have to swing by if he’s now trying different styles like black IPA!

    Dieu Du Ciel is a great place but their bar is too small! It’s rated the top in Montreal by almost everyone of my beer buddies. However, it looks like both places have discontinued their black IPAs… good thing I have a few bottles left.

    I’m definitely going to try and swing to Vermont for this festival if I’m around. Looks like a fun one!

  7. Well, something interesting is that I’m on the west coast now in Vancouver, BC. I managed to get down to Portland, OR for their Brewfest end of July and will be heading to Victoria, BC for theirs second week of September. Deschutes is really trying out White IPAs, one with a citrus twist which worked out well and another with more of an estery twist which I thought failed horribly, but many whom I served at the festival loved it. For the popularity of IPA in the Northwest, I was surprised that no one knows the black IPA! So, after lining up some equipment, I’m putting this mix together:
    9 lbs of 2-row pale, 1/4 chocolate, 1/4 black, 1/4 crystal and a 1/4 lbs of cara 8 for the grain bill, 60 min and then 30 min with Chinook 10% 1 oz each, then dry hop it in the primary with 1 oz of 5.5% Cascade. We’ll see how that turns out, but the guys at the homebrew shop here in Vancouver, BC are very interested in this style. I told the assistant brewery about it at Whistler Brewery which has vaulted itself as one of the top in BC after the arrival of Brewmaster Joe Goetz from Granville Island Brewery when they sold their souls to Adolf Coors/Molson. Hopefully they give it a go! Thanks again for the post.

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