…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…