…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


  • 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

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…

Celebrating with beer…

This past Saturday my daughter graduated from college! No more payments, no more FAFSA and other financial aid forms, and probably no more graduation speeches to listen to! Worth celebrating, definitely! I’m pretty proud of my daughter, too – not only does she have a degree in Baking & Pastry Arts, and a full-time job right away in her field, but she also made reservations for a family luncheon at a brewpub a few minutes’ walk from the site of the graduation ceremony! Her father’s daughter, in many ways…

Eight of us shared a table at the Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, Rhode Island, right under their famous mural of the Last Supper (with John Lennon in the place of Jesus, Kurt Cobain as Judas, etc…). They had six beers on tap, and I got the six-beer sampler tray, not wanting to miss anything…

First up: a Kölsch. My Dad, a Bud drinker, enjoyed the Kölsch enough to have two. It was nice and bready, malty, crisp, Trinity says it is between 3 and 4% abv, with 18 IBU, and hopped with Galena.

Tommy’s Red Ale, a very malty Irish style ale, glowed a deep amber. At 4 to 5% abv and 28 IBUs, all Tettnang, it was yummy.

ESB: didn’t catch the name, nor the abv/IBU counts, but I’d guess it was around 35 – 40 IBU, very English tasting at first (Goldings?) but with an American (Cascade?) finish. Overall impression: hops, but pretty well balanced by malt.

Rhode Island IPA, their flagship, a multiple medal-winner, and the only beer they bottle at the moment (everything on tap is available in growlers at the pub, but the IPA can be found in dozens of retail outlets). 7% abv, 65 IBUs, all Kent Golding, according to the website. Very nice hop bitterness and a crisp balanced flavor. I had another pint.

Decadence Imperial IPA – brewed to celebrate 10 years in business, this is a big (10% abv) bitter (150 IBU’s) “wow” of a beer. Summit, Amarillo, Cascade and Simcoe hops, LOTS of malt…

Russian Imperial Stout – a beautiful opaque black beer, with a thick beige head. They say 8% and 60 IBU’s, hopped with Kent Goldings. Something in the yeast profile reminded us all of licorice or anise, but otherwise a nice rich beer…

The menu was fairly typical pub food, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, steaks and seafood, and the service was quite good. Get there early and be sure to make reservations – the place was hopping!

A Beer to be named later…

After a confusing and draining weekend, I finally get around to writing up the latest brew.  I had it in mind to make a rye beer, and wanted to use up some of my 2009 crop of homegrown whole hops. Then I was given a sample of some whole Nugget hops by Freshhops (from whom I ordered hop rhizomes for the Market) and decided to use them as well – so many hops, so little time… I ended up designing what I thought would be an IPA, with rye malt. So a Rye-P-A, right? Then I found I still had some chocolate rye malt… throw that in too, for color, sure, OK… but then… it ended up almost Porter-like in color, not at all an IPA profile anymore… a Rye Porter? Maybe… In the end I decided not to call it anything yet, but to wait and see how it comes out, what it tastes like when finished, etc. Maybe I’ll let the readers of this blog suggest names…

“Dark Rye Hoppy Ale”, for lack of a better name…
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. pale malt
  • 1-1/2 lbs. rye malt
  • 1 lb. chocolate rye malt
  • 1-1/2 lbs. 20°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. HG Cluster hops (90)
  • 1 oz. HG Chinook hops (45)
  • 1 oz. Nugget hops at 12.5% aa (ko)
  • White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 165°F.  Add grains to mash liquor, hold at 154°F for 90 minutes. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge grains, collecting 6.5 gallons of sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Cluster hops, boil 45 minutes, Add Chinook hops, boil another 45 minutes (90 total), turn off heat. Remove Cluster and Chinook, add Nugget hops. After 5 minutes, remove Nugget hops and chill to 80°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pour the wort into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 65°F for 7 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (50 – 55°F) for 10 – 14 days. Prime and bottle, age 10 – 14 days cool.

OG: 1066
IBU’s: as always, with my homegrown hops, I have no idea…

Notes on style:
Rye is tricky to brew with, for a couple of reasons. It doesn’t have enough of the right enzymes to be used as the sole grain in a mash, or at least not easily, so it generally needs to be used with barley and/or wheat. It also is a smaller grain, so needs to be cracked/crushed more carefully – too much flour or too many uncracked grains will both affect the consistency of the mash, thereby changing the way the whole thing either sets or doesn’t…
There are couple of traditional rye beers, one in Germany (Roggenbier) and one in the Baltic states (Finland and Estonia notably) called Sahti – which is brewed with Juniper berries and filtered/lautered through Juniper branches…