(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
Stormcloud opened the summer after I got my first job in the brewing industry, and I was just beginning to develop my craft beer palate. At the time, Brian’s delicious brews definitely contributed to my love of Belgian-style beers, and many other beer styles as well. Stormcloud was the first place I consumed a Black IPA, and I immediately fell in love with Fun Guvn’r. To this day, Black IPAs are a bit mysterious in the beer world, but I’m hoping to shed some light on this puzzling beer style.
The 2015 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines describes the Black IPA as “A beer with the dryness, hop-forward balance, and flavor characteristics of an American IPA, only darker in color – but without strongly roasted or burnt flavors” (Strong and England 39). A Black IPA should have a moderate to high hop aroma, which we achieve in Fun Guvn’r by dry hopping it – meaning we add additional hops to the beer after fermentation has begun. Appearance wise, a Black IPA should retain a tannish head and be between 25 and 40 SRM (a system used to specify beer color intensity) – see color guide below for reference:
The flavor of darker malts should be gentle and supportive, not a major flavor component. How do we keep Fun Guvn’r hop-forward yet dark? Our brewers employ a special trick of adding our dark malts later in the mashing process, and keeping them in there just long enough to make the beer dark but not give it a full dark malt flavor. This results in mellow and subdued roady note, providing the perfect backbone for our hops.
Though Black IPAs have only become mainstream in the past 6 years or so, they do have an interesting and dated history. I created the graphic below to give you a brief history of this beer style:
What’s in a Name?
For some beer drinkers, the name “Black IPA” is an oxymoron. How can an India PALE Ale – whose color range according to the Beer Judge Certification Program should “range from medium gold to light reddish-amber” – be BLACK? This is, in part, why this beer style has earned a variety of other names, most popularly Cascadian Dark Ale, India Black Ale, and American Black Ale. Without a doubt, as the modern brew world evolves, variations of IPAs are getting more and more creative, and Black IPA is certainly now a widely accepted name.
The Brewers Association recommends pairing Black IPAs with grilled shrimp & grits, blue cheeses, aged gouda, or chocolates truffles – but I’m sure there are countless other delicious pairings. Have you found a food that you particularly love to eat while drinking Black IPAs? Let us know – we’d love to hear about it!
“American Black Ale.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers Association,
Carr, Nick. “Black IPA: The Oxymoron in the Bitter World of Beer.” Kegerator.com, 13 Mar.
Faulkner, Frank. Theory and Practice of Modern Brewing. Second ed., F.W. Lyon, 1888, pp.
Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, editors. “Specialty IPA: Black IPA.” BJCP Beer Style
Guidelines. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, p. 39.
(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
Who doesn’t enjoy drinking their favorite beer in the comfort of their own home? I’m guessing many of you utilize and own growlers, but I thought I’d pass on some more information about the glorious vessel we call the growler.
The History of the Growler
There is much debate regarding the origin of the growler, but it appears that they were definitively in use by the late 1800s. In fact, the term growler, “first appeared in the July 1893 issue of Harper’s Magazine” (Newhouse). At this time, ‘growler’ referred to galvanized buckets specifically used to transport beer from the pub to home. Often, young boys would take the buckets to the local pubs to be filled, then take them to their father’s place of work for lunch. As the story goes, the fathers would be so hungry by the time the beer arrived that their stomachs were growling – hence the name growler. Another story asserts that the term comes from the sound of carbon dioxide escaping through the pail’s cover. Yet another story claims that the term growler comes from the growling done between the bartender and customer regarding the amount of beer poured into the bucket. Regardless of the etymology, I’m very grateful that growlers came into being.
Charlie Otto, owner of Otto Brothers Brewery (now Grand Teton Brewing) is responsible for what we know as the 64 oz glass growler. His brewery was Wyoming’s first draft-only microbrewery, and he was looking for a way for his customers to enjoy their beer at home. His father recalled the galvanized buckets he used to bring beer home in his youth, and they determined they needed a modern variation. After stumbling upon some glass half-gallon jugs, he had the brewery’s logo silk screened on them and the contemporary growler was born!
There are three primary types of growler you now see in circulation – glass, stainless steel, and ceramic. With each of these come some pros and cons.
The glass growler is by far the most common variety you will see – nearly every brewery in Michigan has them for sale. If given the option, purchase an amber growler over a clear one – this will help prevent your beer being exposed to light, which can “skunk” it. The pros of the glass growler are that they tend to be inexpensive and you can see through them – which helps during the filling process to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of beer. The primary con of the glass growler is that they are fragile – if you drop it it will probably break.
In contrast to the glass growler, the stainless steel growler is much sturdier. They are also insulated, which will help keep your beer colder for longer, as well as prevent it from freezing in low temperatures. Stainless steel growlers are great for all of the outdoor adventures here in northern Michigan where you wouldn’t want to bring glass – the beach, boating, the ski slope, ice fishing – you name it! The downside to stainless steel growlers are that they are heavier to transport and definitely more expensive.
The third type of growler, ceramic, is not one you see as often. They can be absolutely gorgeous unique pieces of art, and some breweries specialize in their custom one-of-a-kind ceramic growlers. While these are fun to own, they are usually the most expensive, the heaviest, and are vulnerable to breaking.
Keeping Your Growler Clean
Keeping your growler clean is of upmost importance to experiencing your beer at the highest level of quality. Jeff Flowers, writer for Kegerator.com states, “you’d be surprised how many people don’t clean their growler after using it…in extreme circumstances of uncleanliness, mold and other nasty stuff may start growing.” Immediately upon finishing your growler, give it a rinse with hot water – if you do this right away, it may be all you have to do to get it clean and ready to fill. If it sits around a while before being rinsed, you may need to use a cleanser – Flowers recommends that you do NOT use a fat or oil-based soap, as these are harder to rinse out and may leave residuals behind that will impact the taste of your next fill. In the Brewers Association’s Draught Beer Quality Manual, they emphasize the importance of letting your growler completely air dry, and storing it with the lid unsealed.
The Brewers Association warns that, “filled growlers can shatter or explode if allowed to warm or freeze, especially if they are overfilled.” We highly recommend that you don’t leave your growlers outside on our freezing cold northern Michigan nights, or in a hot car during a summer day at the beach. This is not only to maintain the beer quality, but also as a safety concern. You may notice that when getting a growler filled, servers do not fill them to the tippy top – this is another safety precaution we take to prevent shattering. Fortunately, glass growlers reach 64 oz right at the base of the glass growler neck, to ensure you are still getting a full pour. Last but not least, you should visually inspect glass or ceramic growlers for chips or cracks every time you bring it in. Brewery employees also do this, but the more eyes the better!
“Brewers Association Facts About Growlers.” Draught Beer Quality,
Brewers Association, 7 Mar. 2014, http://www.draughtquality.org/wp-
Flowers, Jeff. “Growlers 101: Why Every Beer Geek Should Own One.”
Kegerator.com, 30 May 2014, learn.kegerator.com/growlers/.
Newhouse, Ryan. “Everything You Need To Know About Growlers.” The
Beer Connoisseur, Nov. 2017, beerconnoisseur.com/articles/every
X – an Extra Pale Ale
brewed by AleSmith Brewing Company in Sand Diego, CA
X is an Extra Pale Ale that is brewed year-round by AleSmith Brewing Company. The beer is light and drinkable, but I was let down by the flavor. As a big fan of other AleSmith brews, this one disappointed me.
Immediately upon opening, this beer was a gusher. I was surprised by this as it was not bottle conditioned, but I know hydrophobin (a protein created by a fungus that infects malt during the brewing process) could be a culprit.¹ After it stopped gushing, the beer poured a deep gold with a brilliant white head that dissipated quickly. The immediate aroma I noticed was citrus, lemon with some hints of perfumey pear. The scent also had delicate undertones of sweet biscuity malt. The taste of this beer is what really disappointed me – it reminded me of old hops. Pine and citrus were definitely present, but there was a stale off-flavor. Unfortunately this bottle did not have a freshness date on it, so I have no way of telling just how old it was. This beer had a sweet aftertaste, almost medicinal – the lingering flavor was essentially a honey lemon cough drop.
AleSmith X clocks in at 5.2% ABV and 24 IBU. Based on my experience I would not recommend this beer, but as I said earlier it had no date on the bottle so it might be better when fresher.
¹Hippeli, Susanne, and Erich F. Elstner. “Minireview: Hydrophobins, ns-LTPs and Beer
Gushing.” Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, edited by Walter De Gruyter, 2 Aug. 2001,
Have you had this beer? What was your take on it?
Today I am launching an online shop to sell a few stickers I’ve designed. Visit the shop here! I’m starting very small, but hope to be adding more stickers soon. If you have a chance, check them out. I would also love feedback on what future designs you’d like to see. Cheers!
Divine Sauvage – a Belgian Tripel aged in Red Wine Barrels
brewed by Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego, CA
Divine Sauvage is a Belgian-Style Tripel Ale aged in red wine barrels – 36 different barrels to be exact. This blend was brewed in 2015 & 2016 with Syrian Golding and Czech Saaz hops and fermented with Monastery and Brett yeast. After being aged in vintage French Oak red wine barrels for up to 30 months, it was bottled in March and resulted in this brilliant piece of artistry.
Divine Sauvage poured a highly carbonated, deep golden color. Topped off with an eggshell-colored head reminiscent of lemon meringue, this beer had brilliant head retention. I was initially taken aback by the lack of bold aroma, but there were certainly subtle wafts of tannin, oak, and sour apricot. As the beer warmed up, there were also distinct Brett notes apparent in the nose. Upon first sip, I was impressed with the tart, balanced mid-palate flavor – clean funk that gave way to a lingering, soft lemongrass finish. The tart flavor reminded me of the loquat fruit: similar to apricot with floral overtones, presenting as tart due to not quite reaching its ripened prime. The joy of sipping this beer evoked nostalgic memories of sticky juice running down my hands and chin as a child after biting into the season’s first apricot at a roadside farm stand. Divine Sauvage clocks in at 9.7% ABV and 24 IBU. If you have an opportunity to imbibe this tasty beer, I highly recommend that you DO!
Cellar 3 is home to Green Flash’s barrel program, self described as “where craft evolves into artistry.” For more information on Cellar 3 and Green Flash, I highly recommend checking out this video:
Green Zebra– A Gose Style Ale brewed with Watermelon and Sea Salt
brewed by Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, MI
I was super excited this made it to Indiana! Having lived in Grand Rapids for eight years, I definitely consider it my second hometown. Founders Brewing Co. has brewed a beer every year to benefit ArtPrize, and Green Zebra is this year’s brew! What is ArtPrize, you ask? It is an open, independently organized international art competition and festival held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flood the streets every fall to experience this special event. More than five hundred thousand dollars in prizes are awarded each year, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts. Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate. For more information about ArtPrize, please visit their website.
Green Zebra is a gose style ale brewed with watermelon and sea salt. It has been quite a while since I have had a gose that I truly enjoyed. I have described the recent goses I have imbibed as “drinkable” at best. Watch out world – here, to revive the true potential of the gose is Founders’ Green Zebra! For those of you unfamiliar with the gose style, here is BeerAdvocate’s description:
“An old German beer style from Leipzig, Gose is an unfiltered wheat beer made with 50-60% malted wheat, which creates a cloudy yellow color and provides a refreshing crispness and twang. A Gose will have a low hop bitterness and a complementary dryness and spice from the use of ground coriander seeds and a sharpness from the addition of salt. Like Berliner Weisse beers, a Gose will sometimes be laced with various flavored and colored syrups. This is to balance out the addition of lactic acid that is added to the boil.”
Green Zebra poured with dancing carbonation and topped off with a dollop of bright white head. It was the color of a wheat field on a summer day, and was effervescent with an ever-so-subtle haze. The initial wafts of aroma were tangy and almost sour, which soon gave way to a powerful smell of watermelon with an underlying hint of brine. The overwhelming scent was very reminiscent of watermelon flavored salt water taffy. As predicted, the carbonation of Green Zebra electrified and fizzled across the tongue, highlighting the tangy bite of flavor across the full palate. At first sip, I was greeted with a very sweet, candy-like watermelon flavor at the front of the palate, along with the light, soft, creamy mouthfeel. While the watermelon candy taste remained throughout, it got bumped to the background by a funky, sour taste – like a tart green apple. The tang was accentuated by sprinkles of saltiness throughout, and was capped off by the lingering salty aftertaste. Though the various flavor contributions to this beer sound like an odd combination, it truly finds a harmonious balance. Green Zebra clocks in at 4.6% ABV and 10 IBU. I highly recommend you get your hands on it, before this zebra goes extinct!
“Gose.” BeerAdvocate, 21 January 2012, https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/style/16/.