india pale ale

The Mysterious Black IPA

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(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. 

Style Specifications
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:

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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.

History
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:

The History of the Black IPA

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.

Food Pairing
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!


References: 

“American Black Ale.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers Association,
http://www.craftbeer.com/styles/american-black-ale.

Carr, Nick. “Black IPA: The Oxymoron in the Bitter World of Beer.” Kegerator.com, 13 Mar.
2019, learn.kegerator.com/black-ipa/.

Faulkner, Frank. Theory and Practice of Modern Brewing. Second ed., F.W. Lyon, 1888, pp.
259-60.

Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, editors. “Specialty IPA: Black IPA.” BJCP Beer Style
Guidelines
. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, p. 39.

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Christmas Cookie & Beer Pairing

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(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)

We all know that Santa prefers beer instead of milk with his cookies, so this month’s post is all about beer…and cookies!

Award-winning chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate Adam Dulye and Certified Cicerone® and Beer Judge Julia Herz explain, “A pairing is a match between beverage and food, with the goal of having the individual parts interact in a synergistic way to create an enhanced and elevated experience. Simply stated, craft beer and food can transform each other” (Dulye and Herz, 50). To transform your traditional holiday desserts, I’ve utilized a few of my favorite beer educators and did some field research of my own to compile a list of holiday cookies that pair well with our Stormcloud beer.

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Rainmaker Ale & Snowball Cookies (also know as Russian Tea Cake, not to be confused with Pfeffernüsse, which have a very different flavor.)

As our flagship beer and GABF bronze medal-winning brew, I knew I had to find a cookie that accentuated all of its best qualities. This cookie works so well because the dusting of the powdered sugar draws out the dark fruit flavors from our house yeast as well as some subtle caramel notes from the malt. In turn, the beer really helps to bring out the nuttiness of the Snowball Cookies. Looking for a Snowball Cookie recipe? Check out this link.

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228 Tripel & Apricot Thumbprint Cookies

Our abbey-style Tripel is extremely versatile in food pairings, with its complex flavor and wide range of delicious yeast-driven aromas. I love the Apricot Thumbprint Cookies paired with 228 because the dryness of the beer cuts through the sweetness of the apricot jam, providing a pleasant balance. Additionally, the cookie adds backbone to the base malt flavor of the brew, giving it a playful enhancement. Want to make your own Apricot Thumbprint Cookies? Click here for a recipe!

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Whiled Away® IPA & Orange Gingerbread Cookies

This was one of my most surprising findings. I was a little skeptical of this pairing at first, but after seeing it come up time after time in my research, I knew I had to try it. The hop flavor works really well to cut through the ginger spice, which in turn mellows out the bitterness. Then, the orange zest of the cookie enhances the bright citrus hop presence in Whiled Away, creating a perfect marriage of flavors. I have to say, this was my favorite beer and cookie pairing! Try it out for yourself, using this recipe.

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31 Planes IIPA (Plane 16) & Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

You can’t go wrong with the classic cut out holiday cookie, especially topped with a smooth, rich buttercream frosting. The dryness of our IIPA combined with the bitterness from the hops helps to balance out the sugary sweetness of the cookie. In finding this balance, the beer expands the cookie’s flavor range, allowing the palate to identify and enjoy the subtleties of the cookie (such as vanilla and butter notes) instead of just being overpowered by sugar. If you’re hoping to make a batch of these holiday staples, this recipe may be just what you need.

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Rowed Hard Stout & Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Stouts go well with just about every dessert imaginable, but combining our Oatmeal Stout with a peanut butter and chocolate cookie takes it to the next level. The chocolate of the cookie brings out an even balance of sweet and cacao elements from the malt, while the creamy mouthfeel of the beer sweeps the peanut butter across the palate in a most alluring way. This beer plays well with both milk and dark chocolate, so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit – this recipe is a good starting point.
Interested in doing some beer and cookie pairing of your own? 

A common way to pair food and beer is looking at the following three interactions — compliment (flavors that match each other); contrast (flavors that intensify or suppress each other); and cut (flavors that cleanse the palate). The Brewers Association Beer & Food Course book also explains that you should, “Expand your tasting notes to include places, memories, and sensations” (Dulye and Herz, 50). For more information on food and beer pairings, check out this awesome resource from the Brewers Association.

I’d be interested in hearing what beers you pair with your favorite cookies, so please feel free to share. Grab a crowler or growler to go and start baking!


References

Bender, Jonathan. Cookies & Beer. Andrew McMeel
Publishing, 2015.

Dulye, Adam, and Julia Herz. “Beer & Food Course.”
         CraftBeer.com, Brewers Association, Mar. 2017.

Mosher, Randy. “American Craft Beer and Food: Perfect
Companions.” Brewers Association, 2009, p. 7.

Murphy, Nikelle. “7 Delicious Beer and Cookie Pairings
You Have to Try.” The Cheat Sheet, 12 Feb. 2017,
http://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/7-delicious-beer-and-cookie-
pairings-you-have-to-try.html/.

Rhodes, Jesse. “Beer for Dessert.” Smithsonian, 29 June 2011,
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/beer-for-dessert-
24136392/.

Richards, Bryan M. “How to Pair Beer with Desserts That Aren’t
Chocolate.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers
Association, 9 Feb. 2018.

Specketer, Jenn. “Craft Beer and Christmas Candy Pairing.” Bites,
Barrels and Brews
, 14 Dec. 2015, http://www.bitesbarrelsandbrews.
com/2015/12/14/craft-beer-and-christmas-candy-pairing/.

Stanz, Carissa. “This Holiday, Skip the Milk and Pair Your Favorite
Christmas Cookie with Beer.” Wide Open Eats, edited by Sarah
Ramsey and Lyndsay Burginger, 12 Dec. 2017, http://www.wideopen
eats.com/this-holiday-skip-the-milk-and-pair-your-favorite-
christmas-cookie-with-beer/.

EXCITING NEWS!

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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!

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Beer Review: Shploing!! Mango S’mores

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Shploing!! Mango S’mores – an India Pale Ale
brewed and canned for Omnipollo by Dorchester Brewing Co. in Boston, MA

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Saw this at my local bottle shop, and was immediately intrigued. An IPA brewed with marshmallows? I couldn’t imagine it, so I knew I had to try it. Besides, the can design is awesome!

Shploing!! Mango S’mores is an IPA brewed with marshmallows, graham crackers, salt and lactose sugar with mangos and vanilla added. I love IPAs and I love s’mores, but I really couldn’t imagine the two meeting. It poured from the can a hazy, straw color with about a finger of off-white head. The head dissipated really quickly. The aroma was exactly what I was hoping for: strong mango scent, with a distinct vanilla marshmallow smell cutting through. The taste was prominently tropical fruit and citrusy hops. I picked up on an incredibly subtle vanilla aftertaste. The malt flavor definitely took the back seat to the hops, though I could see it being described as graham crackery (I suspect this to have a lot more to do with the actual malts used than the fact that it was brewed with graham crackers, but who knows?) There was a bit of sediment at the bottom, but not invasive or so much that bothered me. I’ll be honest, I expected a lot more marshmallow flavor than there was from this beer; but I was also worried it would be too sweet for my liking which it was not. I had fun trying this, and there were some subtle unique flavors, but overall I would categorize this as a basic, but solid, India Pale Ale. I highly recommend it for the bitter hopheads, but suggest you stay away if you’re only in it for the marshmallow. Shploing!! Mango S’mores IPA clocks in at 7% ABV.

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Have you tried Shploing!! Mango S’mores? What was your opinion of it? What is the most unique combination of flavors you’ve had in a beer? I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to comment below!