(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.
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!
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.
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!
As a beer lover with a film degree and a passion for film noir, I couldn’t pass up a beer called Femme Fatale, especially if it comes from Evil Twin.
Femme Fatale Brett is an IPA fermented with brettanomyces and hopped with Galaxy, Citra, Summit, and Cascade hops. It poured a hazy, bright, glowing orange and had a huge, frothy head with incredible retention. The aroma was of fermented fruit, notes of lemon, and sweet banana esters. The initial flavor was strong citrus and apricot, while a consistent sweet yeast undertone ran across the full palate. Mid palate was tangy, with a distinct brett taste dancing across the tongue, and a subtle biscuity hint reminiscent of sea salt. The lingering aftertaste was both sweet and funky. Despite the large head initially, the mouthfeel lacked carbonation and was thin and flatter than expected. If you are into brettanomyces and citrusy belgian ales, I highly recommend you face the funk and taste this incredibly drinkable beer. Femme Fatal Brett clocks in at 6% ABV.
Have you had Femme Fatale Brett? What did you think of it? Is there a beer you would like to see me review? Let me know!
4 Micro-Reviews of Grapefruit Brews
Labor Day weekend has come and past, and I am slowly saying farewell to summer. I am excited for autumn, but won’t truly be able to embrace fall until the weather cools off. To help with my transition, I decided to finish off the last of my Grapefruit IPAs and share some micro-reviews with you! You’ll notice these are less serious, more train-of-thought reviews than my usual. Enjoy!
from Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park, MI
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 5% | IBUs: 35
This beer has been a summer staple for me since Perrin first released it in the spring of 2013. Brewed with real grapefruit, this beer is super sessionable, and balances out the traditional grapefruit tartness with a not-so-subtle sweet malty backbone. A refreshing pool, river, or lakeside beer. Perrin’s Grapefruit IPA is not nearly as hoppy as I prefer my IPAs, so if you are also looking for something a bit more IPA-like check out Juicy, the Grapefruit IPA’s big sister. Juicy is an Imperial Grapefruit IPA, brewed with 12 different hops and twice the amount of grapefruit – an untamed yet refined citrus bomb of goodness!
from Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits in San Diego, CA
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 7% | IBUs: 70
This was actually my least favorite of the bunch, which really surprised me. Sculpin IPA (the base beer) is a really solid IPA of which I love, and I am also a huge fan of the Pineapple Sculpin. The thing that got to me was the aftertaste – it was just TOO grapefruity. I think the bitterness of grapefruit masked the beer’s complexity throughout the palate, and by the end it just tasted like straight grapefruit juice. Well, boozy grapefruit juice. This beer was not for me, but if you dig grapefruit juice it might be worth giving a try.
from Sun King Brewing Company in Indianapolis, IN
Style: India Pale Ale | ABV: 7.5% | IBUs: 77
Grapefruit Jungle (GFJ) is one of Sun King’s annual one-off specialty beers. I had the pleasure of attending Sun King Brewing’s 7th Anniversary Party and release of this delicious beer earlier this summer. The 2016 GFJ has a super fruity nose – aromatics of grapefruit, tangerine, and apricot. The taste on this bad boy is a well-balanced roller coaster of bitter and citrusy hops, with malt undertones that keep it from getting out of hand. This careful combination of Amarillo (ruby grapefruit), Simcoe (resiny pine), and Cascade (sweet orange zest) hops make this not only a solid Grapefruit IPA, but a solid IPA in general.
Grapefruit Dead is my favorite of the four on this list. As a Double IPA it naturally boasts a higher level of hoppy delight. This beer is brewed with grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, and – like Sun King – utilizes the Amarillo hop to fully capitalize on the bright bitter yet citrusy flavor. The front of the palate on this beer presents a sweet, almost caramel-like malt combined with grapefruit rind, and quickly slides into a wild garden of resiny grapefruit bitterness. This has a smooth mouth feel despite the occasional bitter pucker and ends with a pleasantly warm, boozy finish. Again, this is not only a solid Grapefruit IIPA, but a solid IIPA in general.
Have you had any of these beers? Do you have a favorite grapefruit beer? Is there a beer you would like to see me review? Let me know!
Yesterday I hosted a Michigan IPA Tasting Event at our home. Six of us gathered around the table and shared beer, stories, and laughter. I had a lot of fun hosting, so if you’ve ever considered it, I say – do it! Here is a little advice to get you started:
Pick a Theme
Do you want to sample beers from one brewery? Do you want to sample the same style of beers from a variety of breweries? Do you want to share with people your favorite beer of each style? Once you decide the theme of your tasting, it will help determine what comes next.
Picking my theme was easy, because I had beer that I needed help getting rid of. Generally IPAs are meant to be enjoyed fresh, and my cellar was piling up with an abundance of Michigan IPAs that needed to be drank fast!
Pick Your Guests
First, you’ll need to determine how many guests you’d like to invite. Do you plan on having an intimate around-the-table tasting, or a larger mix n’ mingle party? It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the types of guests you want to have. If you’re planning on a more formal tasting event that thoroughly dissects the appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc. – make sure you are inviting experienced and knowledgeable beer drinkers. If your event is going to be more casual and will include people with a variety of beer experience, make sure you facilitate it accordingly. You don’t want to disappoint your fellow beer junkies, and you definitely don’t want to scare off or intimidate new craft beer drinkers.
For yesterday’s event I invited friends that appreciate craft beer, but all have different levels of knowledge on the beer spectrum. In this instance, the environment was a positive one which facilitated an open discussion of beer knowledge.
Pick Your Beer
Once you know your theme and how many guests you plan on having, it is time to pick your beer! It’s fun to serve rare or unique beer your guests have never had before, but it might also be good to serve familiar beer to act as the tasting ‘control group’ to the other beers. How many different beers do you plan on having? We had 12 different IPAs, divided into two rounds – but I think if I were having a more formal tasting event, I would limit myself to 6 in order to prevent palate fatigue and mental exhaustion. Now is also the time to determine how much of each beer you will need. Are you having enough people to warrant a pony keg, or do you just need a couple bottles from your local bottle shop? Remember, a tasting event is different from a drinking event – each guest only needs a couple of ounces of each beer. Also keep in mind that a couple of ounces can add up to a lot of ounces, depending on how many different beers you are serving.
- Beer. Purchase your beer ahead of time, and make sure you store it in a cool, dry place. On the day of your event, make sure the beer is served at proper tasting temperature for the style. Beer that is too cold is hard for our taste buds to taste.
- Tasting Cups. Remember, these only need to be a few ounces. I used clear plastic cups with a wide mouth, so guests could easily evaluate color and catch the aroma.
- Tasting Mats. I made tasting mats for each round of tasting, with ordered, labeled spots for each beer. I also included other information about the beer, like the brewery name, ABV, and IBUs.
- Beer Score Cards. While my event did not include formal judging, I wanted to provide my guests with a place to take notes about each beer if they were so inclined. I also printed off a page with some tasting “suggestions” and some simple beer vocabulary.
- Snacks & Water. I intentionally picked snacks that act as palate neutralizers or that traditionally pair with beer. We had pretzels, popcorn, bread, and cheese. Make sure you also provide your guests with plenty of water. The idea behind the snacks and water are to help clear the taste buds between beer samples, and also to help prevent any major drunkenness caused by an empty stomach. Aside from the snacks, our group was small enough that we were also able to order carry-out once the event was underway.
On the day of your event, set up as much in advance as possible. I set out each spot at the table with the tasting mats, beer score cards, pens, napkins, and suggestion sheets well before everyone arrived. I also threw some flowers in an old growler, which made a beautiful centerpiece. I put snacks out and poured waters 15 minutes prior to everyone’s arrival, and started playing music 5 minutes before showtime. In case of late arrivals, I advise you do not start pouring beers until everyone is there and ready to start. Talk to everyone, and make sure they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Keep an eye out for overconsumption, and be aware that as the host you may have to provide a way home or a place to crash for the night if someone goes over the top. (Fortunately, I did not encounter anything remotely close to this last night.) Consider having a party favor you can send home with people at the end of the night – mine was simple, I sent my guests home with a variety 6-pack of the beers they ranked the highest.
Overall, my tasting party was a success and I am really glad that I did it. My guests were great, and brought some of their own delicious beverages to share – including a homebrewed Classic American Pilsner and some homemade wine. Thanks to everyone that came out! I look forwarding to hosting my next one.
Have you ever hosted a beer tasting event? What did you find that worked and didn’t work for you? If you were to host a beer tasting event, what would your theme be?