(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.