What is the difference between IPA and black IPA?

Answered by James Kissner

IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a popular beer style known for its strong hop character and bitterness. It originated in England in the 19th century and was originally brewed to withstand long journeys to India, hence the name. IPAs are characterized by their pale to amber color, strong hop aroma, and assertive bitterness. They typically have a medium to high alcohol content and a dry finish.

Black IPA, also known as Cascadian Dark Ale or American Black Ale, is a variation of the traditional IPA style. The main difference lies in the use of darker malts, which give the beer a deep, dark color, similar to that of a stout or porter. Despite its dark appearance, a black IPA still retains the hop-forward characteristics of a traditional IPA.

The use of darker malts in a black IPA brings additional flavors and aromas to the beer. These malts contribute roasted, toasty, caramel, and even chocolate or coffee notes, which complement the hop bitterness and aroma. The combination of these flavors creates a unique and complex beer that is both hoppy and roasty.

In terms of brewing process, the basic principles for both IPAs and black IPAs are the same. They both use a base of pale malt, which provides the majority of the fermentable sugars. However, black IPAs also incorporate a portion of darker malts, such as roasted barley or chocolate malt, which are responsible for the dark color and added flavors.

When it comes to hop selection, both IPAs and black IPAs typically use a significant amount of hops, often with a focus on American hop varieties known for their citrus, pine, and resinous characteristics. The hops are added during various stages of the brewing process, including the boil, whirlpool, and dry hopping, to impart both bitterness and aroma to the beer.

In terms of appearance, IPAs are typically golden to amber in color, while black IPAs have a dark brown to black appearance. The head of a black IPA may also have a tan or brown hue due to the darker malts used.

The main difference between IPA and black IPA lies in the use of darker malts in black IPA, which bring additional roasted and toasty flavors to the beer. While both styles share the hop-forward characteristics and bitterness, black IPAs offer a unique twist with a darker color and added complexity from the roasted malts.