What makes a black IPA?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

A Black IPA, also known as a Cascadian Dark Ale, is a unique style that combines the hop-forward characteristics of an IPA with the dark malt flavors of a stout or porter. It is a beer that challenges traditional style boundaries and offers a complex and intriguing flavor profile.

The key element that distinguishes a Black IPA is its appearance. It pours dark, often black, in color, just like a stout or porter. However, unlike these styles, a Black IPA showcases a pronounced hop aroma and flavor. This is achieved through the use of a generous amount of hops during the brewing process.

In terms of the malt profile, a Black IPA typically has a clean base malt flavor profile of low to medium strength. This means that the malt flavors are not overpowering, allowing the hops to take center stage. There may be hints of light toffee or caramel notes, adding a touch of sweetness to balance the bitterness of the hops.

The dark malt flavors in a Black IPA should remain restrained. They should not dominate the beer or overshadow the hop character. The roast notes, which provide the beer with its dark color, should be present but not overly pronounced. They should never taste burnt or ashy, as this would detract from the overall balance of the beer.

It is important to note that while a Black IPA shares some similarities with a stout or porter in terms of appearance and use of dark malts, it should not taste like a hoppy stout or porter. The focus of a Black IPA is on the hop flavors and aromas, which should shine through without being overwhelmed by the malt character.

The hop profile of a Black IPA is typically bold and assertive, showcasing a range of hop flavors and aromas. This can include citrus, pine, floral, or even tropical fruit notes, depending on the hop varieties used. The hop bitterness should be prominent, but it should be well-balanced with the malt sweetness to create a harmonious beer.

To summarize, a Black IPA is a unique beer style that combines the dark malt flavors of a stout or porter with the hop-forward characteristics of an IPA. It should have a clean base malt flavor profile, with restrained dark malt flavors. The hop profile should be bold and assertive, with a prominent hop aroma and flavor. The key is to achieve a harmonious balance between the hops and the malt, creating a beer that is complex, intriguing, and thoroughly enjoyable.