FI Black IPA

What’s a Black IPA?

Black IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, American-style Dark IPA, India Black Ale and American Black Ale are all names for the same style of beer. Like the East Coast/West Coast Hip Hop rivalry from the ‘90s (although with less shooting and killing and more blogging and commenting on the Internet), debate raged over what to call this style when it was added by the Brewers Association as a new category for the Great American Beer Fest in 2010. They went with American-style India Black Ale.

Imperial Black AleThe debate over the name was in part fueled by a debate over the origin of this style. Most people attribute the creation of it to Greg Noonan and Glenn Walter of the Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington, VT in 1994. Others attribute it to brewers in the Pacific Northwest and of course British brewers point to records or dark and hoppy beers being brewed in England a century before that. Though the advocates of the name Cascadian Dark Ale claim that it has more to do with the ingredients of the beer than where it was first brewed as the beer is commonly brewed with hops grown in the Cascadia region. These hops include Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade.

Other debates refer to the confusing terminology. Black IPA is confusing on two accounts. The beer does not have the history of being shipped to India for British troops, nor can it be called black and pale at the same time. Though Greg Koch of Stone Brewing makes a good case for it saying that the term IPA has a meaning all its own now and is probably the best term to describe what the drinker could expect. Using the term American Black Ale would mean that the term “American” denotes a high IBU or high hop flavor profile, which it does in some cases but not others. Cascadian, to many people, means nothing and probably most people don’t even know where this region is (until now of course).

So what do you call it? Whatever you want, apparently. BeerAdvocate goes with American Black Ale and the Brewers Association has gone with American-style Black Ale for Great American Beer Fest purposes. But individual brewers seem to still call it whatever they want.

What to expect: This style is characterized by a brown to black color with a white to tan head. Aromas of citrus, pine and resin from the hops and a slight roastiness from the malt. Flavors will highlight the citrus, pine and fruity hops with a slight roasty and chocolate backbone from the malts but no burnt notes or high astringency. Mouthfeel should be light and smooth.

Popular examples of this style include; Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale from Stone Brewing, Yakima Glory from Victory, Hoppy Feet from Clown Shoes, and 21st Amendment’s Back in Black.