Friday, August 12, 2011

And the answer is none. None more black.

Ah the Black IPA. The beer world's own, personal oxymoron. A conundrum of definition, and a contradiction of terms. Let's look at a a few definitions:

Beer Advocate: Also referred to as a Black IPA (India Pale Ale) or Cascadian Dark Ale, ales of this style range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy generally with the use of American hops. Alcohol can range from average to high depending on if the brewery is going for a "double / imperial" version.

Wikipedia: The American-Style Black Ale (Black IPA, Cascadian Black Ale) is a relatively new variant of IPA, with a characteristically dark or black appearance, due to roasted malts, while retaining the hop aroma typical of the IPA style.

Black—It's the new white.
Ratebeer: An emerging beer style roughly defined as a beer with IPA-level hopping, relatively high alcohol and a distinct toasty dark malt character. Typically lacks the roastiness and body of a strong stout and is hoppier than a strong porter. Expressive dry-hopping is common. Also called India Dark Ale, India Black Ale, Cascadian Dark Ale, Dark IPA, and sometimes India Brown Ale.

That's seven different names for the same beer—mind you, "Cascadian Dark Ale" does in fact have it's own Facebook page. Either way, Black or Dark IPA has become the most common, usage. Although we've all seem to have forgotten the PA part of Black IPA. Really, it's pretty important. Let me walk this back: Black (of the very darkest color) India Pale (deficient in color or intensity of color) Ale. A wee bit contradictory, wouldn't you say? Although, it does cover all aspects. I may adopt that strategy in my day-to-day life. A non-committal approach to the world. I say to the woman with the baby, "Wow, that the most beautifully ugly baby I've ever seen." See? It's a win-win for everybody.   

Now, don't get me wrong, I like these beers. I just have a tough time calling them IPAs—or Cascadian Dark Ales for that matter—which by the way, is the beer-geekiest, and most epic, beer name ever thought-up. Tolkien is kicking himself for not coming up with that name, and having Frodo and Samwise drink it, back in the Shire. As I said I do like these beers but, along with the name, I have some execution issues, as well. I love the concept behind the Black IPA/Cascadian Black or Dark Ale/American-Style Black Ale/India Dark Ale/India Black Ale/Dark IPA or India Brown Ale I just don't know—if they insist on being called IPAs—that they hit the mark. I've recently tried two, Widmer Brother's Pitch Black IPA and Otter Creek's Black IPA. Of the two the Otter Creek is closest—it's definitely has a bitter bite—but the Widmer is Coca-Cola sweet and decidedly un-IPA-like. It's that roasty dark malt, it throws everything off. Neither, in my view, are real IPAs. They lack something—perhaps it's a masking of the hops, by the dark malt. While both were bitter, I missed that citrusy, piney, pop of a really good pale, IPA. Not bad, just not IPA.

So am I splitting hairs? Am I arguing semantics over spirit? I don't know, but I do know I'm torn over this. I think I'm just going to have to drink many, many more Black IPA/Cascadian Black or Dark Ale/American-Style Black Ale/India Dark Ale/India Black Ale/Dark IPA or India Brown Ales until I can get passed this classification issue. It'll be a tough job, but I think I'm up to the task. 

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