Review: Stone More Brown Than Black IPA

Previously, I had mentioned that I thought Black IPAs were getting too widespread. It seemed like every brewery at the festival Nate and I went to had 2 of either an IPA, IIPA, DIPA, BIPA or DIPA. I admit, after that festival and after that beer, I was pretty down on Black IPAs. I was just overloaded.

After about a month of having an eclectic mix of beers, I am ready to dive back in a give it a go. It doesn’t hurt that Stone makes, what I consider, the ideal Black IPA. I should mention that I picked this beer up while picking some items up at Whole Foods. I never really consider going there to pick up beers as their a grocery store (a rather pricey one at that), and I have a booze superstore 2 blocks away.

However, I’m a firm believer that one should always take a quick detour through a store’s craft beer section. If you go to the same store all the time, you only get the beers picked out by one purchaser and delivered by those distributors. Even if the new store is not an amazing bottle shop, there’s a decent chance you might find something interesting that you’ve never tried before, like this Stone Collaboration beer from 2011.

More Brown Than Black IPA is a collaboration between Stone, The Alchemist and Ninkasi. The brewers came together after Hurricane Irene hit Vermont and essentially destroyed The Alchemist brewpub. In this video on Stone’s youtube channel, John Kimmich talks about walking into his bar and brewery and seeing the discussion. They also talk about the beer:

The proceeds of this beer go to a worthy cause; now I just hope the beer is worthy!

Stone More Brown than Black IPA

Stone More Brown than Black IPA with The Alchemist and Ninkasi

Tasting Notes

Appearance: The beer is a dark, opaque brown. There are ruby sparks at the thin parts on the glass, but very little lights gets through. There was a of finger, bubbly white head that laced down the glass to a thin film over the top of the beer.

Aroma: There’s definitely hop notes in the nose. I’d say mostly resiny with spicy and floral notes. Underneath the hop aroma, really holding it up, is a rich, caramel-y malt smell. This is what these new style, dark IPAs should smell like.

Taste: There’s a lot of bitterness in this beer, and it really lingers after the sip. I wouldn’t call it muddy or messy, but it’s trending that way. After the initial taste of hops, the malts come into the taste. They are sweet, roasty with hints of caramel, and really balance with the hops and round out the beer. The sip finishes with some aggressive, lingering bitterness that is tempered and cleaned up by the sweetness of the malt and the bubbles from the carbonation.

Mouthfeel: This is a very rich, smooth beer. It doesn’t have the dryness one normally associates with an IPA or, even, a Black IPA. It feels like a rich brown ale. The head on top contributes to this feel as well.

Overall: I really like this beer. For my money, Stone has the best Black IPA out there, and this is a worthy sibling. The fact that a slice goes to charity is purely a bonus. Hopefully something like this beer makes it into production at Stone. This is what needs to happen in Dark IPAs.

Review: Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet

I remember when I first heard of Black IPAs. There were posts trying to figure out what to call this new style. Is it a Black IPA? A Robust Porter? Cascadian Dark Ale? The industry seems to have settled on Black IPA, and they’ve started becoming fairly commonplace.

I remember the first BIPA I tried. I was at my go to bar, with my go to server (who has since changed jobs) looking down the draft list. I asked him if there was anything exciting, and he just nodded and started pouring me Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. I’m not sure if that was the first major BIPA, but I know it certainly was a lot of people’s first BIPA. There are moments quaffing beer that are special, when you try something that you haven’t tasted before. That was one of those moments.

I continued to keep a look out for BIPAs and picked them up at bottle shops or ordered them at the bar when I found them. But after a while, more and more started showing up. Some of them still blow me away, but the hit rate seems to have gone down, and I tend to look for other styles.

Fred Armisen from Portlandia

BIPAS ARE OVER!

This is where I push up my hipster glasses and tell you how much better it was before Black IPAs were mainstream. I do worry that I’m becoming a beer snob who will turn up his nose at a perfectly good pint. Well, I decided to give it another go, and picked up a bomber of Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet Black IPA. The brewer describes it:

Hoppy Feet has been lovingly crafted by combining Premium malt with lots of Amarillo and Columbus Hops.  Grapefruit and Pine are balanced on the nose and on the palate by a nutty, dark chocolate, roasted backbone.

This has been knocking around in my “cellar1” for a while. I generally try to drink hoppy beers fresh. I think you get more of what the brewer is trying to produce that way. This may not be a completely fair shake, so I might try it from a tap if I see it around to compare.

Tasting Notes

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet

Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet Black IPA

Appearance: The beer pours a very, dark copper, with very little translucence. Holding up it the light, you get some flashes of ruby. There was a one finger, creamy head that receded quickly down to about half a finger and remained there.

Aroma: The aroma is a mix of a spicy hops with a strong caramel note from the malt base. The nose is incredibly well balanced.

Taste: Unfortunately, the taste isn’t as well balanced as the nose. The first flavor is a muted malt taste, that is immediately followed by an intense bitterness that mixes with alcohol heat and some acridity from the dark malts. The after taste is a lingering, coating bitterness that stays on my tongue.

Mouthfeel: The beer is very smooth with a slightly heavy body for an IPA. There’s a bit of carbonation from the bomber, but nothing too effervescent.

Overall: Maybe I’ve just been in a BIPA overload, but this beer doesn’t really do much for me. The bitterness overpowers the malt flavors that I want, yet manages to accentuate the acridity that I would want to hide. Also, while I enjoy hoppy beers, I don’t care for the lingering and sometimes muddy bitterness in a lot of IPAs. The best hop bombs, Firestone Walker Double Jack and Bell’s Hopslam (short list, and strictly my opinion), have a great hop nose with a deceptively strong malt backbone to stand up to the hops. The bitterness also is cleaner, with more flavor, be it citrus, spice, earthiness, grassiness, rather than just unplaceable bitterness.

  1. My “cellar” is a couple of cupboards above my microwave.

Recipe: Impromptu Black IPA

Tim, Nathan and I have been in different states since the Fall of 2010. Predictably, we haven’t had a ton of opportunities to get together and brew. One week in May, I was working remotely, Tim’s significant was out of town studying and Tim could take a day off to work from home. So a brew day was born.

We met up in Ann Arbor at Ashley’s after I drove in from Chicago. After we left the bar, we decided to go to Adventures in Homebrewing’s new Ann Arbor location. I had a recipe for a Belgian Strong Golden Ale that I put together a little bit ago that we put together. Then we decided, why not make two beers? So we did a sort of off the cuff Black IPA1.

It was fun exploring the new store and putting together an ingredients kit just like the old days. It actually turned out to be a pretty solid recipe despite the fact we were going on feel more than math.

Mash

  • 6 lbs American 2-row
  • 1.5 lbs Victory
  • 1 lb Flaked Rice
  • 0.5 lbs Blackprinz

Single step mash at 150ºF for 60 minutes. Fly sparge to get up to 6.5 gal

Boil

  • .5 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at 60 minutes
  • .5 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at 15 minutes
  • 1 oz Citra (12.0% AA) at 15 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade (5.8% AA) at flameout

Fermentation

  • Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival

A little bit ago, Nate and I attended the Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival. Nate had moved to Manhattan about a month ago, and I had never been. He found out about the festival somehow, and I found a reasonable flight. We bought our tickets and, in no time at all, a plan was hatched.

There was an afternoon session and an evening session available (each 2.5 hours long). We opted for later session to give us more time during the day to do the standard touristy stuff, and ending at 9:30p, the later session transitioned nicely into Bar O’Clock. This festival had some pros and cons, so lets start off on the happy notes.

What they did right

View from the festival

Looking out onto Manhattan

The location of the festival was amazing. It was where 11th Ave ended into the river in Brooklyn and it featured some great views of the sun setting behind Manhattan. Also, the neighborhood around the festival had tons of cool bars. Most notably, Brooklyn Brewery was about 2 blocks away. We didn’t make it there, but it looked like plenty of people decided to stop by.

Like I said earlier, the timing of the festival was really nice. It ended early enough that we weren’t too exhausted to head out for a few drinks afterward. Initially, we were a little worried that it was only 2.5 hours, but that proved to be more than enough time for us. The crowd and lines really weren’t bad at all. We were able to get to the beer we wanted very quickly.

They did actually have a lot of good beer there. There were a lot of breweries from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic that I never see in Chicago. They also had some places I really didn’t expect to see, including a meadery from Colorado that had a delicious, dry hopped mead. Unfortunately, a lot of the beer notes are going in the next section…

What Went Wrong

First, and very quickly, when you’re hosting an event with well over 500 people and the equivalent of an open bar, you need more than 2 port-a-johns. It was gross. I don’t really know how the women there were physically able to use the facilities.

Let’s go back to the beer. There were a few local breweries that had their taps manned by people from their brewery. 508 Restaurant and Bar had their brewer there to answer questions, and providing a nice Black IPA and Saison. Most tables, however, were put together by distributors, with the tenders knowing either the rehearsed sales pitch for the brewery or even less.

I was excited to see some of the bigger, more national craft brewers there as well. Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Ommegang, Allagash and Goose Island all had tables, but the beers that were being poured were al the standards. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Michigan Brewers Guild festivals, but the beer choices all seemed uninspired. I think this is largely due to the event being put on by an events company working with distributors, rather than brewers working together with an event company coordinating. Beyond that, I really don’t think Blue Moon and Negro Modelo belong at a craft beer festival, but that could just be snobbery.

Finally, since the beers were being put together by the distributors, you’d think they could put together a list that had some variety instead of half of the booths having at least one Black IPA, IPA, DIPA or IIPA. There were very few malty beers, very few belgian style beers, and virtually no contrast.

The Best Beers There

Like I said, I enjoyed the two beers from 508. Firestone Walker Double Jack is always a winner in my book even among a sea of hop heavy beers. The dry hopped mead was delicious as well. The best beer we had though, was the Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer. I think it won out for two main reasons. First, it was a contrast from all the hop heavy beers at the festival. It was malty, sweet (but not cloying) and delicious. Secondly, it was a flavor profile I hadn’t had before. I’ve had scotch ales before, and I’ve had beers aged in rum barrels before, but the combination was something new and exciting. Those moments of discovery is why I enjoy going to beer festivals and tastings and events. Those are the moments that event coordinators should try to create.