What is the point of American Black Ale?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Claude-Irishman, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Claude-Irishman

    Claude-Irishman Disciple (319) Jun 4, 2015 New Jersey

    I have a hard time seeing how this could be considered a new category of beer. It is usually a dank double/triple IPA with a bit of dark malt color.
     
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  2. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (834) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Marketing!
     
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  3. Claude-Irishman

    Claude-Irishman Disciple (319) Jun 4, 2015 New Jersey

    I get that, but it is actually accepted as a new style of beer which is sort of ridiculous
     
  4. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,033) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    It's actually a very old style of beer and when made traditionally doesn't use added coloring.
     
  5. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (2,884) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
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    An American Black Ale is the same as a Black IPA. The idea is that it uses a unique malt mash from standard IPAs of any variety (single, double, triple, etc.). The American Black Ale/IPA should feature slightly darker notes from the malt bill used while still featuring hops out front.
     
  6. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,504) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    I love West Coast Stouts, such as Sierra Nevada's, and also think that they nailed the flavor profile right from jump street. But any subsequent attempts to go more in the IPA direction (more hops, different hops, less black malt...) just don't seem to work as well for me.

    I think that was the starting point, though- plus putting IPA on a label doesn't seem to hurt from a marketing point of view.
     
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  7. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,648) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    The American Black Ales used to be called "Black IPAs" and people got tired of arguing over how a beer could be called a "Black India Pale Ale" since that would be a contradiction in terms (i.e., how could a Pale ale be Black?). So folks came up with a new name.

    The American Black Ales I've had get their color and some of their flavors from the use of dark roasted malt. Regular IPAs do not used dark roasted malt and so are more pale in color but more importantly to me have somewhat different flavors. I enjoy the different flavor profiles of both IPAs and American Black Ales.
     
  8. ZebulonXZogg

    ZebulonXZogg Defender (660) May 5, 2015 Illinois
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    Several smaller local brewerys called them Cascadian Dark Ales
     
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  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    The BJCP has a style definition for Black IPA:

    Specialty IPA: Black IPA

    Characteristic Ingredients: Debittered roast malts for color and some flavor without harshness and burnt qualities; American or New World hop varieties that don’t clash with roasted malts. Hop characteristics cited are typical of these type of hops; others characteristics are possible, particularly if derived from newer varietals.

    Style Comparison: Balance and overall impression of an American or Double IPA with restrained roast similar to the type found in Schwarzbiers. Not as roasty-burnt as American stouts and porters, and with less body and increased smoothness and drinkability.

    Commercial Examples: 21st Amendment Back in Black (standard), Deschutes Hop in the Dark CDA (standard), Rogue Dad’s Little Helper (standard), Southern Tier Iniquity (double), Widmer Pitch Black IPA (standard)”

    Cheers!
     
  10. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (834) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    A much better name IMO.
     
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  11. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (743) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    SN Stout--just Stout-- is one of those that has been lost in the shuffle of so many choices but like the pale ale, remains a reference beer for the American take on style.

    You reminded me to go get some. So rarely (if ever) see it on tap.

    @JackHorzempa inclusion of the beer guidelines for the style is helpful here. Most black ales I have tasted do not follow the guideline of "American or New World hop varieties that don’t clash with roasted malts." They seem overly hopped to the gills drowning the malts.
     
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    In theory those beers would score poorly in a BJCP competition.

    Cheers!
     
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  13. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,243) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    It was originally American stout, but that doesn't sell these days. More to the point, beer doesn't need a point. What's the point of porter, or Marzen, or pale ale? It's all beer to me.
     
  14. Claude-Irishman

    Claude-Irishman Disciple (319) Jun 4, 2015 New Jersey

    You are saying a dark IPA is an American porter?, that is comical. The fact that it is "all beer" to you sorta sums it up-
     
  15. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Devotee (428) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia
    Trader

    I love them. Wish it was a "thing"... in other words, more of them.

    Boulevard's Flora Obscura was advertised as a dry hopped porter I believe, but it tastes like a Black IPA in disguise.
     
  16. 5thOhio

    5thOhio Devotee (482) May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    I've always thought of them as hopped up porters.
    Very few that I've tried taste any different than that.
     
  17. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,243) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    Not sure how new you are to nomencature, but American stout used to indicate a brew utilized a stout grist and American hops in lieu of the English varieties. Many American stouts from the early 00 era would have been classified today as a black IPA. Sorry you find this silly, usually when people are unfamiliar with something they disregard it.
     
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  18. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,504) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Yeah- I guess it depends on how far you want to go back. Here's something Ron Pattinson wrote about the Export India Porters of 1859:
    http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2012/11/lets-brew-special-1859-barclay-perkins.html
     
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  19. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (31) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

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  20. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,504) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    What if you think of it as iced coffee, with alcohol? :wink:
     
  21. Zorro

    Zorro Poo-Bah (4,340) Dec 25, 2003 California

    So they can say "We make non-IPA too!"
     
  22. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,587) Sep 24, 2007 Washington
    Trader

    Color is not a flavor.
     
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  23. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,633) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Outside of Stones entry every black IPA I've had has sucked big time.
     
  24. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,587) Sep 24, 2007 Washington
    Trader

    Firestone Walkers Wookie Jack singlehandedly saved the style for me. Mostly I find the strong, bitter roast aspects to clash with the high hop levels often used. I'm not a fan of the style.
     
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  25. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    You know...if you ask this question, you also have to ask - “What is the point of schwarzbier?”
     
  26. stevepat

    stevepat Disciple (362) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Trader

    I think the point of the american black ale is to deliver alcohol in a form that tastes like dark roasted malts and american hops.
     
  27. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,033) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    Now that's a thought provoking point.
     
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  28. johnInLA

    johnInLA Crusader (779) Jun 12, 2005 California
    Premium

    Not sure this is a new category, more of a re-branding of an existing one, the "black IPA", as others have said.

    The point?

    So a guy walks into a bar and says "I'll have an IPA".. The bartender pour him a pint. The guy says "Its black". Bartended nods. He tastes it, "Its very hop forward but I taste a roasted malt backbone". The bartender nods. The guy leaves thinking the bartender doesn't know what an IPA is. The bartender is oblivious to the fact that he just lost a customer.

    The point is styles allow us to be in the same ballpark when discussing beer. More importantly, it allows buyers and sellers to be in the same ballpark. A beer made with dark roasted malt is not what I would expect if I ordered an IPA.

    As a side note, I like the characteristics that set Black IPAs apart from other IPAs.
     
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  29. johnInLA

    johnInLA Crusader (779) Jun 12, 2005 California
    Premium

    I am a fan of the style, but I think we can agree that Wookie Jack was a good one :slight_smile:

    Cheers
     
  30. ecpho

    ecpho Aspirant (230) Mar 28, 2011 New York

    We could ask what is the point of an India pale ale that isn't pale and has no percevied bitterness?
     
  31. Smakawhat

    Smakawhat Poo-Bah (6,675) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland
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    The point is they are tasty!
     
  32. chrisjws

    chrisjws Champion (803) Dec 3, 2014 California
    Trader

    I'm glad we've settled questions like the meaning of life so we can focus on the meaning of American Black Ales.

    The point? The point is it tastes good on my tongue, intoxicates me ever so gently and makes me pee a lot.
     
  33. zid

    zid Savant (917) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Care to elaborate?
     
  34. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,633) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    It's a bad kinda bitter too. The Pub I go had one on tap a few years ago and people stayed away in droves, they finally lowered the price drastically and it still didn't sell, finally they put up a sign with " make an offer", lol. They were selling it for a buck for the most part, I can't remember the beer though.
     
  35. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Zealot (541) Mar 28, 2009 California

    To me there seemed to be a shift in the style. Originally “black ipas” were a good balance between the dark roast and hops. The later examples seemed to be all ipa with only dark color. I remember Mitch Steele talking about black enjoy by and said they pretty much brewed enjoy by but just black. I can’t remember what malt he said they used but it was for coloring but not flavor.

    Personally I enjoy the more roasty black iPas and when they basically became all ipa I stopped buying them.
     
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  36. Greywulfken

    Greywulfken Poo-Bah (4,279) Aug 25, 2010 New York
    Premium Trader

    I always took the idea to be having IPA-like bitterness in a beer with stout-like roastiness.

    I'm usually not interested, but some of them, like Wooky Jack, Sublimely Self-Righteous, and Dubhe, are really good.
     
  37. Invinciblejets

    Invinciblejets Devotee (447) Sep 29, 2014 South Carolina
    Trader

    To have another lame style of beer to market to occasional blue moon drinkers..
     
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  38. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (31) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    Yes, but the process that darkens the color of the beer also can be what imparts the flavor. In this case, I wouldn’t normally be inclined to have a thick, roasty drink in the hot sun.

    I’m open to having a Schwarzbier, however, but these beers typically aren’t roasty because the malting process is different.
     
  39. THANAT0PSIS

    THANAT0PSIS Crusader (763) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin
    Trader

    Dunno what schwarzbiers you've been having, but "roast" is a major characteristic. Not a much a porters or stouts, but they're definitely a roasty style of beer.
     
  40. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,033) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    I can't think of a Schwarzbier I've had that didn't have a roasty element in the flavor profile.