On Saturday, we drank Cornish brewery Coastal’s black IPA and enjoyed it but found ourselves, once again, scratching our heads in bafflement: it was yet another black IPA that might have been sold to us as porter or stout without controversy. Sure, it had evident citrusy hops which we might have made note of, though we wouldn’t have ‘marked it down’ as not being ‘true to style’.
People keep trying to explain the distinction to us:
- black IPA should be black but not roasty — it’s a different ‘black’ flavour than stout
- if you can’t taste any difference from ‘normal’ IPA, then the blackness is superficial.
This is a level of subtlety which, at the moment, is just beyond us, especially as the water is muddied by hoppy porters (complete with roastiness) bearing the black IPA label. (Failed attempts, as we understand it, as measured against an emerging set of rules surrounding the style.)
Maybe we need to try making one ourself to really understand this other ‘black flavour’?
Or, actually, maybe ‘black’ alone is enough of a style descriptor to cover everything from dark mild to black IPA, via porter and stout? After all, even beers just dyed black with caramel taste darker to us, because our brains and palates are wired to our eyes and are easily fooled.
This isn’t a moan about black IPA being oxymoronic, by the way, because we’re over that and everyone’s bored of hearing it/refuting it.