Most of you reading this blog are craft beer diehards, but sometimes I'm asked to explain a little bit about the styles of beer I'm reviewing. Today's beer is a good one to do that with. Forgive me if the following paragraph is familiar to you.
An IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a beer style characterized by a high level of alcohol and hops. Hops are a bittering agent. When someone says they like hoppy beers they generally mean they like bitter beers. That's simplistic, but it's a good starting point. Because there are various kinds of hops and there are an infinite number of ingredients to add to a hoppy beer, there are variations within the IPA family. A black IPA is one recent IPA hybrid.
Hops make a black IPA an IPA, and black malt makes it black. Simple enough. So along with those bitter, citrus-y flavors from the hops you should expect smoky, chocolate-y flavors from the malt. In other words, you should expect a big beer.
Hop Noir, a black IPA from Portland, Maine's Peak Organic Brewery, is an excellent example of one of these big beers. The stats are a good hint. At 8.2 percent ABV and 98 IBUs, you have a pretty good idea of what you're getting. But not all big beers are as good as this one.
The beer pours an inky black with a big, light-brown head. No chance of peeking through to the other side of this one. Centennial hops combine with the roasted malt to produce both a sweet and bitter aroma.
Thick pine and citrus flavors hit your tongue first, but they're balanced by a smoky backbone. There's sweet caramel in here, too, but the hops never go away. They remind you of their presence from start to finish. This is a truly exceptional beer.
On the Peak Organic website it says to enjoy the beer with a night-light. I like that. You might also pair this beer with a hearty meat dish, food with spice, or any kind of stinky cheese. You know, the good stuff. A six-pack of the beer retails for around $10 in the Boston area.