Greetings homebrew aficionados and newcomers alike! Brewology is a series of articles by members of the NMDSBC about the art and science that goes into every pint we churn out. We will go through recipes, techniques, equipment, and anything else related to brewing some of your favorite libations. Feel free to submit feedback or discussion on any info you read here. Remember, it is all for the love of beer!
If one were to utter the words “black” and “IPA” (okay, just a series of letters in the case of the latter) in the company of craft beer drinkers these days, the reactions you will receive will undoubtedly be varied. The black IPA, or Cascadian black/dark ale depending on who you ask, is still considered a blossoming style that blurs the lines between malty dark ales and mouth-puckering hop bombs.
Sometimes considered nothing more than “hoppy porters,” this hybrid has found a fanbase thanks to prominent offerings such as Wookey Jack from Firestone Walker, Dubhe Imperial Black IPA from Uinta, Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone, and many others. What sets these and other great black IPAs apart from being just another “hoppy porter” is their smart use of malts to accentuate the beer, rather than overtake it altogether. Here is where we get into my beer, which we here at NMDSBC have affectionately dubbed the Slop Hudge Imperial Black IPA!
(Gotta interject here, the name Slop Hudge is obviously a garbled version of Hop Sludge, which Brandon came up with accidentally toward the end of the night after he had consumed several Hop Risings from Squatters and the better part of a bomber of Duel’s Grunewald Imperial Porter. — Stoutmeister)
The idea for an imperial black IPA came from our combined love of dark beers, but still having an appreciation for hop bombs, and also wanting something that was simply HUGE in flavor. We looked for a good balance of dark malt flavors, body, and hops that would be able to withstand the onslaught of malts we knew were coming from the large grain bill. I did a good amount of research, calculations, and other things that made my head hurt before I came to our final recipe, which tipped the scale of grains at over 18 pounds and would lead me to need new equipment!
When you first start with a black IPA, most homebrewers will just try to make an IPA that has a slightly darker color; this would not suffice for us, obviously, as we need the malt backing. The easiest method to achieve dark colors with minimal roasted aromas or bitter malt character is using a de-husked dark malt, which will usually lend to a smooth body without imparting those porter/stout characteristics. Simply using a few handfuls of black patent or chocolate malts mixed in with a two-row malt will definitely get you flavors that will more than likely stray away from what you are shooting for. Use those grains sparingly when making a black IPA and try to keep your base malt about 85 to 90 percent of the grain bill. If you add additional darker malts make sure to use those in small increments. I opted to use some chocolate wheat in our beer to add additional body, but kept the amount at about 3 percent of my total grain bill. Of course, these can be adjusted to taste and personal preference, as everyone likes something a bit different in this style
Since this beer ended up being an imperial black IPA, I opted to add some higher alpha acid hops. Amarillo, Centennial, and Warrior were the suspects in the lineup for the boil, as I wanted to achieve a nice aroma and hop profile that would be able to stand up to the large grain bill on the palate. With this blend I am hoping to impart a good hit of hop bitterness, citrus, mild floral, and zest notes. Keep in mind this is just for my boil; I will be dry-hopping this beer with more Amarillo, Centenial, and one more hop to be determined. Which hop, you ask? Keep reading in about a week or so to find out!
For this beer, I opted for one-and-a-half packs of Wyeast 1056. A fairly versatile yeast that can be used for a wide range of styles, it has a more neutral profile that allows hop and malt profiles to show with minimal other flavors. For non-imperial or smaller beers one of these packs are normally sufficient, although I usually recommend having another one handy in case you get a bad batch of yeast and need to pitch a second batch. I chose one-and-a-half packs due to the high gravity of the beer during wort measurement; fermentation seems to be going violently as of this writing, and that is after only about 48 hours in primary.
Overall, the whole process made for a long brew day for myself, Stoutmeister, and Porter Pounder, but we had a good time brewing it. Now it is simply a matter of controlling the temperature in my closet, which thankfully stays within the perfect range for this type of beer. Keep your eyes peeled for the follow-up once we transfer into secondary fermentation for dry hopping, for bottling, and when we finally unveil the finished product. Until then …
— Brandon Daniel