At the point that I made this beer, about eight months into my homebrewing hobby, I had moved away from using kits and started making my own recipes. Some worked out great (Party On Pale Ale), some not so great (Val’s Portly Porter). With that in mind, I decided that I would start brewing some smaller batches of some weirder ideas I had.
Black IPA may not sound so weird now, and to people on the west coast, it was probably already common place in 2011 when I came up with this, but I had just heard about it. I didn’t know how other people did it. I had never even heard of Carafa. All I knew was that I wanted to make a hoppy beer that was black.
Victory Brewing, probably my favorite overall brewery, was definitely the inspiration for this beer. Their Yakima Glory, a seasonal black IPA was, I think the only one I’d tried to that point point. It was delicious. I haven’t had it in a couple years, but I remember it being intensely hoppy and bitter, leaning more towards pine than grapefruit, but with a sweet finish. I remember notes of roast, but the sweet finish kept it from coming out too much. Aside from that, though their Storm King Imperial Stout, one of my favorites, is in my mind, a forebear to black IPA
Storm King is intensely hoppy. I remember having it and Stone Imperial Russian Stout on the same night before and being blown away by how much hoppier Storm King was. I know Stone IRS is not super hoppy, but it’s Stone, I expected it to be on the hoppy end of the style.
So with Yakima Glory and Storm King in mind, and not much working knowledge of how they were made, I set out to make two and a half gallons my own Black IPA. I think at this point, the standard ingredient for giving black IPA’s their color is Carafa. The German maltster, Weyermann makes Carafa I, II and III, each getting darker. They are dehusked roasted malts.
With the husk removed, these malts still provide all the dark color of other roasted malts, but lose a lot of the bitter, astringent character. You still get some roast character, but it is much less than if they retained their husks. Since you want the bitterness in your IPA to come from the hops, they are an ideal way to make a twist on the style without pushing it into the same category as an American stout or just making them to bitter to be pleasant. Though not important in this use, it should be noted that being German in origin, these are of course malted barley, not the unmalted roast barley used in stouts, which would not comply with the Reinheitsgebot.
As I recently discovered with my Cocoa Cream Stout, another alternative would be to use chocolate wheat, or midnight wheat, as it’s sometimes called. Wheat already lacks the hull that barley has, which is why beers with a lot of wheat can often lead to stuck sparges. The hull makes a more solid grain bed that is easier to drain water from, but anyway… when roasted, it also adds a bitter, astringent flavor, which in small doses in the right beer, can be very appealing. In a hop bomb black IPA, though, is not desirable.
I learned all of this long after I brewed this first batch of Grim’s Chin Black IPA, though. Black malt is bitter? That’s perfect, I’m making a bitter IPA! I thought. Black Patent malt was the darkest malt I knew of. Every beer I knew of seemed to use some sort of Crystal malt. I wanted a dark beer, I would use Black Patent malt and a dark Crystal malt.
This was not the craziest part, though. I had just added Champagne yeast to my Imperial Stout in secondary. Champagne yeast, I’d read, was good to add to secondary on stronger beers that may not otherwise attenuate as far as you wanted. It ferments dry, has a high alcohol tolerance and a neutral character, not adding much in the way of flavor or aroma.
Well, for an American IPA, I don’t want the yeast to add much character, I just want it to turn the sugar into alcohol and get out of the way of the hops. Why not just use Champagne yeast?
This all has disaster written all over. So I’m still surprised to report to you that it actually turned out quite well. When fresh, this beer was by far the happiest thing that I had made to this point. )I saved a few bottles, knowing it would lose the hop flavor, but curious what else would happen… and it did not age well, but fresh…!) It may seem strange that I haven’t talked about the hops yet, this far into a post about an IPA, but that is on purpose. All of those mistakes turned out to be okay because I did one thing right. I added a good mix of hops in a lot of additions towards the end of the boil.
I used Nugget hops for bittering at the beginning of a ninety minute boil. The rest of the boil I added a whole bunch of small increments of Simcoe and Chinook hops. This made a piney, resinous beer, that despite everything, had at least some characteristics similar to Yakima Glory.
My last addition was five minutes from the end of the boil, which is not ideal, but being a small batch, I got it chilled very quickly and it turned out to be okay. Another advantage this had over other batches was that the smaller size allowed for a full volume boil.
A lot of people will tell you that the best thing you can do to improve your beer early on in your homebrewing is to upgrade your kettle and, if necessary, heat source to allow for a full volume boil. This is never more true than for an IPA. You really can’t get the hop punch you need for a good IPA if you’re adding water to your beer after the boil.
I think there are a lot of lessons that could be taken from this beer. Full volume boils are important. A lot of good hops can save an otherwise disastrous IPA recipe. And, most importantly, go ahead and try your crazy idea. It may work out okay.
Grim’s Chin, by the way, is the only part of his body that is white. I’m not sure why I liked this idea for the name of a black IPA, but I did and I still really do. I hope to make another (drastically updated recipe) batch of Grim’s Chin Black IPA some day.
Style: Black IPA
Brew Date: January 11, 2012
Serve Date: February 2012
.5 lb Black Patent Malt
.5 lb 90L Crystal Malt
3 lb Dark DME
3 lb Light DME
1 oz Nugget @ 90 min
.25 oz Chinook @ 75 min
.25 oz Chinook @ 60 min
.5 oz Simcoe @ 45 min
.25 oz Chinook @ 30 min
.5 oz Simcoe @ 15 min
.25 oz Chinook @ 5 min
1 oz Simcoe dry hop
Champagne Yeast (not recommended)