Blackening beers is a bit of a cliche in craft brewing. Oooh you added some Black Patent or Roasted Barley to a Wit. You rebel you. But I think that, done properly, it actually creates a different olfactory experience and thus, a different beer. I've been playing with Blackening things for a bit and here's a bit of somewhat uppity theory I've come to follow.
There's a French saying in cooking: "First the eyes, then the nose, then the taste." Your first impression of something you're going to eat or drink comes from its visual appeal, so first and foremost it should look good on the plate or in the glass. This is where Black IPAs show their legitimacy as a style. The visual shock of a dark, near black, beer stands in contrast to the expected straw to amber of a normal IPA, creating a sense of delight in the unfamiliar. Next, it should smell good. Complex, intense hoppiness confirming that yes, this is indeed an IPA. Finally the taste. It should taste like an IPA, and only an IPA. Similar to a Schwarzbier, the predominate flavors should not be in any way bitter, astringent, or roasted. You want all the color of a stout with none of the flavor. Perhaps a bit of roast is unavoidable, so if there is any it should be mellow and compliment the overarching style. If there's too much, congrats if it's still good, but you've made a Robust Porter or an American Stout. So with this in mind I set out to craft a recipe.
Recipe: All Blacks IPA 1
Naming a beer can be a bit tricky sometimes. The working title for this beer was The Black Sun IPA, named after the virtual hacker nightclub in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. But that term also has weird esoteric Nazi-SS significance, and as a general rule you never want to cause confusion when it comes to Nazis. So instead I decided to dedicate it to my favorite rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks.
The All Blacks are best known for their performance of the Haka, a traditional Maori dance, before each game. It's outstanding.
ALL BLACKS IPA v.1
All grain, 5.25 gallons
O.G. Est 1.063. F.G. Est 1.015
Act O.G. 1.068, Est FG 1.017
Est ABV 6.3%, Act closer to 6.6%
- 10 lbs US 2-Row (Great Western)
- 1 lb Munich
- 1 lb Carahell
- 4 oz Crystal 40
The Blackening. You'll notice that there is no dark malt in the grain bill. To keep the astringency and roastiness down, we're taking a page out of coffee brewing: the cold brew method. By soaking your ground coffee in the fridge overnight before pressing, you can create a very flavorful cup of coffee with none of the bitterness caused by the hot brew methods. So to blacken the beer, I started with 1 lb of Carafa II Special, a dark roasted and dehusked malt from Weyermann. Ground it up in a food processor, the finer the better. Put it in a pyrex bowl and added about 1.25 pounds of cold water. Stirred it around until it there were no dry pockets. Then into the fridge overnight.
At Sparging, I drew off about three gallons, then strained the Carafa and added the black liquid to the top of the mash tun and sparged the rest as normal. In retrospect I would add the carafa extract right after the grain bed is set, I lost a fair bit of color by waiting that long. Next time I may also just add the Carafa grinds to the top as well, rather than straining them out. I'm going to have to ponder that one.
90 minute boil.
- 1 oz Centennial (10% AA) as First Wort Hop
- .5 oz Columbus (14.4%) at 60 minutes. (I'm an idiot and added 1 oz without thinking, so this batch is probably closer to 85 IBUs. D'oh!)
- Whirlfloc at 15 min.
- 1 oz Centennial at 5 min.
- 1 oz Cascade at 0 min.
- 1 oz Cascade as Dry Hop, 5 days.
This seemed like a great opportunity to try out my new toy, a 15 gallon Mini Brew conical fermenter. This was the Best-In-Show Prize for the Cascade Brewers Cup, as well as some other great prizes including De Clerck's A Textbook of Brewing. Time to try it out!
Things were chugging along swimmingly but after 10 days it does seem like it's stalled out at 1.020. The thermometer on top showed why, it was down to 62. It was going along fine at about 67-68 while fermentation was active, but cooled as fermentation slowed. My house is 65 in the day and 58 at night, so it's been dropping temp and that's caused the yeast to drop out. Also, it wasn't as black as I wanted it to be, thanks to my adding the carafa too late to the sparge. So my two-fold solution was to take my last half-pound of Carafa II Special, grind it, place it in a grain bag, steep it in a quart of water on the stove at 150 for 20 minutes, then drain and add the hot black liquid on top. This upped the temp to 66 and stirred things up a bit, while adding color and hopefully not too much dissolved oxygen. I moved the whole thing closer to a heating register and it seems to have maintained that temp. We'll see. Before I brew another beer in it I'm going to go get a small, cheap electric blanket for the conical. Otherwise I'm fairly happy with it so far.