Black Is The New Black
Craft beer fans are diabolically opposed to Light beer, but it seems even pale beers have become brewers’Public Enemy #1. It’s not just the imperial stouts—Black Tuesday, Black Ops, Black Albert, Black Metal, etc.—but the thing is, it’s no longer just the Black IPAs either (a favorite being Black Toque, may the name R.I.P.).
What we have here is a full-blown trend, and it’s TBD whether that’s a good thing. For folks fond of saying, “I prefer dark beers,” the push toward higher SRM numbers is welcomed. Pushing the boundaries is awesome. But are they going dark for the sake of darkness?
I remember first tasting The Bruery’s Black Orchard, a black wheat beer partially spiced with coriander and orange peel, and smiling as I realized it was essentially a Black Witbier. Black and white in the same beer? Look to the cookie!
Cut to 2012 and three of the first new beers to glide across my tongue and down my gullet were BridgePort’s Dark Rain, Grand Teton’s 5 O’Clock Shadow, and Widmer Bros. W’12 Dark Saison. They are a “Black Pale Ale,” “Double Black Lager,” and “Dark Saison,” respectively. They’re all good with varying degrees of tell-tale roastiness (5 O’Clock Shadow cleaning the others’ clocks in the chocolate/coffee-like department). Of them, my biggest beef purely stylistically is Dark Rain. Many have argued, successfully even, that “Black IPA” is not that oxymoronic because IPAs have a characteristic all their own despite having its color—pale—placed right in the category. But Black Pale? In this interview at Not So Professional Beer Blog, brewmaster Jeff Edgerton saves it by saying, “I argued that we should keep the ABV in a lower range to make this beer a bit more sessionable than the CDAs and Black IPAs that tend to be in the higher range. ‘Black Pale Ale’ seemed to be the most honest and accurate descriptor for this style.” At 5.6 percent ABV and 60 IBUs, it strikes the tastebuds as an American Pale Ale but with a kick of roasty astringency, but how is that not a hoppy dry porter?
I’d be remiss in not mentioning that while there aren’t a ton of Double Black Lagers (yet), singular such lagers, Schwarzbiers, are terribly traditional and terribly delicious. Other than something in a Doppelbock, Grand Teton’s may be the ideal wintry lager.
Funnily, perhaps there are signs that the black tide is ending as it begins. Two years after unleashing Juxtapostion, practically dubbed a Double Black Pilsner, Stone’s latest collaboration beer is More Brown Than Black IPA, thereby dialing back the black. They’ve already done a handful of Black IPAs; maybe it’s time to ricochet toward pale.
So, are you a fan of all this blackening? How much more black can craft beer get? Think it’s none more black, or that we’re just getting started? And if the latter, what style would you like to see blackened like Cajun shrimp?