Black IPAs are a difficult beer to pull off for brewers. Some people think of them as really hoppy brown ales. They are darker and much hoppier than any brown ale. However, they are also a little more complicated than just changing the malt bill on an IPA recipe. A good black IPA uses the bitterness of the roasted dark malts to help take a bit of the edge off the hoppiness of an American style IPA.
What is really impressive is when a new brewery can make a good beer when executing a difficult beer style, and black IPAs are a difficult beer style.
Newgrass Brewing in Shelby, NC is a very young brewery just opening in August. Yet, they already have found a consistency in the beer they make even as they create innovative new recipes. Their Hop Dab Black IPA is no different.
Hop Dab pours a nice clear deep dark almost black. It has a nice fluffy off white head that sticks around a while. However, that isn’t the first thing you really notice. Any good BIPA pours a nice color like that. What will catch you is the aroma. This is where Hop Dab sets itself apart. The dry hopping for this beer gives it a big piney and resinous nose that is a good break from all the floral and citrus west coast beers on the market. This east coast hopping is why they call it a Vermont style BIPA at the taproom. You also get a strong hint of the dark roast malt.
The taste mirrors the aroma. The only difference is that while it has a very hop forward taste it is well balanced with the bitterness (think coffee and dark chocolate) from dark roast malt taking a bit of the bite from the hops while keeping the characteristic hoppiness. That is the reason BIPAs are slowly moving into the mainstream of beer geekery. You get the American style hoppiness while mitigating some of the hop bitterness that puts a lot of people off IPAs.
Hop Dab is a well-balanced beer from a young brewery that is starting to impress many in the NC beer world.
How does when and where you taste a beer effect the taste of the beer? How do your preconceived notions of the brewery itself affect how you taste a beer? To keep my feelings about this beer in check after the tasting that led to this review at the Newgrass taproom, I tasted it again in a different place and with another beer geek to see his reaction. His mirrored mine, but that first question is still an interesting one. You state of mind does affect your perception of what you taste. As reviewers and judges, we must always be vigilant to make sure those preconceptions don’t mess with our objective reviews.