In the last twelve months, the craft beer world has welcomed new flavors from a slew of emerging styles including the rye saison (Avery's Eighteen), the wheat IPA (El Segundo Brewing's Picket Fence) and the seasonal imperial pumpkin ale (Flying Dog's The Fear). But no new style was more exciting for lovers of intense beers than the delicious marrying of dark malts, floral hops and high alcohol content that is a Double Black IPA.
Also known an Imperial Black IPA, these beers are a boozy extension of last year's most recognized emerging style — Cascadian Dark Ales, a Pacific Northwest creation that has also been called a Black IPA, India Black Ale or India Dark Ale (the semantic debate raged so hard that when including it as a judged beer style for the first time in 2010, the Great American Beer Festival decided upon “American-Style India Black Ale”).
But if 2010 was the year of the CDA — bringing attention to Oregon breweries such as Deschutes and Rogue — 2011 was the year the style left Cascadia and got even darker and more bitter at the hands of brewers in California and beyond. Turn the page for the top 4 Double Black IPAs that saw their first release in 2011.
4. Black Market Brewing 2nd Anniversary: Anniversary beers are always a good way to gauge the adventurous spirit of a brewery and for newer (and smaller) operations such as Temecula's Black Market Brewing, it's the one release of the year where experimentation is welcome if not expected. Released in August, this 2nd Anniversary Double Black IPA was a bold move, then, considering that until now, BMB had yet to release an American-style beer darker than a brown ale. This 9% Double Black IPA makes up for lost time, however, with a dark black color that is overtaken with the citrus and grapefruit flavors of fresh hops. It's not the most complex or well-balanced example of the style, but it's a wonderful surprise from BMB.
3. Uinta Dubhe: In March, Salt Lake City's Uinta Brewing released the Dubhe (pronounced DOO-bee), its new year-round Double Black IPA that is available in four-packs at most L.A. area craft beer bottle shops. The beer is supposedly named after the Utah State Centennial Star — Duhbe (pronounced DUH-bee) the brightest star in the Big Dipper — but the pronunciation change and the fact that it is brewed with hemp easily leads to other assumptions. Dubhe's light body, subdued roastiness and intense hop character makes it as drinkable as a single Black IPA, but because of its 9.2%ABV, it's best to share the four-pack.
2. Drakes Jolly Rodger: For San Leandro's hop-adoring brewery, the holidays do not bring the requisite slough of overly spiced Christmas beers. Instead, its annual Jolly Rodger Ale has been everything from a Scotch Ale to a dry-hopped Imperial Red with no hint to the season except for the high ABVs. This year, Jolly Rodger was a mostly-hoppy, slightly roasty, rye-infused Imperial Dark IPA — a perfectly balanced take on this emerging style. Though technically a vintage ale, don't you dare age this beer. Like most of Drake's other well-crafted brews (see our previous love for Aroma Coma), the fresh hop character of the 2011 Jolly Rodger demands to be tasted fresh.
1. Stone's 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA: Although its name nods to the Cascadian Dark Ales that catalyzed the dark and hoppy movement, this Imperial Black IPA is worlds away from the comparatively puny beers born in the Pacific Northwest. Meaty might be a good word to begin to describe Stone's 15th Anniversary release; aggressive would be another. Clocking in at nearly 11%ABV, this rich, chocolately, earthy, bitter beer is so extreme that it tastes like a crossbreed of two popular Stone year-rounds–Sublimely Self Righteous (a Black IPA that was itself an earlier anniversary beer) and the Russian Imperial Stout. Contrasting flavors such as mocha and grapefruit battle the tongue's limits in this unrelenting brew, setting the bar for the Double Black IPA style by turning the CDA into a So Cal beer with balls.