When designing a Black IPA Recipe one might consider it to be a hopped-up dark ale and be tempted to take a stout, porter, or brown ale recipe and simply follow an IPA hopping schedule. Even though many recipes for this beer are designed doing just that as you will see in this article, doing so would not result in a true representation of this style of beer.
A Black IPA also called an American Black Ale, India Black Ale, or Cascadian Dark Ale for the most part should have the flavor, aroma, and bitterness level of an IPA. So much so that if you did a blindfolded taste test you would be able to tell it is an IPA. Similar to most American IPAs the focus is on American hop strains and although slightly present this beer style does not focus on roasted notes like porters or stouts.
Not only does it have the hop characteristics of an IPA, but also its alcohol percentage and dry finish. What it does share with porter and stout recipes are their dark colors which range from a darker brown to ruby to pitch black; as well as their creamy white, off-white, or tan head.
To sum it up a Black IPA recipe should result in a dark hop-forward ale with an ABV range of 5.5 – 7%, that provides for a hop bitterness level of over 40 IBUs, and a taste and aroma that is hop-focused with slight hints of roast. It can be a complicated recipe to create as there is a fine balance required between achieving the right color and flavor/aroma combination between the hops and malts used to brew it.
Black IPA Characteristics
Appearance – Color wise a Black IPA is typically as its name implies black, however, it can vary in color from darker brown to a dark ruby as well. In most cases, although it is a dark beer it is still usually very clear unless it is heavily dry hopped and in that case, it will have the haziness of a NEIPA recipe. The head on the beer is quite noticeable with a color range of white to off-white or tan as well as being of significant size and having a good retention.
Aroma – The primary aroma from this beer like most IPAs will be from its hops. The aroma will largely depend on the variety of hops used and can vary from aromas of floral, grassy, herbal, tropical fruit, passion fruit, citrus, pine cone, berry, or melon to name just a few. Depending on the type and quantity of dark malts used aromas such as carmel, toffee, coffee, chocolate, and toast from the malt can be present but typically not overpowering
Taste – Like the aroma this beer’s flavor will be from the hops and there can at times be a slight flavor such as carmel, toffee, coffee, or chocolate imparted from the dark malts. Being an IPA the bitterness level will be medium to high.
Mouthfeel – The beer typically has a smooth mouthfeel and can feel slightly creamy as a result of the grain bill. The body is typically medium as is the carbonation level. Depending on the ABV you might pick up a slight alcohol warming sensation.
Tips to Brew a Black IPA Recipe
Although some people will take their favorite porter recipe and change the hop schedule to that of an IPA if you want to stay true to this beer style then the following tips will help you do so.
The Grain Bill – It can be a challenging juggling act to build a recipe that will provide for the dark color, and delicious malt flavor but keep the roast level to a medium. The key is to use a European pale ale malt as the base malt, Maris Otter is what we recommend and will provide the biscuit flavor you are looking for, it should make up approximately 80% of the grain bill.
For specialty grains add a pound each of Munich, Crystal 20L, Carafa II, Flaked Barley, and lastly add 5 ounces of Midnight Wheat.
The Munich Malt will add nice malty flavors and aromas of carmel, bread, and honey. Crystal 20L is a lightly roasted malt that will provide a slight candy and caramel-like flavor, as well as add some body and head retention. Carafa II will add some darker color and a light roasted flavor and aroma. The Flaked Barley is to add smoothness to the mouthfeel and helps increase the head retention, and lastly, the Midnight Wheat will increase the color without bringing a high level of roast and coffee-like characteristics that other darker grains will.
Hop Schedule – Like most IPAs, this is where the fun when designing your Black IPA recipe begins. Hops are showcased in this style. American, Australian, and New Zealand hops are the recommended varieties to use. IBUs are typically over 50. For bittering hops, at 60 minutes 1 ounce of either Magnum, Summit, Centennial, or Simcoe will do the trick. After your bittering hops, you can get as creative with your hop variety and schedule as you like, we prefer 1oz additions at 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and a flame-out. Varieties you can choose from are typically Galaxy, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Columbus, Cascade, Centennial
Dry hopping, although not required, is quite common with these recipes. Anywhere from 1 – 4 ounces are typical. Many recipes will call for two dry hop additions, one after active fermentation is completed (3-4 days) and then another 3 days later.
Yeast Strain – High attenuating American yeast strains are typically used in these recipes. Wyeast, White Labs, and Imperial Yeast have good liquid yeast options, while Safale US-05 is an excellent choice for dry yeast.
Black IPA Recipe
Batch Size: 5 gallons
9lbs Maris Otter
1lb Crystal 20L
1lb Carafa II
1lb Flaked Barley
5oz Midnight Wheat
1oz Simcoe (60 min)
1 oz Citra (10 min)
1 oz Centennial (5 min)
1 oz Citra (flame out)
1 oz Centennial (dry hop at day 3 – 4)
1 oz Citra (dry hop at day 3 – 4)
Fermentis – Safale – American Ale Yeast US-05
Mash at 150℉ for 60 minutes, Mash out at 170℉, and sparge at the same temperature. Boil for 60 minutes and add hops as per the schedule. Chill wort, transfer to the fermenter, and pitch the yeast. Add dry hops on day 3 or 4. Leave in the fermenter for at least 10 days. Cold crash if you prefer a clearer beer. Package in keg or bottles.
This Black IPA recipe is definitely hop centered, for a more toned-down version do not add the dry hops. Although not recognized as an official beer style as of yet by the BJCP it is growing in popularity and after one sip of this recipe, you will see why.
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