|With apologies to Buxton|
A trip yesterday to one of our local hostelries, which had 4 'Black IPA's on the bar, started me thinking. What is a black IPA ? And what is the point ? Before I start, let me say that I have no problem with the beers themselves, even though they vary between the excellent and the average, its just the term 'Black IPA' that I take exception to.
I have always thought an IPA, by its very definition, should be light. Why else should it be called an India Pale Ale ? A black beer is not pale, and never can be. I have explored the provenance of India Pale Ale in a previous post, and will not bore you with it again, except to reiterate that I expect IPA to be what it says on the pump clip, i.e a pale ale. However in recent times, there has been an outbreak, mostly from brewers who consider themselves part of the English 'craft brewing' fraternity, of these black IPA's.
I assume the term has come from across the water in America which is well known for butchering the English language, and our brewers have latched onto it for some reason. As far as I understand, beer styles, are named after two things, that being tradition or ingredients used. I have touched on the tradition question earlier, an IPA should be light, or pale, in my opinion. A black IPA is an oxymoron that bucks two centuries of brewing tradition for no apparent reason. Many have other names. Surely calling a beer 'Imperial Black ',or 'West Highland Black' gives the drinker enough information to know he is drinking a black beer, why add the additional rider 'IPA' to the name ? Are they just jumping on a bandwagon ? Does it give the drinker any more information? I personally think not after drinking several of them.
The other side of the coin relates to ingredients used. I accept that to use the hop character of an IPA and adding darker malts creates some sort of hybrid , but is that enough to justify a new genre of beer ? It could just as easily be a bitter stout, or hoppy porter. I am of the opinion that it doesn't. I am not even sure that the balance of hops and malt in this hybrid are often right, and it seems that often one or the other dominates the taste, dark malts and resinous hops do not seem to blend well to my taste, and I have yet to find one that I am totally happy with.
Maybe I am being pedantic, (who,me !), but for me, an IPA will be forever Pale, and the 'Black IPA' maybe just a passing phase, the sooner the phase passes the better as far as I am concerned. Or may be in years to come I will be proved wrong and the 'Black IPA' will be a recognised name in English brewing. Only time will tell.
The picture is no reflection of Buxton brewery, and its beer, it merely illustrates a point.