Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Black IPA Throwdown

A while back I picked up the Longshot 6 pack from Sam Adams.  In Sam Adams' Longshot competition homebrewers nationwide submit their homebrew for the opportunity to have their brew nationally distributed.  This year I think Sam Adams found some liquid gold.  Illinois resident Rodney Kibzey won a spot in the 6 pack with his Blackened Hops brew which is his rendition of a Black IPA.  Technically Black IPAs are not an official style at this point but the market is starting to see more and more of these beers.  At first Black IPAs used debittered roasted grain to get the dark color of a stout without any of the roast flavor.  In effect an IPA is simply colored black in this method.  However the Blackened Hops brew instills not only a black color but roasted malt character as well.  I knew there were other Black IPAs out there but I had not tried them yet.  Could any of them be as seductively delicious as the Longshot version?  Well we're about to find out.

I gathered up Greg and Super Dave to help judge this throwdown.  This was not a blind tasting but should not have a significant impact because none of us have tried any of these brews (other than me trying the Blackened Hops as mentioned above).  Here is the list in order of superiority.

Longshot Blackened Hops 15.00 points

The nose is mostly roasted malt with an accent of fresh hop aroma. The roasted malt character in this brew was stellar. It was very stout-like in the beginning with some sweetness and dark chocolate. This leads perfectly into the citrus character of the hops that follow you all the way to the finish. There was moderate bitterness, more of which you would expect in a stout and less than an IPA. The real accomplishment of this beer is that it blends both the roasty malt character and citrus hop character perfectly. It is exactly what I would think of if I were to mix a stout with an IPA in my head.

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous 14.00 points

This brew had a good piney nose with a little roast character. This beer was one of the most balanced beers with good malt character and bitterness. (I will review this one in depth at a later date)

Hopping Frog Black and Tan 12.00 points

This brew smelled more of a stout or porter rather than an IPA. The taste exhibited both good bitterness and roasted character. Both the bitterness and roasted malt character was more intense than in the Widmer. The hops in the finish lingered slightly into the after taste.

Widmer Pitch Black 11.75 points

The Pitch Black had a good hop aroma with some citrus. This brew had a more subdued character than the others. It was in good balance but neither the roast nor bitterness stood out. This was not a show stopper but would be a good “every day” beer due to its balance and drinkability.

Odell Mountain Double Black IPA 10.25 points

The Odell was a different animal all together because it is a double/imperial black IPA meaning it’s more like a hoppy imperial stout. So it had a lot thicker mouthfeel with some alcohol burn in the taste. The Odell would have benefited from some aging because it had some raw alcohol that needed to be aged out of it.

Laughing Dog DogZilla 8.00 points

This was everyone’s least favorite. It is basically a mediocre IPA colored black.


All three of us agreed that the Longshot Blackened Hops was the best with a perfect score of 15 points. Unfortunately this was a limited release brew and we will most likely never see it again. Hopefully Sam Adams will realize the absolute masterpiece they have on their hands and will eventually put the Blackened Hops into production. The next best alternative is the Stone Sublimely Self Righteous which is readily available on the Missouri side of the line. Widmer and Hopping Frog are both solid contenders in this genre and were a pleasure to drink. As a side note, Super Dave decided that using .5 point increments was not accurate enough and instituted a .25 point scale on his reviews. That is why we have some funky numbers. Way to fight the system Dave!



  1. Any of those beers have dates on them? I bet that Laughing Dog was pretty old. Hopefully we'll get Deschutes Hop in the Dark at some point after they come to the area. It is good stuff.

  2. I'm not sure about the dates. Unfortunately this occured on a brew day so my tasting notes were abbreviated more than I would've preferred. I can't wait for Deschutes, they sound like a solid brewery. Hopefully we'll see them soon. Green Flash is coming so that should tide us over for a while.