PROJECT PAM: 93 Points
This Black IPA is a limited release in 750 ml. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Black IPAs have long been a staple in our Taproom and at our annual Black Party – a celebration of experimental, dark beers – and Project PAM combines this with our deep, abiding love for barrel-aging. It’s an invitation to venture into the shadows of our brewers’ minds and discover their mad genius. In development under a shroud of secrecy for years, Project PAM is brewed with an abundance of hops including, Chinook, Nugget, Centennial, Amarillo, El Dorado and Mosaic. It’s balanced with Crystal and Midnight Wheat malts and finally aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels to add complex oaky bourbon notes and the sweetness of maple syrup. Project PAM clocks in at 10.8% ABV.”
My Description: This is a wonderfully crafted beer that has many facets; it does not have the bitter strength of other Black IPA’s but the flavor profile is executed beautifully. It begins with a good sized, beige colored head that lasts for a long time leaving behind a noticeable amount of lacing. The aroma is welcoming with notes of maple, bourbon, woodsy hops, vanilla, and oak among other scents. Project Pam is medium/full bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The flavor profile is very complex and enjoyable with notes of molasses, maple, bourbon, chocalte, hints of vanilla, and faint pine hop notes. The aftertaste is slightly bitter with lingering vanilla notes. Overall, this is an excellent beer that may not have the potent hop notes as other Black IPA’s but does provide a rich complexity that ages beautifully. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with grilled steaks, lamb chops, or a maduro cigar.
ABV: 10.8% Color: Black Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 3.5/10
BLUDGEON YER EYE: 94 Points
Creamy and Smooth
This Black IPA/American Black Ale is a specialty release in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Bludgeon Yer Eye is an India Black Ale. Intense fruity and floral aromas, along with a subtle malty fragrance, emits from the beer. The deep black color complements the rich, dark roasted malt flavors. The unexpected twist comes when the high hop bitterness takes over and leaves a bitter finish.”
My Description: This is a nicely done American Black Ale. It begins with a large, beige colored head with a good retention level that holds the whole way leaving behind some spotty lacing. The aroma is welcoming with notes of cocoa powder, roasted malts, and floral hops. Bludgeon is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The texture is smooth and creamy with an alcohol content that is beautifully hidden. The flavor profile is tasty with a satisfying finish. Upfront, there are notes of roasted coffee, floral hops, caramel malt, and a touch of pine hops. This transitions cleanly into an aftertaste that is slightly high in bitterness. This is a great everyday Black IPA. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with blackened chicken, grilled lamb chops, or a chocolate dessert.
ABV: 6.2% Color: Hazy Dark Brown/Black Sweetness: 2/10 Bitterness: 6.5/10
BLINDFOLD IPA: 88 Points
Surprisingly lighter bodied
This Black IPA is released randomly in the IPA variety pack in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Blindfold blankets us in darkness yet maintains a surprisingly light body and bold, hoppy character. This black IPA emerged from our Beer Camp program and builds on Sierra Nevada’s legendary love of hops with roasted malts for depth and complexity. Like its namesake, Blindfold is a bit disorienting—the color of a stout and the intense, hop-forward flavors of a classic American IPA.”
My Description: I found this Black IPA to be less bitter than other West Coast styles, which surprises me a bit because Sierra Nevada is not known to hold back on the hops. Either way it is still a great everyday Black IPA that delivers a good amount of flavor in a lighter bodied ale; even though the alcohol is 6.8% the body does feel light. This ale pours a large and fluffy, tan colored head with an amazing retention level that holds the whole way leaving behind a wall of lacing. The aroma is pleasant with pine hop notes dominating along with some citrus fruit notes, roasted malts, and coffee. Blindfold IPA is light/medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. Similar to the aroma, pine hops take center stage in the flavor profile along with notes of chocolate, coffee, and hints of citrus hops. The aftertaste is moderately bitter with an interesting molasses note that lingers. I wouldn’t mind seeing this ale in an imperial version. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with smoked ribs, roasted lamb chops, or Gruyere cheese.
ABV: 6.8% Color: Black Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 5/10
DARK PENANCE: 95 Points
My kind of self-punishment
This Black IPA/American Black Ale is released seasonally between Oct. and Dec. in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “A heavy malt foundation includes Crystal malt for sweetness and just enough Midnight Wheat malt to push the color to black. The bitterness is huge, but balanced by malt sweetness and alcohol burn. The hop flavors and aromas range from citrus to floral to pine thanks to a delicious blend of hand-selected Chinook and Centennial hops.”
My Description: This beer boasts a massive hop schedule with a 100 IBU’s, but it isn’t necessarily a hop bomb. In fact, this beer is well balanced with a moderately high bitterness level, sweet undertones, and an overall roasted/dark malt presence. It begins with a good sized, light beige colored head with a nice retention level that holds the whole way leaving behind a decent amount of lacing. The aroma is welcoming with notes of pine hops, dark chocolate, licorice, faint floral hops, and a touch of char. The aroma is a great indicator of the flavor and invites you to sip. Dark Penance is medium/full bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The flavors in this beer work great together and are addicting. A roasted malt foundation holds up notes of crystal malt, chocolate, pine hops, and hints of alcohol. Char notes swims throughout and the aftertaste is bitter, but not as much as I thought it would be, with lingering citrus hop notes. Overall, this beer is excellent and with a slightly creamy texture and a bold flavor profile, it’s a great choice for the season. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with roasted duck, chocolate desserts, or a maduro cigar.
ABV: 8.9% Color: Black Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 6/10
MIDNIGHT MONK (2014): 76 Points
This Belgian Black IPA is released for a limited time in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Take off your robe and slip into the night to get one step closer to the Holy Grail of all beers. “Midnight Monk” Belgian-Style Black IPA will have your senses juggling all the complex flavor and aroma this beer has to offer.”
My Description: This beer is rather disappointing, I was expecting a plethora of delicious flavors but this beer is bland. With a style like Belgian Black IPA, I was hoping for a burst of hop flavors, roasted flavors, and yeast flavors but they are hidden behind a weak malt body. It begins with a large, light beige colored head with a great retention level and a nice amount of lacing. The aroma is tamed, which was where the disappointment began, with some faint coffee notes, some roasted notes, and woodsy hops. I was expecting a burst of hop notes and yeast notes, oh well. Midnight Monk is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. Minimal pine hop notes define the flavor profile along with notes of roasted malt, a hint of banana, and alcohol. The alcohol flavor shines through more than it should, even at this alcohol level. The aftertaste is moderately bitter and doesn’t leave you wanting more. I like the idea of this beer, but the not the execution. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with roasted duck, baked brie, or chocolate desserts.
ABV: 9.8% Color: Black Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 4/10
WANDERING PELICAN: 87 Points
This Black IPA/American Black Ale is a collaboration with Great Lakes Brewing and is available for a limited time in 12 oz. cans.
Brewer’s Description: “The summer of 2013 introduced the city of Cleveland to a unique and rare visitor. A Brown Pelican, usually found in Florida and other Gulf states, wandered north to vacation on Ohio’s Lake Erie coast. Swapping saltwater for fresh, feeding on shad instead of mullet, this welcome stranger made Lake Erie his home for several months and became an unlikely local celebrity. This dark ale honors our courageous friend who traveled off the beaten path to find his home. Wandering Pelican Black Ale is a hopped-up American Black Ale with a dark, roasted character balanced by a floral hop bitterness.”
My Description: I think that this collaboration is really great; not only are these two breweries amazing but the whole story about the pelican makes for a great idea for a name for this ale. I’m not sure how a Black IPA fits into this story but it is a great beer non-the-less. It pours a very large, beige colored head with a good retention level that holds the whole way leaving behind an abundant amount of lacing. The aroma smells great with notes of milk chocolate, herbal hops, and some roastiness. Wandering Pelican is roughly medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The flavor profile is slightly robust but a I think a little too sweet for the style. Upfront, there are notes of roasted malt and chocolate along with some herbal hop notes and caramel malt. This transitions into an aftertaste that is moderately bitter but not aggressive. A touch of alcohol is noticed but doesn’t affect the beer negatively. I feel this ale lacks a certain depth of hop flavors that I was hoping would shine through more. Overall, this is still a tasty beer that you’ll enjoy if you like porters and IPA’s. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with grilled steaks, chocolate desserts, or creamy cheeses.
ABV: 8.2% Color: Very Dark Brown Sweetness: 3/10 Bitterness: 4.5/10
WOOKEY JACK: 98 Points
This Black IPA/American Black Ale has an IBU of 80 and is released randomly in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “A unique twist on the Cascadian Dark Ale style. Wookey Jack offers true hop aroma to rival most IPAs, with pungent citrus and herbal hop nuances, a hint of peppery rye and earthiness on the nose. Big roasty malt flavors with balanced hop bitterness and spicy rye offer a full and complex texture with a refined bittered finish. A truly different IPA for dark beer fans.”
My Description: It’s easy to fall in love with this beer; it’s clean, the flavor profile is addicting, and it serves to both hop and malt lovers. It begins with a huge, beige colored head with a great retention level that holds the whole way leaving behind a wall of lacing, very nice. The aroma smells great. A woodsy and earthy presence hold up potent notes of pine hops mixed with citrus hops. I could smell this beer all day. Wookey Jack is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a dry finish. The flavor profile is not as bitter as the aroma would indicate, it is more moderate than aggressive giving the other flavors a chance to shine through. Dark malts and roasted notes upfront give way to pine hops and grapefruit hops. The alcohol is beautifully hidden and the rye spice adds a great flavor component and complexity. The aftertaste is the best part of this beer, smooth with lingering hop and rye notes. I love the balance and the body in this beer, instant favorite. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with dry rubbed ribs, bean stew, or potent cheeses.
ABV: 8.3% Color: Black Sweetness: 2/10 Bitterness: 5/10
NEW WORLD PORTER: 95 Points
This American Porter is released seasonally in January in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “A traditional black porter, with a surprise twist — it’s dry-hopped! We’ve expanded the porter category a bit, adding a delightful, dry hop aroma to blend with the sweet caramel and chocolate characteristics of a Robust Porter.”
My Description: A delicious harmony of flavors makes this beer a treat to drink. It is smooth and the even though it is bitter, it doesn’t overshadow the many other flavors but compliments them beautifully. It begins with a large, beige colored head with a great retention level and it leaves behind a wall of lacing. The aroma is inviting and really pleasant with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, woodsy hops, and a deep caramel presence. New World Order is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. A nicely balanced flavor profile begins with tasty roasted malt notes accompanied by coffee, caramel, woodsy hops, and some citrus hops as well. The aftertaste is moderately bitter and the alcohol is completely hidden. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with dry rubbed pork ribs, guacamole, or beef brisket.
ABV: 6.7% Color: Dark Brown Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 4.5/10
NOONAN BLACK IPA: 93 Points
A brewing pioneer
This Black IPA/American Black Ale is released seasonally between February and May in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Noonan (the beer) looks like an ordinary porter or stout, until you get the pint up to your nose. You can’t avoid the big whiff of piney, herbal and citrusy American hops, but there’s virtually no roasted character. Ponderous, huh? When you take a sip, you’ll notice that the beer doesn’t taste a lot like a porter either. Instead of the expected astringency imparted by dark grains, you’ll find a depth of caramel malts and more American hops. Don’t worry that’s by design; it’s also what we love about the beer.”
My Description: This is a nicely done Black IPA; the flavors combine cleanly with each other, the hop notes take center stage, and overall it’s just a great beer. It pours a large, beige colored head with a great retention level that holds the whole way and leaves behind a nice amount of lacing. The aroma is strong with coffee and pine hop notes taking the focus. There are also notes of citrus hops, bread, and a hint of chocolate to make this aroma very pleasing and a great indicator of the flavor to come. Noonan is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. Just like the aroma, the taste of this beer is also strong with many different flavors. Pine hops dominate the flavor profile accompanied by notes of coffee, leather, some roasted malts, and hints of dark chocolate and caramel. The aftertaste is moderately bitter and lingers slightly. This beer is smooth and very easy drinking. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with rich cheeses, hearty beef stew, or grilled pork chops.
ABV: 5.7% Color: Black Sweetness: 2/10 Bitterness: 6/10
BLACK IPA: 87 Points
Worthy everyday Black IPA
This Black IPA (American Black Ale) is released seasonally in the Winter months in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Shipyard Black IPA is for the pirate in you. This is a dark black beer that combines a rich malty character with the crisp flavor and aroma of American Northwest hops. It’s a beer the legendary Blackbeard would have hoisted as he sailed the seven seas. It’s worth walking the plank for.”
My Description: Shipyard did a nice job creating a Black IPA that you can drink everyday for any occasion; the flavors are on point, the body is smooth, and overall it is an enjoyable beer. It pours a large, beige colored head with a great retention level and it leaves behind a nice amount of lacing. The aroma felt more like a porter than an IPA because the hop notes were faint and minimized by the dominating notes of roasted coffee malts and cocoa, as well as a hint of coffee. Black IPA is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. Robust and creamy, the body is smooth and satisfying. The flavor profile does taste like a Black IPA with welcoming pine hop notes and some earthy hops. A strong malt backbone and roasted coffee add to the flavor profile and the finish is the best part. The aftertaste is moderately bitter and a bit sharp but the lingering sweet/bitter note is amazing and forces you to take another sip. Overall, I would choose this as an everyday Black IPA no problem. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with roasted chicken, grilled steak, or your favorite burger.
ABV: 6.2% Color: Black Sweetness: 2/10 Bitterness: 4.5/10
HOP STRIKE BLACK IPA: 90 Points
This American Black Ale has an IBU of 78 and is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “HOP STRIKE is a dry hopped black rye IPA. The beer is characterized by an intermingling of spicy citrus hops and chocolate malt. HOP STRIKES substantial 78 IBUS are balanced by roasted rye resulting in a nice depth of malt character and deep color.”
My Description: Considering the amount of hops used, the beer is not overly bitter due to the noticeable amount of malts. It is well balanced with a tasty flavor profile and a smooth body. It has an enormous and fluffy, light beige colored head that lasts forever and produces a wall of lacing; the head is really nice. The aroma is mild with notes of roasted malt, chocolate, citrus and piney hops. It is roughly medium/full bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. A nice addition to this beer is the rye spice which is present throughout accompanied by flavors of roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and a hint of alcohol. The aftertaste offers some pine hops notes and a noticeable bitterness that isn’t too strong. The flavors work nicely together making this a beer I would drink again. It is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with burgers, steaks, or beef stew.
ABV: 6.5% Color: Black Sweetness: 3/10 Bitterness: 3.5/10
STONE SUBLIMELY SELF-RIGHTEOUS ALE: 97 Points
This beer was created for their 11th anniversary but was so in demand they decided to make it a year-round production. This is a Black IPA. They use Chinook, Simcoe, and Amarillo hops which make up the 90 IBU’s. This beer is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Its bitterness hits our sweet spot. Its blackness lightens our hearts. Its liquid dichotomy pulls it all together in this sublimely sacrosanct ale. Yes, we damn well know our stuff here at Stone, and it would be irresponsible of us not to acknowledge how remarkable this heavenly creation of ours is. Thus the name we are compelled to give it — Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale — serves as a reminder of just how good we are, in both liquid and verbal form.”
My Description: You have to understand why I gave this beer 97 points, which is damn near perfect. I grade beer according to the style, genre, and overall quality. This beer is of the highest quality and you can tell the brewer was passionate about his job by giving the world a near-perfect black IPA. There is a really nice foamy and dense head that lingers with a beautiful beige color. The lacing on this beer looks like it was glued onto the glass, really nice stuff. Once you bring the glass to your nose you will instantly be aware of the strong hop aroma that is accompanied by mild roasted notes. The alcohol content is high in this beer but you would not know it because the hops completely crush any sign of alcohol in this beer which adds to the high quality of this brew. If held in your mouth for a few seconds you will pick up on some roasted notes but once you swallow it is pure bitterness that lingers. I cannot explain in words how strong the hop aftertaste is, you just have to open a bottle yourself to understand. It is medium bodied and very smooth. Best enjoyed around 40°-45°F. The more this beer warms up the more you will pick up on roasted coffee notes. This is a damn good Black IPA, but you must understand and enjoy IPA’s first.
ABV: 8.7% Color: Black Sweetness: 2/10 Bitterness: 8.5/10
HOP NOIR: 83 Points
Black body, grapefruit hops
This Black IPA has an IBU of 98 and is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Hop Noir is a delectable Black IPA, dripping with piney, aromatic Centennial hops. The malt base is dark and rich, anchored by organic black malt.”
My Description: This is an enjoyable Black IPA but it has a few negatives that prevents it from being an elite brew. However, the head is big and bountiful with a nice, dark beige color. The retention is great with a good amount of lacing. The aroma is basically a grapefruit hop explosion with some notes of pine hops and burnt caramel. Normally, this would smell amazing but it turned out to be slightly unpleasant because it had an unusual funk, almost egg-like fragrance that turned me away. However, that only pops up here and there and does not hurt the beer too badly. It is medium bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. The flavor profile consists of roasted malt notes that taste a little harsh but the grapefruit hop flavor balanced it out nicely. The alcohol was nicely hidden though, I couldn’t pick it out at all. Overall, there is nothing great about this beer but at the same time nothing too bad either. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with Mushroom Swiss burgers, BBQ chicken, or a grilled flank steak with chipotle sauce.
ABV: 8.2% Color: Black Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 6/10