Friday 12 March 2010

Black IPA

I'm coming to the conclusion that there's nothing new in the brewing world. Look a bit more deeply and you'll find most of the "innovations" of the last 20 years are nothing of the sort. They've all been done before.

Take Black IPA. When was the first one brewed? 2008? 2003? 1995? Perhaps a little earlier.

"The varying classes of black beer are produced in several distinct centres of brewing by as many different methods, but, as a rule, we have two main principles in operation—the use of a soft water in conjunction with malt of distinctly heavy character, not inefficiently grown, but at the same time not by necessity so fully vegetated as that employed in the production of pale or stock beers.

The possibility of using such material turns upon the fact that a large proportion of the malt used consists of highly caramelised varieties, and, as before explained, caramelised bodies possess a marked preservative or antiseptic character, while the black beers produced are not always required to keep for any very lengthy period. To begin with, then, it is not customary to employ saline waters, or, in other words, if such water be employed the black beer produced is deficient in that roundness and fulness of palate taste that is considered so necessary a feature, while I can example this by referring to the black beer produced at Burton, which has been universally described as a mere black pale ale—i.e., though black in colour, its palate taste reminds one very strongly of the pale beers produced by Burton firms. It will be quite understood that I am not decrying this article; it may and does suit many palate tastes, and is thought a great deal of on the Continent, but at the same time it differs very widely from the accepted standard quality of a black beer as specified."
"The theory and practice of modern brewing" by Frank Faulkner, 1888, pages 259-260.

At least 1888. Black Pale Ale existed at least by then.

Innovation my arse.

Thanks again Gary for the Google books link.


Laurent Mousson said...

I have a vague recollection of a 19th-Century recipe for an India Export Porter or sth like this in a booklet published by the Durden Park Beer Circle...

Anonymous said...

Laurent, porter was regularly exported to India in the 19th century, Whitbread did a big trade supplying the troops.

That bottle label carries the brown diamond Bass used as the trademark on all its stouts.

Gary Gillman said...

Glad you found this of interest, Ron. My point really was that the term is not an oxymoron, and at the same time, the unique thing that is Black IPA is not new.

I think Laurent's point is a good one in that there is evidence some export stout or porter was dry-hopped - not just hopped a lot, but dry-hopped. One of the later 1800's writers mentions this, he states dry-hopping was not typical for porter but was used sometimes for export porter.

This would bring export stouts closer to a modern black IPA profile than any domestic porter could have been.

Faulkner is saying too as I read him - the account is a little compressed - that Burton used its regular water to brew black beers, perhaps misapprehending that Burton hard water was needed to help preserve the beer. And this resulted in a lack of palate fullness, something not porter-like (but appreciated in India pale).

Faulkner is being polite but clearly he doesn't think this is real porter, and yet equally clearly, Black Burton can't have been exactly like pale ale due to its colouring malts. So it was a Black IPA really.

The other thing I thought noteworthy was his statement that dark malts of themselves contribute to porter's longevity. This is an old idea, you see it also in Michael Combrune's book. It's to do with the idea of acids and phenolic elements produced in the high kilning acting as spoilage retardants. Smoke famously preserves meat, for example, so it all ties together.

There is a claim though to a unique form of black IPA. The American ones I've had all have that big piney/grapefruit-like note. The Burton Black Beer would not have tasted like that.


Gary Gillman said...

Good update on the Black IPA trend. It seems the latter-day (U.S. micro) take on it started in Vermont, the name anyway. Stone's version sounds interesting and moves away from the porter element, it seems almost a fusion of Franconian or dark Munich beer and U.S.-style pale ale.


Graham Wheeler said...

I do not read that as saying that such a barbarianism as black pale ale existed in 1888. He is saying that Burton black beers tasted just the same as pale ale; it was 'merely' a coloured pale ale and implying that it was a pointless fake.

The comment about malt is due to the fact that cheap feed grade (high nitrogen) barley can be used in black beers because a protein haze does not show. He is also suggesting that the malt is not fully modified, but I doubt if either are essential requirements.

The soft water fixation that goes on in those documents I have never really come to terms with. The problem is that the term 'hardness' becomes misused because of a lack of understanding of the different types of hardness. The difference between 'hardness' and 'alkalinity' is widely misunderstood today, so it certainly was then.

London well water is fairly unique in that it is technically fairly soft, completely so when boiled, but it still contains a fair amount of alkalinity even after boiling. Not many waters are like that, so it puts London in a unique but unenviable position. The lack of calcium will make London beers difficult to clear, which is why they specialised in dark beers.

The gypseous water of Burton will inhibit any brettanomyces activity, and as that was probably a major characteristic of the authentic London black beer style, Burton would have been unable to match them, although the feature was probably dying out by 1888.

Like me, he obviously thought it pointless to have several beers in a range whose only distinguishing characteristic is the colour; whereby if you drank them blindfold you would not be able to tell the difference. There were plenty of late 20th-century dark beers from the majors that were just like that, and it probably aided their demise.

Bill in Oregon said...

I brewed a version of the 1856 Barclay Perkins Export India Porter at Green Dragon here in Portland in December, and it clocked in around 65 IBU's, which is moderate bitterness for a lot of beers here in Portland. Several people commented that it was quite similar to "Black IPA" or Cascadian Dark Ale (or CDA) as we call it here, and the beer went over quite well with public.

At a recent Cascadian Dark Ale Symposium, the moderator/organizer had me talk briefly about how there is a historical precedant for heavily hopped black/dark beers. A lot of the brewers were kind of surprised at the hopping levels of porters/stouts from 150 years ago, because many thought that "extreme" hopping levels were something quite modern and current and that historical brewers had never done such a thing.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bill, I've just been going through some 19th-century Barclay Perkins logs and everything has at least 2.5 pounds of hops a barrel. The stronger Stouts have between 8 and 10. All fresh hops, just a few months old.

It's funny how Porter is now seen as a lightly-hopped beer. As it was originally a beer and not an ale, it was by definition well-hopped.

Gary Gillman said...

In my view, a coloured pale ale could not have tasted like a regular one. Clearly the Burton porter was close enough to the real thing to be sold as porter in overseas markets familiar with porter. Faulkner was saying, they consider it porter but I do not.

Cascadian Dark Ale is an apt term for U.S. black porter because it focuses on the hops (or okay, Cascades Mountains near where Cascades and other aromatic C-hops are grown).

No matter how hopped the 1800's porters were, they did not carry flowery hop aroma, setting aside some cases perhaps of export porters. They were intensely bitter from bittering varieties (Sussex Brown and others). Numerous 19th century accounts insist that porter should not carry flowery hop aroma. However, I believe - and it is an inference in part - that Burton Black Beer did, and thus it forms a precedent for the American black IPA.


MitchAtStone said...

When we served our Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA in London last summer, someone, I believe it was Mark Dorber, called it an East India Porter.
It's fascinating to learn the histories of these beers, and although we didn't set out to brew an historical hoppy Porter or Stout when we brewed our version (we were simply trying to brew a strong black ale with forward American hop flavors), I think it's great to see that it's been done before!
Stone Brewing Co.

Gary Gillman said...

I meant (sorry) that "Cascadian Dark Ale" is an apt term for Black IPA (not black porter).


Anonymous said...

"dark malts of themselves contribute to porter's longevity"

It's my experience that darker beers last much better than paler beers.

"Burton used its regular water to brew black beers, perhaps misapprehending that Burton hard water was needed to help preserve the beer."

I assume the technology at that time wasn't up to allowing the Burton brewers to "de-gypsum" their water, and so they had no choice but to brew stouts with the same water they brewed their IPAs with - I don't think it was a deliberate decision.

Derek Hyde said...

About the malt and stability...

The influence of dark specialty malts on beer flavour stability

M.G. Vandecan, Pieter De Nève, Niels Daems, Daan Saison, Freddy R Delvaux: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centre for Malting and Brewing Science, Leuven, Belgium

Ron Pattinson said...

Mitch, why don't you give a historical beer a try? There are some great beers in the records.

Graham Wheeler said...

zythophile said...
I assume the technology at that time wasn't up to allowing the Burton brewers to "de-gypsum" their water, and so they had no choice but to brew stouts with the same water they brewed their IPAs with - I don't think it was a deliberate decision.

Even if the technology was up to it, I doubt if the Burton brewers would be particularly interested in doing so. Burton beers had outstanding stability for the time and the brewers were quite aware from at least 1829 that gypsum was responsible for this. They would be unlikely to want to sacrifice stability for the sake of chasing pseudo-London black beer. Burton had far bigger fish to fry than a few barrels of stout or porter.

Matt said...

Re Gary's "point..that the term is not an oxymoron". Sorry to sound pedantic but "black pale" is a dictionary definition of an oxymoron.

If you're trying to say a beer is black and bitter, why not black bitter?

MitchAtStone said...

We will brew some historical beers! we're working on it.
We saw some great records on our recent trip, very inspiring!
I'll be in touch.


Gary Gillman said...

Matt has a point there, but it is fair to point out that modern IPA more typically is amber (often dark amber) than pale. And some porter is brown to the point of not being that different from much IPA.

I guess though I was really trying to say that the combination of an IPA (heavy aroma hops) and porter (not hoppy today and not in aroma anyway) is not as discordant as it sounds because the results are interesting and have some historical precedent.


Oblivious said...

Hi Laurent

Here is a version of Barclay Perkins export porter 1851 (Róisín Dubh) named after my daughter

Batch Size (L): 22.00
Total Grain (kg): 5.66
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 26.4
Anticipated IBU: 64.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

% Amount Name

74.0 4.19 kg. Pale Malt
18.0 1.02 kg. Brown Malt
5.0 0.28 kg. Amber Malt
3.0 0.17 kg. Chocolate Malt


112.00 g. Goldings/fuggles mix 60 min.

Ron had a post with variation of the export porter through the 19th Century