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One of the Hardest Choices, Ever

15 Jan

A few things have happened since November. The biggest and the biggest sec. 2 are these:

1. I got a fantastic job. It’s creative, it’s challenging, it’s organized, it’s a small office with cool people and there’s even a beer nerd among us. It’s pretty much the best job aside from the irritating commute a whole three or four miles west that manages to take about 45 minutes on a good day (city living for you). Still, the good far outweighs the bad and it’s the first time I’ve been happy in my work since the brief window of early 2013 before I realized I was working for a horrible, abusive narcissist clothed in a generous person’s designer jacket.

2. I was proposed to, and I accepted. I am getting married in June and even typing that sentence, no matter how many times I do it, still somehow feels quite foreign. It’s not that I am one of those people who thought they’d never marry, I guess I just never thought about the possibility much at all. Perhaps it’s because I was dating the entirely wrong guys, but it wasn’t anything I put stock into with regards to my personal future. Now though, well, it’s very happening and it’s freaking awesome.

But there’s a problem. A big one. No, it’s not the caterer or the dress or the bridesmaids or a mother in law (who is excellent, btw). It’s this: I have to choose beer to serve at our reception. I know, I know.

We’re having it in a raw space where we hire out/bring in everything. Our caterer isn’t handling drinks for us aside from supplying the bartender (Illinois state law prohibits anyone unlicensed from doing it, whatever that means) so we have to do that ourselves. We’ve decided on one red (Pinot Noir? Cab Sav? sure) one white (Sav Blanc, Pinot Gris? whatever), one bubbles, a bottle of Malort because we’re in Chicago, a bottle of mead for the wedding party, and beer. Beer… three kinds of beer. Now here we have the serious quandary.


We went from Schlitz to High Life to Coors Banquet (which really is pretty good) and that’s about as far as I got. I say “I” because between us, I am the beer nerd and he knows it. Personally, I freaking love Ale Syndicate’s Sunday Session. It’s light, unfiltered, smooth, just…heavenly. It’s only slightly hoppy but very drinkable and low in alcohol (open bar, folks). It’s a no-brainer and it WILL be featured, hell or high water. But then we have the third beer. Now, I am the only person I know who drinks dark beers year round. I will also admit that black IPAs probably freak a lot of folks out – much like the bartender I spoke to last weekend who wrote off Stone’s Master of Disguise Imperial Golden Stout (WHAT?! I know, I know. You have to try it) because he, “couldn’t get [his] head around it”. What? Dude, your job is to think critically. That stuff is bananas and you’re wrong for walking away from it. I think most people feel that way about black ales, actually. Anyway, that leaves a lot open. I took it to my fellow beer nerds and many suggested Half Acre Daisy Cutter (last time I tried it, I gave it a meh) or Revolution’s Anti-Hero. Everyone loves hops. Everyone but me. Temperance, you need to bottle. If you did, there would be no other brewery there because everything you do is just fantastic. Alas.

Sunday Session is unfiltered so I don’t want a wheat. I personally don’t love reds or ambers and while the future Mr. likes pilsners, I am not into them. Now, I grant you, I probably won’t be drinking beer that day so I should not put too much stock in it, but the fact is that most everyone knows that I am the beer dork between us and that puts a certain pressure on me to rep. Rye IPA? Ok, that’s interesting. Stout? No Guinness. Porter? No one is going to want a delicious, thick porter on a June day (stupids), no sours, no lambics, and while interesting, probably no ciders. Well, maybe a few ciders but not enough to make up 30% of the beer list since people rarely drink more than a few in a session.

I have no idea what to provide. All we agreed on was to try to keep it local if possible and nothing too hoppy. So, my girl beer group is going to pitch in next month or the month after when we do a BYO and everyone brings at least one offering that gets their vote (while following the parameters above, regarding what we already have). I promise you, I have already spent more time on this post and in this conversation than I have about my dress, bridesmaids, colors, or the groom. This is serious business and I have no idea what to do.

Suggestions? Leave them here. I can use them and I’ll add them to our BYO. Help. Me.


Black As Night, Black As Coal

22 Feb

(photo stolen from the internet)

There are few things weirder to the senses than a black IPA. Close your eyes and breathe in over the full glass, what do you smell? Piney, citric hops. Take a sip. Suddenly, malt. Sweet. Smoke. What on earth? It’s a…. taaaa daaa! Black IPA! Psych!

This lovely offering from North Peak from Traverse City, MI (the cherry capital of the world, so they tell me) has pretty much everything going for it that I want in a bottle of beer: that enticing Red Stripe-shaped bottle, wonderful graphic design and its black IPA is called “Furry”. How could I not pick one up? 7.2% ABV, $2.10 single-bottle price for 11.5 oz. No information on standard packaging quantities but I’d guess four.

Unfortunately, I had to go outside of their website to find information since their beer list only features what’s currently on tap. Fortunately, I have one of the listed beers in reserve. For our purposes today however, I had to use the Beer Advocate website (but didn’t read the opinions, just the specs).

My previous exposure to this variety of beer was only Allagash’s version and admittedly, I did not think it could be topped. It was “thin” like Guinness but had so much malty yet floral flavor I could barely stand it. At my former place of employ (a brewery), I had a standing order with the barkeep to alert me when the kegs ran low enough to be polished off after work and I did. Twice. Urp. Furry however, gives Allagash an absolute run for its money in the best way possible. It’s richer, maltier, a bit more bitter and slightly more hoppy – basically it’s Allagash plus half.

“Complex”, be it an overly-used term to describe beers that are more than two notes, is pretty accurate when describing most black IPAs because they’re so weird but it’s most definitely accurate with Furry. In my research to explain what makes a “black IPA”, I stumbled across this beer blog and I gotta say – brother has hit the mark. It’s not from India and it’s certainly not pale. He’s right, there should be a conversation about this because everyone’s using a moniker that is just… wrong. The description on his page is correct – mildly bitter, middle-range hops, darkly carmel and mildly burnt. Add “chocolate” to that and you have a stout, but what happens to the hops? There are bright hops here, too. “Made with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade hops and Pilsner, C-40, Midnight Wheat and Carapils malts” – ratebeer. As I said, it’s unique amongst its class, truly exemplary and 100% worth picking up if you see it.

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