How to Brew Black IPA | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: February 20, 2021

Black IPA goes by many names. Whether you call it Black IPA, American Black Ale (ABA), India Black Ale (IBA), or Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA), one thing is for sure…people have opinions of this style.

Some either love it or some hate it. 

Some argue that by labeling it an IPA, one is merely trying to capitalize on the popularity of what the IPA has become. Furthermore, labeling the beer an IPA will just make the beer popular because it claims to be an IPA.

The “selling power” of the IPA will take this style to new levels.

As Ron Pattinson says in his blog, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins:

Success breeds imitation. Everyone wants to share the IPA buzz. And those three letters help sell a beer. No wonder then, that it’s not long before beers quite different from the original American IPA acquire them.

Suddenly IPA has a whole family of prefixes. And the IPA family has filled its apartment and started looking for a nice big house in the suburbs. But some of the kids don’t look much like their father.

Although many will continue to argue its name and like to call it many different things, we all can agree the beer itself is dark, strong, and hoppy. This is nothing new about beer. These same characteristics are similar to beers brewed back in the 1800s.

Keep in mind the IPA was not the only beer that was on a ship sailing to India. The Porter, with its hopped up version, made its way to India as well. 

Beer writer, Frank Faulkner, wrote The Theory and Practice of Modern Brewing. In his book, he wrote about a black beer brewed by Burton. He said “though black in color, its palate taste reminds one very strongly of the pale beer produced by Burton firms.”

Some credit Greg Noonan and Glenn Walter of Vermont Pub and Brewery in Bulington, Vermont as the originators of the American Black IPA in the early 1990s. Many breweries across America have had an Black IPA on tap, everyone from Avery Brewing Company, Rogue Brewing Company, Stone Brewing, Deschutes Brewing Company, and even Widmer Brother Brewing.

From personal experience, a homebrewed Black IPA with coffee makes for a delicious beer. 

Style Profile for Black IPA

Appearance

Black IPA can range from dark brown to opaque black. A light tan to mocha colored foam graces the top of this dark beer. The beer itself should be clear, except when dry hopping takes place. 

Aroma

The aroma of an Black IPA will consist of low caramel-like sweetness with hints of chocolate, toast, and/or coffee.

Hop aroma will be medium to high, notes of resine, pine, melon, berry, tropical fruit, stone fruit, and citrus are all possible. Fruitness may be present as a product of ester development from the yeast used. 

Flavor

Clean base malt profile of low to medium. There may be some light toffee or caramel notes. Dark malt flavor is restrained. Roast notes should not be high and should not clash with the hops. Some noticeable chocolate or coffee flavors are acceptable.

Hop flavor will be low-medium to high. Flavors of resine, pine, melon, berry, tropical fruit, stone fruit, and citrus are all possible from the hops. 

Mouthfeel

The body of this beer is medium-light to medium. Medium carbonation makes the beer smooth with some creaminess. Stronger versions of this beer will give off a warming from the alcohol. 

Food Pairing

A good Black IPA can cut through the fat and pair well with stronger flavors of food very easily. Fried chicken, spicy ribs, steak, shrimp stir fry, cheese burgers all pair nicely. As for cheese pairings go, blue cheese, cheddar, or aged gouda all make for good pairings.

When dessert time rolls around, chocolate is always a good choice…then again when isn’t it. Carrot cake also makes for a good pairing. 

Tips for Brewing your own Black IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row or pale ale usually make 80 to 100% of the bill. As for specialty malts, a pound each of Munich, Carafa III and flaked barley is a good place to start. The Carafa III will reduce the potential of astringency. The flaked barley will add some nice body and head retention to the beer.

Midnight Wheat can also be considered as the wheat will also promote good body and head retention in the beer. Adding some rye malt, crystal rye, or chocolate rye can make the beer stand out with the earthiness that rye possess in beer.

Black Patent can also do the trick if you are just looking for that color boost. 

Hops

American hops really should be showcased in this beer. A traditional bittering charge at 60 minutes is a nice place to start with your hop schedule. Something like Chinook or Simcoe will give the beer a nice bitterness.

After bittering hops, the sky’s the limit with how much or little hops you want to add. Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo is always a good way to start when thinking about the hop schedule. If adding rye to the grain bill, Mosaic makes for a decent choice. 

Hopping with New World hops like Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin or any of your favorite hops from New Zealand or Australia will work here too. Dry hopping is very common with the style and encouraged to extract more hop aroma and flavor in your beer. 

Yeast

A clean fermenting American yeast is encouraged for American IPAs. Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale WLP001 are two popular strains. Imperial Yeast also offers A15 Independence, A07 Flagship, and A18 Joystick. Safale US-05 is also the dry yeast strain to be considered.

Black IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 25 – 40 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.050 – 1.085 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.018 FG
  • IBU Range: 50 – 90
  • ABV Range: 5.5 – 9.0%

Martin Keen’s Black IPA Recipe

Grain

72 %           10 lbs         2-Row     

  7 %             1 lbs         Flaked Barley

  7 %             1 lb           Carafa Special III

  7 %             1 lb           Cararye

  7 %             1 lb           Munch

Hops

1.00 oz         Magnum – Boil 60 min

1.00 oz         Citra – Boil – 10 min

1.00 oz         Amarillo – Boil 5 min

1.00 oz         Cascade – Boil   0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Northwest Ale Wyeast #1332

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

How to Brew Black IPA

Transcript: Black IPA is a beer that looks like it’s going to be one thing, but tastes and smells like something else entirely. And to help me with that aroma part, well today I will be using a hop rocket.

Hey, how’s it going? I’m Martin Keen and I’m taking the Homebrew Challenge, which you may know by now is to brew 99 beers in 99 nine weeks. And I’m pretty excited about this week’s IPA, because it is such a contrast.

You look at it and you think, well, this is going to be roasty, but it really shouldn’t be, it should have a sort of sweetie maltiness to it. And then you sniff it. And well, it’s really going to smell of tropical fruits, citrusy fruits, which we’re going to get through the hops.

And because I really do want to emphasize the aroma in this beer. I’m going to try brewing this beer, using a hop back. This is the Blichman hop rocket, and that will help infuse some hop aroma into my beer.

Now I’ll talk in a moment about the recipe that I’m using for this beer, but let’s get it mashed out. I’m going to mash today at 152 Fahrenheit or 67 Celsius.

Not forgetting the milled flaked barley. This is already smelling delicious. All right, let’s get this one. Going to mash for, uh, uh, bout an hour. Um, but I’ve seen before that, there’s just one other thing I want to check.

Checking PH above 120F?

I’ve been using a pH meter to check that my mash pH is, is good. I have found that if I do exceed my mash pH, I generally get less efficiency. So that’s something I want to get on top of right away. And what have you been doing is I’ve just been taking this and then plunging it straight into here and getting a reading.

And this does have temperature adjustment capabilities, but, uh, owning up to around 120 Fahrenheit as was pointed out by several folks who watched one of my previous videos. So I want to check my pH and I have just started re-circulating the mash. I’m going to use this little, uh, measuring container. This is a one quarter cup metal measuring container. I was going to steal a sample of the wort that’s coming through the pump.

Okay. That just came straight out of the spray nozzle. And what I’m going to do is measure this once it gets down to 120 Fahrenheit, which honestly I don’t think will take very long. So right now it’s showing as about 140, but let’s just give it a minute and then take my measurement.

Now, time is a little bit of the essence here because this mash is not patiently waiting for me to get my pH levels, right. It’s already converting. So that’s why we want to cool this down pretty quickly. And if we are going to make any adjustments, we want to do it within the first five minutes or so of the mash for them to really take effect.

Okay. That took a couple of minutes and I am at 120F now, which means I can take my pH reading and it is reporting a pH of 5.6. So that’s not terrible, but it is just a little bit high. So I am going to add just a touch of lactic acid to try and bring that down a little bit.

And given the size batch that I’m doing a two and a half gallon batch, I only have four gallons of water in here about two milliliters of lactic acid is probably going to do it. All right. So leave that mash for about an hour to convert. Well, let’s doing that. Let’s just talk a little bit about, well, what’s in here.

Now I’m going to build a reasonably big beer here. You don’t have to with this style, but I’m going to shoot for an original gravity of 10 68. So a round about 6.4% beer. Now here is how I’m going to get there. I’m going to start with just two row pale malt as my base malt. And that will form 72% of the grist. And then in addition to that, for the mouthfeel, I’m going to add some flaked barley at 7%.

We also want a little bit of bicuity sweetness to the beer. I’m going to use Munich one for that at 7%. And then just for a little bit of spiciness, I’m going to add some rice specifically cararye at 7%. Then yet we do need to address the color of this beer. It’s going to be quite dark, obviously. I’m going for a, uh, an SRM of 37, which is as dark as the Russian Imperial stout that I brewed. And the way that I’m going to get there is I’m going to use carafa special III also at 7%.

What does a hop back do?

So let’s take a look at the gadgets. This is a hop back. Specifically, it is from Blichman engineering and it’s their hop rocket. Now, what does a hop back do? Well, it adds hop aroma into your beer and the way that it does that is it takes the hot wort from your beer. It infuses it with hops. The hop oils are extracted through that process and added into the wort. And that will lead to hopefully a really aromatic beer.

Now that’s have a look at how this thing in particular works. It will be my first time using it. And the first thing is talk about is the hops that you want to use because I use pellet hops for everything in my brewing, but it’s not recommended to use pellet hops with a hop back, particularly this one, um, because it can clog the thing up.

So you’re going to want to use whole leaf hops. Well, that’s what I have. I have a bag here, one pound bag of cascade, whole leaf hops, and it smells good. It smells good. This is the smell that I really would be very happy to infuse into my beer.

You can use up to three ounces of whole leaf hops in a hop back like this. I have measured out one ounce of hops here. And I mean, just look, one ounce of hops filled up this entire jug. I mean, it would barely cover the bottom if it were hop pellets. So it’s kind of interesting to see the difference in volume.

Now let’s open this thing up and really show you how it works. Uh, from the most basic viewpoint, it has a port at the bottom and a port at the top, and we are going to send wort via pump into the bottom here. It will be running up infusing itself with the hops that are added and then come out of the top.

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And from here, we’ll put this into a plate chiller and then into the fermentor. So the whole thing is held together by a clamp, which we can just un screw. Okay. So that’s the clamp off.

And then in here, essentially, there’s really two sets of components. Okay, take this, this bottom part off here. And then in here as well, we have our little hop basket. So these are all of the components of this hop rocket. What you’ll do is you will put your hops into this basket here, and then there’s just some, wingnuts either side of this to keep this attached to this filter, which is at the top.

And then at the bottom, we have another wider filter at the bottom here. Um, an O-ring and this is going to be used just to make sure that all of the wort gets distributed evenly through the hop rocket.

Hops wise, it’s going to be quite hoppy. I’m looking for an IBU of around 76%. So I’m going to start off with Magnum as my, my initial hop, doing at the start at the ball. Nice clean hop for bittering. Um, then with 10 minutes to go, that’s when I’m really going to start focusing on these flavor and aroma hops. So I’ll start with Citra. So Citra goes in with 10 minutes to go, and then I will add Amarillo with five minutes to go.

And as I’ve already mentioned, I am using cascade as my aroma hop in the hop back. If you’re not using a hop back and you want to try to replicate this recipe, then I’d recommend adding some cascade at flame out.

Now here is where the fun begins, uh, reached the end of my boil. So I’m going to stop the heat and, uh, apologize for the loud noise. That’s my extractor fan running here. Um, I’m just going to leave it running for a few more minutes to make sure there’s not any, uh, any condensation coming back in because this is still steaming. Right?

So I want now to take this work and run it through my hop back, my hop rocket, and it’s best to do it when the work is very hot, because that will ensure that we extract as much hop oil out of these hops as we can. So, um, got another little wrinkle to this, which is I’m going to ferment this under pressure.

So this is a pressurized fermentor. It’s a firmzilla. the advantage I think to that is it may mean that I get to keep a little bit more of the aroma in here by fermenting under pressure that I might otherwise lose. If I was just fermenting normally with a, with an air lock and whatnot.

So anything that’s in here is going to get kind of trapped in here, um, at least to a certain extent. So I thought I’d give it a try. So first thing I need to do is sanitize my equipment. I’ve already sanitized this. This is going to dump this in here.

Now, into the starsan I’m going to put anything that’s in the hot rocket that is going to touch the wort. So the O ring, the bottom assembly and the top assembly here, just to make sure it’s all sanitized. I think I said earlier that this top bit here, these filters that you put the hops in this little portion here, um, that’s what I thought. It’s not the case at all. Actually, this is just used as a filter. So this is going in as it is.

And at this point you add the hops in. So I do have one ounce of cascade hops, which I’m just going to pour over the top of this filter and going to put the O-ring on here and this, that, and then I’m just going to clamp it down. I should do it. Okay.

So now we need to go from my kettle, into my pump, out from my pump and in to the hop rocket. I’ve stolen here, a little quick disconnect from my chiller, and I’m just going to put it on the inputs to the hot rocket. This is just because my system has a quick disconnect coming out of the pump. Okay. So I can now connect this from the pump into the bottom here.

Now, when it comes out the top, I wants to send it into my plate chiller. So the way that I’m going to do that is I have a hose. So this is just a piece of Silicon hose with quick connects on either side of it. So I’m going to screw on to here and onto my plate chiller. Then finally, we need to go from the plate chiller out into my fermentor, and I’m going to use this guy for that.

Okay. Turn that fan off. Thankfully for all our ears. Uh, I think I am now ready to go. The last thing I did was I just hooked up this plate chiller to my faucet so it can run water through it at the same time. Let’s give it a try. It’s working. Okay. That should be everything.

Boy, two and a half gallons sure looks kind of pathetic in here doesn’t it? I just had a look at the measurement on the side here. I’ve actually got less than two gallons in here. I think there’s a couple of reasons for that one. When I’m using my tilt hydrometer here. It’s reporting that my gravity is 10 73, 10 74. I was going for 10 68.

So that sort of implies that my boil was a little bit too aggressive. I ended up boiling off a little bit more than I suspected. Um, but I think the other reason for the missing wort is, well, it’s probably in this thing still. So, um, I think what I’m going to do is try and get it out. This hasn’t quite worked as I was expecting.

What I was expected to do was kind of just tip this room here into this. Um, what’s actually happening is now that I’ve raised this, the wort is draining out of here and it’s starting to fill up the kettle again. Yeah, there it goes. I’ve now cleared this thing out and it’s all coming back into here. Huh? Well, let’s get that into here. This is more like it.

And that’s got me pretty close back to two and a half gallons. Now that might not be something worth worrying about if you’re bringing a bigger batch, but that’s quite a large percentage of wort that was just stuck in the hop bracket. So I think this would have worked better. Had I had the hot rocket raised up, um, or lowered, but not on the same level as everything else. I think that’s kind of why everything got stuck in here and the pump wasn’t pushing it through.

Now I did add work that didn’t go through my plate chiller into here. So this is probably reasonably warm again. Let’s see. Yeah, it’s 107 degrees Fahrenheit now. Um, rather than messing around with the plate chiller anymore, I’m just going to seal this up, put it in my chest freezer for a few hours and that will cool it down to around pitching temperature of 68 Fahrenheit, 20 Celsius.

At which point I’ll be adding in my yeast. This is my yeast. This is Northwest ale wyeast 1332, which I like, because it’s going to support both the maltyness of this beer and those fruity hops.

I will ferment this under pressure at 15 PSI. I will cold crash in here under pressure as well.

I’ll do a closed loop transfer to the keg under pressure. So I really don’t want any of these hopper aromas escaping any place. And then we will give the beer a try.

Well, it is time to taste the black IPA. I really like this style because you look at it and you’re like, this is not an IPA. It’s an IPA. Yeah, I agree.

So what do you think about the color? I’m sorry. I’m still on the head of your beer. Why is mine not doing that? I don’t know. You poured them. Well, maybe it’s because it’s the first pour. Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know, but okay. Anyway, look of it. And this is actually like probably one of the darkest I’ve seen. Yeah. I can’t see through it with a light, extremely dark. Light does not want to go through it. Does it. So you have the bubbles there now.

I was most excited for the aroma of this beer because this one has used a hot back to add some extra aroma, but I don’t know what smell through this, which has now got bigger still. Yeah. Um, take your finger and go. Yeah, pretty much really fast. There you go. Good. Okay. Okay. I’ve never had a black IPA. I don’t know what to smell like, but I’m actually pleasantly surprised. It smells kind of sweet with quite a bit of like malt and hop aroma to it. Here smell mine. Oh, your smells a bit more. Um, yeah. How about we just drink some of them we’ll come back to this. Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. All right.

All right. Taste-wise straight up coffee. Um, but good coffee. You have this weird thing about coffee. I can’t taste any at all. Roastiness, like the slightest bit. You think it’s really roasty? I don’t think it’s really roasty, but I think that I shouldn’t always agree with. No, I think what’s interesting is that you generally pick up a more roasted flavors more strongly than I do, which is probably because you generally don’t gravitate or drink that sort of stuff.

Anyway, like just not outside of beer, like coffee and those dark drinks, you don’t drink them. Dark Chocolate or anything like that. So if there’s any, any of that sort of note in the beat, you’re going to really pick it up. Whereas I’m downing cold brewed coffee all the time. And I guess I don’t taste it so much in the, in the beer, but yeah. Yeah. Smelling the hops too.

Yeah, it looks can be deceiving. So I think, yeah, black IPA looks can be deceiving. What a great tagline for that beer. I think that’s exactly it. It’s not bad though. It is not like I’m not going to drink it. We’re done. That’s a pretty low bar to be fair. Hey!

Okay. I do have some sort of standards,.. PBR. Okay. As usual, if you’d like have a go at this yourself recipes in the description, also, you can pick up the ingredients that Atlantic brew supply and yeah, this was a fun one to make, especially with the hop back and adding the hops in afterwards.

We’re going to stick with IPA’s for a little while more. And I’m going to go to another color IPA, which perhaps you have not had either. So we’ll see about that next week, but until then, cheers.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.