Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deschutes Hop in the Dark

Sorry, we're still in picture-less land for another week or two.  Bear with me.

Black IPAs are slowly, but surely, becoming all the rage, and I have to say, I'm a huge fan.  I don't know why we didn't think to combine big dark grain flavors with big hop profiles in a light body earlier, seems like a no brainer.  But I guess it took centuries of beer evolution before someone decided it's a good idea. 

Now Deschutes has thrown their hat in the ring with Hop in the Dark, which they're labeling as a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Really, we're talking about a Black IPA, but I do like their name and maybe BJCP will take it into consideration.  I recently saw this beer as #2 in Wine Enthusiast's top 25 beers of 2010.  Since I already had a bottle in my beer fridge, I decided it was time to pop it open. 

The beer pours a rich black color, although with some close examination lets in just enough light to actually be considered a dark ruby.  Big frothy head, although zero retention.  Aromas are strongly hop driven, pine and grassy with a black licorice lacing.  Deschutes doesn't list much about how this is prepared, but knowing them, they probably hopped the shit out of it.  Light carbonation on the front end buildling into a grassy hop profile and finishes with a rich toasted grain flavor a bit of smokiness (or maybe burned grains) and finally light hop bitters.  The body on this guy is pretty big and taking a drink is a huge mouthful of flavors.  The mouthfeel is kind of odd though.  The grassy hop flavor has a lot of oils and when they transition to the grains it creates a sort of chalky mouthfeel, bordering on metallic. 

Not to boast, but the beer tastes remarkably similar to the wet hop Black IPA I made a year ago called, Shah Mat.  My beer had a similar flaw in the mouthfeel, although it also had a slightly skunkier aroma from the wet hops.  Therein lies the real trick of getting a Black IPA right.  Mixing big bold roasted grain flavors with heavy hop profiles means creating balance where they don't fight each other.  What's happening in this beer is the two flavors combine to create a third and not so pleasant taste that carries throughout the sip and overtakes the both hops and grain.  Not to say that this beer is bad by any means, but I don't think it achieves it in the way a beer like Stone's Sublimely Self Righteous does.

Hop in the Dark: ***1/2

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