Hoppy Feet
Clown Shoes: Hoppy Feet (USA: Black IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Inch of chocolate ice cream froth. Looks like a still coke float.

Nose: Bitter chocolate dust. Vanilla chocolate. Custard. Wheaty hops. Milky coffee and milk. Choc orange. Hop oils. Vanilla fudge.

Body: Good bitterness. Treacle. Kumquat. Chocolate ice cream. Rough hop feels in the centre, smooth at the edges. Coffee. Condensed cream. Roasted notes.

Finish: Kiwi. Bitter. Chunk of hop feel. Bitter cocoa. Long lasting growling bitterness and charring. Passion fruit. Earthy.

Conclusion: There is a always a balance to be brokered with Black IPAs. What is gained from the hops pitted against what is contributed by the malt. On first impressions I would say that the seesaw of balance has plopped down pretty heavily on the malt side of things.

That isn’t to say it lacks hops. Well, mostly not. I will get back to that. This thing has a bracingly bitter finish, very long lasting and kicking. Before that you get a hop oil layer brought down upon the body, with a lighter, but still present bitterness. So, lots of hop bitterness, but not much of the hop flavour. You get a touch of earthy character, maybe a small amount of fruit around the edges, but for the most part the hops seem to be just dedicated to the bitterness.

The malt on the other hand, well I’m guessing it brings the full chocolaty taste, the milky character, and the fudge notes. Lots of smooth condensed cream like sweetness as well. It is a weird clash of texture, the bitter core feels rough, but the rest of the beer is very creamy.

So, anyway, back to the “Mostly not”. The malt does have a huge influence, which means that the bitterness in the aroma is very muted, and while you get the hop oils late on in the body, the early part tends to be dominated by the rising sweetness. This can lead to the beer tasting like a hoppy stout rather than a black IPA at times. It needs a bit more give and take between the two halves.

Now, the resulting beer holds your attention, but oddly, despite the bitterness. It doesn’t feel like a hop head’s drink. and I would know, I am a hop head.

It is a solid beer, and that finish is bitter as hell, but it seems to lack the wow or range of the great Black IPAs. They have the malt down perfect and the chocolate and toffee flavours are delivered in a luxurious fashion. It just needs a but more flavour rather than just bitterness from the hops.

Still not bad, but Black IPA is where so many beers soar, so the competition is harsh, and this just doesn’t measure up.

Background: This is the second time I have typed up this review. The first time I did it was just before I tried to play watch dogs. The game crashed, and crashed so badly that I had to restore from system image as windows would no longer boot. Thankfully I back up regularly so all I lost was that review. Watchdogs is bugged to shit. Ironically, this beer was first drunk while setting up that self same computer as I’ve invested in a new box. Anyway, I have heard good things about Clown Shoes, and I decided to give them a try. Playing it safe I went with their black IPA, a beer style that has rarely been done badly in my experience. Drunk while listening to Metallica: Justice for all. Because some times you just feel like some classic metal.