Odyssey: The Occult – New England India Black Ale (England: BIPA: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. An inch of brown head that leaves suds.

Nose: Fresh. Slight vanilla, kiwi and grapes. Slightly milky. Slight creamy pineapple.

Body: Treacle. Milky chocolate. Creamy and milky. Kiwi and grapes. Milky coffee. Peach yogurt. Light tart notes – grapefruit.

Finish: Grapes. Malt chocolate. Low bitterness and moderate hop character. Peach yogurt to milkshake. Grapefruit. Treacle. Brown bread and brown sugar. Slightly yeastie.

Conclusion: Ok, as I’m still trying to work out where I stand on the whole New England IPA style thing, I have to contend with the fact that we now have a Black New England IPA. I swear I will never catch up with these things.

This is an odd mix – the creamy NE IPA style and the darker BIPA notes interact in unusual ways. When you take a sip it can be either a big boom of treacle, chocolate and coffee – or a soft milky thing that allows the fruit notes to roam more. Ok, in either one there are hints of the other, but it still gives a very different impression depending on which is ascendant at the time.

It is odd – the prevalent treacle reminds me of the notes used to give weight to lower abv dark beers, especially in how it seems to float over the lighter creamy flavours. It seems to be because of that creamy NE style that makes everything seem easier going than the abv or hop usage would otherwise suggest.

Possible because of the contrast between the two sides, the fruit hop flavours feel more evident than a standard NE IPA, and more than most BIPAs. They come across as a kind of fruity yogurt style and light tart grapefruit freshness. The bitterness level is still fairly low – which does make the BIPA style feel kind of odd – usually the higher hop bitterness I what makes a BIPA not just a higher abv dark ale, in my eyes anyway.

Overall – good – actually does more to make me get why people enjoy NE IPAs that most standard IPAs’ take on the style do. However the varied elements are good, but not really coherent. Each element works by itself, but they don’t feel like they all build a bigger whole, just working by themselves.

Still, there are much worse things to be – still interesting and enjoyable, just doesn’t 100% hang together.

Background: Offer me Odyssey Brewing and hops and you have my attention – their work has been pretty damn shiny so far. This one is an odd one – a black New England IPA – ok, someone was going to start spinning off variants of the new England style eventually – my first encounter may as well be from Odyssey. This one was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to B. Dolan – house of Bees vol 2.

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