St Austell: Proper Black (England: Black IPA: 6% ABV)
Visual: Black. Large browned creamy head. Still.
Nose: Milky coffee. Kiwi. Slight roasted air. Slight bitter chocolate. Key lime pie.
Body: Slight sour dough. Prickly hops. Key lime. Milky chocolate. Slight liquorice notes. Creamy. Chocolate liqueur.
Finish: Cocoa dust. Moderate bitterness. Light charring. Slight liquorice. Slight sour dough and milky coffee.
Conclusion: Ya know, I mentioned during my notes on “It’s All Propaganda” that it didn’t feel like a black IPA, despite being a good beer. This has similar issues with not feeling like the style, but in a different way. The base has the smoothness and feel of BIPA down pat, which is where IAP failed – it has the base coffee and chocolate, with slightly roasted bitterness in as well. Those base flavours are present but not dominating, leaving room for the hops to do their work. So it succeeds at that where IAP had its issues.
Unfortunately this beer, unlike IAP, doesn’t do enough with the hops to fill that space. It has the bitterness, but ends up feeling like a hoppier or more roasted stout. It doesn’t take full advantage of the flavour possibilities of a Black IPA. There are some green fruit notes, but far less than it deserves.
So, as a beer it is not bad – in fact if this was pitched as a hoppy stout I would probably find it pretty decent – so let’s look at it as that and ignore the whole Black IPA thing.
As that it has a solid chocolate base, subtly enhanced by a few green fruit notes that round it out and a slightly higher hop character than normal. Despite fairly heavy flavour and a 6% abv it is pretty easy to drink – albeit with a hop level that builds up over time.
It is a solid, fairly stout like, beer. The extra hops add some nice flavour, but not enough to make it special. I feel the need to damn it with faint praise, but every time I try it ends up sounding so bloody hipster. “A good try for a mainstream brewery” kind of thing. Bleh. Solid, no real bad points, but in doing so it takes no risks that would let it soar.
Background: Man, I haven’t done notes on St Austell beers for years – not since back when I relied on my cheap main camera and crappy phone camera. Now I have a far better camera, and the same lack of skill at using it. Anyway, this was part of a set of beer given to me as a Christmas present by a work colleague. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to History Of Guns: Mirror Pond – they used to have it up for free download, but I can’t find a link at the moment. Pity – they do lovely, unusual electronic meets gloom meets guitar work.