I’ve mentioned in the past that black IPAs aren’t the easiest style for American brewers to nail down. There are plenty of good ones out there, but any time a style comes into vogue and a lot of breweries start making their own renditions you’re going to get some that are a little out of whack in one way or another. Black IPA simply has more ways to be “off” than many styles—you can easily go too far in either direction, to the point where the name of the style no longer seems to apply.
Arcadia Brewing Company’s B-Craft is a fairly prototypical black IPA in most ways. The nose trends toward the “black” side of the spectrum first and foremost, with lots of chocolate, acrid roast and a little bit of a musty scent that is almost like shoe leather. Hops are present with floral and especially piney notes.
On the palate, bitterness is medium, perhaps a touch lower than expected for a beer hanging in the nether region between “black IPA” and “double black IPA” at 8.5% ABV. Flavors again emphasize the dark side of the beer first, with dark cocoa, coffee and an ashy quality like slightly burned toast. There’s some sour cherry fruitiness, but very little sweetness. Hops come forward on the back end with resiny pine flavors, but this ends up feeling more like a “dark beer” than a true black IPA.
With that said, even judging the beer as a porter or stout, it doesn’t really have the necessary degree of sweetness to make the chocolate or coffee character pop sufficiently. Instead, the dryness makes it seem a little flat. I question whether the pine-forward hop character is the best to match with this style of malt backbone, or whether something more citrus or tropical would be more effective.
Really, these are fairly small quibbles. I keep drinking black IPAs because at their best, they can be very intriguing. Arcadia’s B-Craft may just not be the one for me.
Brewery: Arcadia Brewing Co.
City: Battle Creek, MI
Style: American black IPA
Availability: March-October, 12 oz bottles, 4-packs