I truly believe that black IPAs or “Cascadian dark ales” or “American black ales” are among the hardest of all currently popular American craft beer styles to do well. Combining the roasted aspects of a brown ale, porter, stout or schwarzbier with the hop character of an American IPA is a difficult balancing act, any way you slice it. Some simply taste like mediocre IPAs with a little dark food coloring. Others don’t have the hop presence to stand up to their darker characteristics. Green Flash’s new Black IPA falls somewhere in between.
The aroma is promising enough, mixing a cocoa powder, chocolate character with an immediate bitter impression of pine. Think car freshener pine from the hops, but in terms of overall strength it’s more malt-forward. It has a mildly burnt but pleasant quality like a crown of steamed milk sitting on top of a Starbucks mocha.
Flavor-wise though, things are a little muddled. This black IPA is fairly dry, with dominant flavors of cocoa, nuttiness and ashy roast. Hops come through largely in a classic West Coast piney-ness, but there’s little to them beyond that. For a fresh bottle, (Best by: 07/21/14) it’s somewhat lacking complexity in terms of its hop character. In short, it’s succeeding more in its “black” descriptor than its “IPA” one, except in the high level of bitterness.
And it is pretty bitter, even for the style, which is amplified by the lack of residual sugar. The end result is a slightly abrasive mouthfeel and a beer that just doesn’t feel balanced correctly, especially when compared to a style-defining entry such as Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack. Against that kind of competition, Green Flash’s Black IPA can’t quite measure up. It’s by no means bad beer, but black IPA is a tough nut to crack.
Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.
City: San Diego, Calif.
Style: Black IPA
Availability: Limited, 22 oz bottles