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The black IPA is a curious blend of brews; it’s not quite a roasted and malty stout (as its super dark color might suggest), and yet, it’s not quite as hopped and bitter as a standard American IPA. Black IPAs can be a challenge to track down, in part because of their seasonality, their unique taste and the somewhat misleading naming convention, as it’s not quite an IPA nor a robust dark ale. Brewers employ a very dark barley malt to achieve the black IPA’s signature inky color, adding American hops from the Pacific Northwest to augment its bitter notes.
The black IPA is a vastly different beer than its fellow cousins in the IPA family; in fact, some brewers have sought to change the name entirely, sometimes using American-Style India Black Ale or Cascadian Dark Ale instead. The dark malts used in the black IPA’s base recipe develop a sweeter overall flavor, kicking the sharp PNW hops into the backseat. Craft beer enthusiasts expecting the floral, pungent notes of pine in their preferred IPAs may receive the black IPA’s chocolate and coffee flavors with a lukewarm appreciation — if you drop your preconceived notions for a typical IPA, you’ll no doubt enjoy the balance between sweet and bitter.
Surprisingly, a black IPA’s alcohol content is on par with most other standard IPAs, falling somewhere between 6-8%. While other IPA deviations, like the popular Imperial IPA, use significantly more hops and malt to create their powerhouse flavors (and thus, their staggering alcohol contents), a black IPA’s recipe does not rely on an overwhelming amount of malt to create its rich, coffee-like flavor; instead, brewers simply use a different style of malt that’s been roasted longer and therefore, darker. A black IPA’s ABV, while no doubt varying dramatically from brewer to brewer, is generally the same range as a typical IPA.
While sharing many qualities with a stout, which is a relatively low-gluten beer, black IPAs are high in gluten and not safe for those with sensitivities or Celiac disease. Black IPAs fall into the ale category, which generally contains significantly more gluten molecules than lagers and stouts; the grain used to create a black IPA’s distinct color is a deeply roasted pale malt, which is derived from barley (which is not a gluten-free product). Don't lose hope: thanks to the growing demand for quality, craft gluten-free options, some brewers are experimenting with gluten-safe coloring options and grains that could develop a fairly similar version of the traditional black IPA.
Black IPAs are a member of the India Pale Ale family and are therefore considered an ale and not a lager; ales and lagers employ a different strain of yeast and opposing fermentation methods, leading to two distinct categories. The yeasts used in black IPAs (and any other ale) are an older strain than the ones used in lagers; ale yeasts ferment at warmer temperatures, typically around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas lager strains prefer a much colder climate. The ale yeasts can withstand a more alcoholic environment as well, leading to most ales, especially IPAs, having a higher ABV; standard IPAs and black IPAs tend to contain between 6-8% alcohol by volume.
Black IPA recipes are relatively similar to a standard IPA, but the style and color of malt are roasted and dark, leading to its signature color; however, the actual nutritional content and ABV stay within the same range as a typical IPA. With any beer, as ABV increases, so does the calorie count, so the true calorie content of your preferred black IPA depends heavily on its alcohol content. Most IPAs report a 6-8% ABV; so a 12-ounce serving of a black IPA with a 7% ABV will likely clock in around 200 calories and roughly 15-20 grams of carbohydrates.