I know I’m not alone in this, but I am wondering how much in the minority I am in thinking the that fairly new sub-style of IPA, Black IPA, in an absolutely ridiculous name. Think about it for a second, what does IPA stand for? India PALE Ale. So you’re drinking a Black India Pale Ale? How, exactly does that work? I can let it slide easily White IPA, since that would be pale and I can see the ‘white’ qualifier as further defining how pale. I’m on the fence with Red IPA, as in general pale ales can and do run into the reddish tinged realms. But there really is no denying that Black IPA is just asinine.
Then there is the flavour profile of your average Black IPA; I feel like someone ordering such a beer is really saying something like this: “give me a really hoppy beer, like an IPA, but make it black… but don’t you DARE let me taste that it’s dark, I just want the illusion of a dark beer. Really all I drink is IPA so I can now pretend this is different.”
Why can’t we be more original in our classification of beers? There is a newer style beer making the rounds called Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA), with a profile very similar to Black IPA, except it goes in the direction of actually allowing the beer to show off some of that dark grain. This seems like a good example of a style evolving and creating interesting offshoots over time as flavour profiles are explored.
Just because something has a hop forward profile, doesn’t mean it has to be classified as an IPA, just like not every malty beer is classified under a single umbrella. Malty beer can be broken down into many categories even before you divide things up by country, but can you say the same for hoppy beer? It really seems like anything made to be hop forward just gets IPA slapped on it. Belgian IPA anyone?
I’m probably fighting a losing battle on this, so maybe if you can’t beat them, join them? Maybe I’ll put together a recipe for a Pale Black IPA, it’ll be a Black IPA only pale! Can you even imagine??