Whether you call them Black IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales, or American-style Black Ales, bitter, hoppy, black beers are becoming more and more popular with brewers and beer fans alike. What had been a fringe phenomenon has become a true emerging style. Production breweries and brewpubs are turning them out all over the country.
Honestly, it is a style that I have had difficulty embracing. The combination of high-level bitterness, intensely-citrusy American hop flavor, and acrid, roasted malts creates an unpleasant partnership in my mouth. There are a couple examples that I like – 21st Amendment’s Back in Black comes to mind – but in general, these are not beers that I am likely to pick up at the store or order at a bar.
It is with this caveat that I offer my impressions of the latest offering in the Summit Unchained Series, Black Ale. Here’s my notes:
Aroma: Light chocolate and roast underlie citrusy orange and grapefruit hops. A bit of bread crust.
Appearance: Ample, creamy, tan head that sticks around, maintaining a foamy layer from start to finish. Very dark brown to black.
Flavor: Sharply and somewhat astringently bitter, with intense grapefruit and orange hop flavor. The hop bitterness is enhanced by the bitterness of roasted malt. The malt character is primarily coffee-like roast with light sweetness that increases as the beer warms. The finish is dry, lingering on coffee and juicy grapefruit. The bitterness grabs hold at the start and is the last thing to let go.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with prickly carbonation. A touch astringent.
Overall Impression: This beer has that particular combination of bitterness, black malt, and citrusy hops that sits uncomfortably on my tongue. The high level of attenuation enhances that. I could do with more malty sweetness to balance the hop and roasted-malt bitterness. A hint of chocolate would give the citrus a pleasing foil. As it is, it is a well-made beer, just not one that suits my tastes.