I scanned shelves at two bottle shops in the area and Hopslam was still nowhere to be found. Once again, it will be next week. Illinois seems to be forgotten until there are leftovers at the distributors.
Return to the shelves for a backup choice. I spotted a beer that was new to me and one I haven’t had before. It was Lagunitas NightTime Ale. Based on the description on the sixpack carton, I’m pretty sure that it was a black IPA. I figured I’d try the beer and perhaps learn a little more about the style.
Back home I’ve found that the beer is a limited release beer, usually coming out at the beginning of the year. Based on a few of the images on Google, it appeared that the ABV has varied a few tenths of a percentage year over year. It ranged from 8.6% down to what I had, 7.9%. I’m not one to argue over an indiscernible amount of alcohol. Many factors can change from year to year.
NightTime was the Yang to the Yin of DayTime IPA that Lagunitas brews. Similar beer names with less similar styles. DayTime is a session IPA at 4.65% ABV. NightTime is like it’s bigger, darker, hairier brother.
Lagunitas has a legendary history in the craft beer industry with a beer that had its label censored, a raid by drug agents at their pub and the Brown Shugga’ fiasco that they capitalized on, making two great beers after the whole ordeal. They’ve become so successful that they have opened another brewery in Chicago, mirroring the one they have in California.
Black IPAs fly in the face of BJCP and the Brewers Association style guidelines. Only the AHA nails it. More info here. There is only the AHA definition of a black IPA. (Just discovered that today.) For beer drinkers, the only way to gain any knowledge on the style is to drink it and that can’t be a bad thing. For many, what’s known up front is that the beer will be dark and it will be hoppy. That combination of dark malts and hops is what sets one brewery apart from another when it comes to brewing this style.
Having said that, my curiosity was getting to me and I wanted to try this beer. I wanted to like this beer.
Let’s get to it.
The first sip was odd. The swallow left a bit of hop flavors in the nose but I didn’t exactly know what came before that. The beer had a medium mouthfeel and had no taste resemblance to a stout. The second sip had a bit of dirt taste with a slight bit of coffee and unsweetened chocolate. It was truly bizarre.
Each sip had a definite earthiness to it and the hop flavors followed behind. The hop character is actually quite likable, perhaps the varieties are from the tropical fruit side of the taste spectrum. The malt flavors are odd. There’s a very slight bit of roastiness there but not very much. The hops thankfully keep this beer interesting.
I looked into homebrew clone recipes for the mystery ingredient. It’s something called “dehusked Carafa.”
Carafa does add a roasty character. To quote one of the forum comments:
Smoother than a typical roast malt, but certainly in the roast ballpark.
It appears that many black IPAs use Carafa malt in their recipes as well. Also, there’s a lot of advice about when to use this malt in the mash process. Takes a little bit of finesse. In Lagunitas’ case, they nailed the process and brought it up another level by their choice of hops.
I’m not a big fan of black IPAs but this one is different. It’s special. So far, it’s the best of the few black IPAs that I’ve tasted.
For this year the beer will be available January and February and then return next year. It’s a great beer for the winter season and won’t blow you away with alcohol, but you’ll wonder, “Just what the hell is it that I’m tasting?”
Style: Black IPA
Taste: An odd tasting beer that is completely enjoyable.
Smoothness: Not a bite in a bottle.
Drinkability: Yes. Maybe one or two more.
Bang for the buck: Not bad for the taste.
Amount paid: $11.99 per sixpack of 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Perhaps I shall.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff… puzzled look) Like molasses. Oh it just really smells. (sip) It’s weird you get a blast of that molasses or something and then it’s gone. (sip) But it smells awful. (Maybe it’s a pampered childhood, I don’t know.)
Lagunitas in Chicago [5:48]