What is stout, what is Black IPA? The beer above, from Magnotta in Ontario – a winery, brewery, and distillery – is a Black IPA.
This style emerged in the U.S. in the last 20 years, and is a dark-coloured India Pale Ale. The idea is to retain the hoppy burst of an IPA but with a dark colour and touch of roast flavor.
If IPA was a Supermarine Spitfire with eight Browning guns, Black IPA is the night fighter version.
A stout is black, or very dark brown, beer with the same element of roasted malt or barley, but enough to lend a decided toasted or even scorched flavour, burnt cordite comes to mind. Traditionally, stout was very bitter but in a neutral way, not aromatic like some pale ale was.
Stout is still often associated with Ireland but it emerged in the 1700s in London with its brother-in-arms, porter. The expedition to Ireland was later, under British auspices when Ireland was British, that is.
Stout and porter are really the same thing, the only difference was a general tendency that porter was less strong. Stout could describe a pale beer too and did before porter emerged – meaning in other words simply a strong beer. Once porter conquered the London beer market stout meant the brown kind, and has ever since.
Some Black IPA crosses into stout territory, some leans more to the IPA encampment. It’s a no-man’s-land of beer styles, really.
Generally, the “IPA” in Black or most contemporary IPA denotes a modern American hop signature: floridly fruity, often citric, sometimes weedy or “dank”.
IPA in England, where it originated also in the Georgian era, and also in London, can be as sharply bitter – was originally – as American IPA but the hop flavour is different. English hop yards produced flavours more like garden flowers or an autumn forest.
Sometimes English IPA had an acerbic bitterness but not much aroma at all, the Burton style could be like this.
Even before craft beer mobilized, some IPA as such survived in U.K. but the pint of “bitter” still available in many English pubs is a descendant. If you want to know what English IPA was like, the closest surviving examples in English pubs today are the bitter.
Magnotta’s version of Black IPA commendably uses Ontario-grown hops. These ended by not tasting very American at all, or are used at any rate in a way to impart a neutral bitterness. Some Ontario hops are rather acerbic or dank in my experience but not here, the taste is very good and traditional.
The result is to approach more closely an English heritage, perhaps like the old Black and Tan, a mix of bitter and stout.
In general the beer is excellent, with a full malty taste. Nothing crow about it except the colour!
Magnotta has been brewing for many years now, but this beer is the best I’ve tasted from them. I hope to get out to Vaughan, ON soon, where the company is based, to revisit the range.