Hocus Pocus! Brewery Collaborations And At Least One Of Their Magical Results

Put on your fantasy/science fiction cap for a second.  Summon to your thoughts an image you might have had, perhaps as a child, of a medieval wizard working on a new potion or spell.  Sure, sure, go ahead and include the robe, pointy hat, and long white beard – why not.  Imagine our wizard at work, in the middle of the night, stirring a bubbling, smoking cauldron as grey clouds swirl around a full moon outside the castle tower.  He works for hours, tossing in different odd ingredients as the liquid in the cauldron pops and fizzes.  At last, he shouts with exalted joy.  The wizard is done, as lightening flashes throughout the sky.  But from his work comes not a potion not to make someone fall in love with you, or cause you to be invisible.  Produced instead is an elixir that simply quenches your thirst like no other drink ever has, and one that tastes like nothing you’ve ever put your lips to before.  (Remember, this is a beer blog.)  But imagine what would happen if not one wizard but several got together to put their magical minds together.  What kind of beer might come out of those alliances?

From time to time, this actually happens in the craft beer world, without the pointy hats or robes of course.  And I can promise you, I don’t think we’ll ever have to worry about bat wings or eye of newt in our beer.  But occasionally brewers, wizards of beer making as they are, from different craft breweries do get together to collaborate on a new beer, with interesting and delicious results.  Like those odd concoctions that come together in fantasy stories, these beers often seem to bend the rules of the “norm”, or what’s expected in the beer world as we know it.  A recent collaboration between three nationally well known breweries – Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone, yielded an ale which in which rosemary, sage, and thyme were used.

More recently, four regional Virginia breweries got together to produce their own interpretation of a beer that definitely blurs beer style definition lines – the Black IPA.  Arguably, it might be the perfect style for such a magical collaboration between brewers.  In a recent article from NelsonCountyLife.com, it was reported that brewers from Blue Mountain, Starr Hill, Devil’s Backbone, and South Street Brewing joined forces to produce the beer, which will debut at the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival in Roseland, Virginia on August 21st.  Still not officially recognized as its own beer style, even the name “Black India Pale Ale” seems somewhat confusing.  After all, “Black” and “Pale” are difficult to imagine being used together to describe anything.  IPAs at their “darkest” usually glance along the edge of being orange-ish red.  But Black IPAs, color wise, are exactly that, a black or deeply brownish color, from the heavier roasting of the malt being used.  There lies the center of the confusion – traditionally, IPAs do not use heavily roasted malts, but pale colored ones.  And the taste?  What you generally get is a medium bodied, smooth and flavorful beer in which both the bitterness and citrus flavors of the hops that are typical of some IPAs are present (bitter orange, red grapefruit), while running alongside them are the more bitter flavors from the malt, which can run from a simple, one dimensional roasted malt flavor to that of coffee, cocoa, and even dark fruit flavors.  It’s an interesting blend of one beer style to a malting process that’s usually reserved for styles that are on the complete other end of the spectrum.  As far as where they truly belong, style wise?  Well, the argument is currently raging in craft beer fan circles between traditional minded enthusiasts who say they should not have their own style distinction and those who just can’t seem to get enough of them and don’t care about labels.  Either way, Black IPAs currently seem to be growing steadily in popularity.

Looking for proof, and can’t wait until the Brew Ridge Music Festival?  One very good Black IPA that I recently tried is the Cap’n Krunkles Black IPA from Terrapin Brewing, which I picked up at the Wine Gourmet here in Roanoke.  But if you do go to the festival and try the collaboration from the Virginia breweries, make sure you glance up at the sky occasionally – there just might be some swirling clouds above you as you raise your glass to taste it.  If you do, don’t worry.  It’s just another way to recognize the interesting and amazing work being done by good brewers everywhere, and a testament to what happens when they get together for the sake of our taste buds.

Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival Site

Blue Mountain Brewery, Devil’s Backbone Brewing, Starr Hill Brewery, South Street Brewing

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~ by thebeerroad on July 22, 2010.

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