View From The Road: Three Brothers’ Virginia Dark Black IPA

Three Brothers Virginia Dark Black IPAHere’s another post in what I’m calling the “View From The Road” series, taking a look at a singular beer to seek out and enjoy, but nothing so rare that you have to refinance your house to buy any, or travel to the opposite coast to find it. Cheers!

Could it be, after all this time, the name is still an issue?  After all, it still seems as if it’s easier to find discussions on what to “appropriately” call a Black IPA – a style of beer that for the record I prefer calling, well, a Black IPA – rather than to find much about the beers themselves.  But for whatever reason, there often seems to be a black cloud (yes, and I said black cloud) that perpetually hangs over the “style” for which we can’t settle on a name for, or for that matter, the origins of.  Whether it’s the name of the style (which I doubt) or not, time after time, I still hear folks saying they can’t find one they truly care for.  Personally, I think we still have a hard time getting past the obvious.  Introducing darkness to a beer that is usually hazy at the most feels a little unnatural, as if we’re forcing it into a situation it’s obviously not comfortable in.  Or more correctly, we’re not comfortable with the thought of such a thing.  In other words, calling a beer an IPA that is as dark as pitch feels a bit like we’re taking some revered, deeply respected actor whom everyone tends to like – let’s say, Harrison Ford himself – and forcing him into some unnatural circumstance, like shooting a TV spot for Hank’s Used Cars over on Main and 4th.  It just seems wrong somehow, and immediately makes it uncomfortable to watch.  Or in the case of the Black IPA, to like what we’re drinking.

But perhaps our issue with Black IPAs is that there aren’t enough exceptional examples out there to start validly comparing one against another.  In most of the ones I’ve tried, it seems as if the two “sides” of the beer don’t play well together, and it turns out a little muddled, or the dark ale qualities seem to be almost an afterthought.  For my money, the better examples of Black IPAs come across as dark ales almost first, reminding you of Porters or even Dark Milds, the qualities of which (smokiness, light roastyness) at the very least match, if not step directly in front of, any typical IPA “attributes” (citrus or pine like for example).

Lucky enough for those of us here in Roanoke, such a quality version of the style is being produced in our own backyard.  A couple of months ago, Three Brothers’ Virginia Dark Black IPA showed up on draft in the Star City, and in the last week or so, bottles starting popping up on store shelves in spots like Sumdat and Wine Gourmet.   Here’s a quick breakdown of this tasty beer.


Matched up step for step with a definite, earthy pine like aroma and taste from the hops, Virginia Dark rolls out a ‘just enough’ roasted graininess flavor with each sip.  Again, think of the roasty nature of a good Porter, or almost to a dry stout.  With a couple more tastes, you’d swear there’s a bit of smokiness in the background.  There’s a dryness that aids in the whole “earthy” feeling of this beer.  Given some time to warm a bit, the smokiness may come out a little bit more, but still, none of the other characteristics really back down either.  Somewhere in there, there’s a quick thread of citrus too.

Many Black IPAs seem to have two distinct sides that don’t mesh well, one featuring whatever characteristics that were given to it by the malt that was used, and that of the hops.  But in Virginia Dark, the two work together to bring about a beer which is full of earthy tastes and aromas and make one great tasting beer, no matter what you want call it.



~ by thebeerroad on July 18, 2014.

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