Can there be a beer style that has spawned as many varieties as India Pale Ale?
The original which can possible be traced back as far as 1793 and attributed to Thomas Hodgson and his Bow Brewery (there’s an excellent article about the origins of IPA here). Since then we’ve had American Pale Ales, Pacific Pale Ales, Double Pale Ales, and Dark IPAs. The first Dark IPA I tasted was the appropriately named ‘Oxymoron’ at the Brew Wharf in London’s Borough Market in 2011, but the style can arguably be traced back to 1994, in Burlington Vermont (check the article here).
These days most self-respecting craft brewers have a dark IPA on their boards, and the boys and girls at Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire are no exceptions, their Wild Raven, as ‘sister beer’ to their Wild Swan is available in bottles and draught and is brewed to a respectable (or is that disrespectable?) 6.6% ABV. It was first brewed in 2008 by James Kemp, who had recently joined the brewery from New Zealand.
The brew is said to use five malts and six different hops, but thus far I can only find references to Maris Otter, Black Patent and Chocolate malt and Nelson Sauvin, Centennial and Sorachi hops.
It pours black, bible black, with a healthy pale cream head that’s slow to fade, leaving a fine trace of lace down the glass. The nose is predominantly grapefruit and pineapple.
It’s medium bodied, not too heavy, and the flavour is bitter, very bitter. Again the flavour is grapefruit and pineapple, with hints of bitter orange and, way back in the mix, burnt toast. The burnt toast is the only giveaway that this is a dark beer, and in a blind tasting I suspect that many would guess it not to be dark.
This is a really satisfying and well balanced brew, I would have to put this somewhere between four and five stars on our patented beer rating system.
Thornbridge have done it again.
Oh, and Wild Raven was judged to be the World’s Best Black IPA at the 2012 World Beer Awards, why does that not surprise me?