I went into the Food Co-Op the other day and noticed a new 22 oz. bomber on the shelves from Deschutes brewery in Bend, Oregon. It’s called Hop in the Dark. They label it as a “Cascadian Dark Ale,” which as their bottle says, is “the curious place where the velvet dark of roasted malt meets the hop snap of IPA.”
So, naturally, I had to compare Hop in the Dark with Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, another “black IPA” (I put it in quotes because it’s a sort of clumsy name if you spell it all out: BLACK india PALE ale…it can’t really be black and pale at the same time. But black IPA is the generally accepted way of describing it) and also one of my favorite beers.
I decided to do a blind tasting with my friend Fera. The blind part ended up being pointless because even though they booth look identical in the glass (opaque black) before even taking a sip we both knew exactly which beer was which once our noses neared the glasses–there was no mistaking the hop presence of the Sublimely Self-Righteous.
Sublimely Self-Righteous is basically an imperial IPA that happens to be black. It’s 8.7% abv, and has 90 IBUs (international bittering units). Hop in the Dark weighs in at 6.5% abv and 70 IBUs, which makes it a bit of a “smaller” beer, and bitter, but still under the 77 IBUs that stone’s regular IPA kicks with.
Basically, Hop in Dark tastes a lot like Deschutes Obsidian Stout, but with some hop bite to it. It’s a pretty tasty beer actually. If anything I’d say it does a better job of being half-sout, half-IPA than Sublimely Self-Righteous does. You actually smell and taste the stout flavors.
Sublimely Self-Righteous, on the other hand, treats the roasted black malts in the beer like an IPA treats malts–they’re in the background. They add a really nice mouthfeel, and you can taste it there, but it’s pretty much all about the hops. And because I’m a hop head, and if you haven’t figured out by now, and a huge fan of how Stone does hops, Sublimely Self-Righteous is the winner for me.
But even if I ignore my hop-loving bias, I think that Hop in the Dark didn’t hold up as well as it warmed up. The beer at the bottom of my glass looked a little watery and some of the flavor had faded. The Sublimely Self-Righteous was consistent and refreshing through the end.
And if you find yourself in San Francisco, the 21st Amendment Brewery makes a good black IPA. Back in the fall they had a strong one on tap, but just recently they’ve started canning what looks to be a scaled back version of that high abv beer. It’s called Back in Black. It looks like it’s more along the lines of Hop in the Dark, whereas it’s previously on-tap predecessor was more like Sublimely Self-Righteous. I’ll head into the city soon to find out for myself and let you know how it is.
Oh yeah, and you might notice that the side of the Hop in the Dark says “Best After: 5/29/10.” That of course is confusing because hoppy beers are usually best fresh, that is, best BEFORE a certain date. So I called up Deschutes in Oregon to ask why the label said that. The lady who answered the phone told me their printer just printed the labels wrong, and instead of throwing them away, they just stamped the bottling date on it. NOW YOU KNOW.
And also, the bottled on 6/21/10 batch of Pliny the Elder is in town now. Food Co-Op got it in Friday night but is already out. Nugget and Aggie Liquor will have it.
Oh, and if you haven’t looked at Burgers and Brew’s happy hour menu yet, you should do so. It’s got some great food items like fish quesadilla and sliders.
Bye for now.