Style: Black IPA
My love of Black IPAs seems slightly weird to me — in the world of regular IPAs, I tend to like the ones with the lightest grain bills, and a minimum of malty sweetness intruding into my hop bouquet. Yet I love Black IPAs — screw all the stuff in the middle. Hop in the Dark calls itself a "Cascadian Dark Ale," which is a totally made-up and confusing term that northwest breweries need to stop using (I don't care if 'Black IPA' is contradictory; it's not confusing.) But you could make the argument that this is a particularly hoppy porter, or stout, too. Whatever it is, it's delicious.
I suppose what Black IPAs offer (that overly-malty regular IPAs do not) is added complexity without too much cumbersome sweetness. Let's take Hop In the Dark, since I am in fact reviewing it. You could point out some sweetness from those dark malts, but it's not rich, and arrives side-by-side with a dry, bitter coffee-ish flavor from those same dark malts. It's like the hint of sweetness you get in a dark chocolate, more of a suggestion than a sensation. Hop In the Dark has all the complexity of a stout, without the body, and with the nose and hoppiness of an IPA riding on top. The hops are both fruity and dank, heavy on the pine, with a thick rich mouthfeel that suggests dark chocolate, cherries, and dried fruit. The finish is somehow both rich and dry, sweet, hoppy, and clean all at the same time, a beautiful spiral of flavor that captures why I love this style. More than perhaps any other style, a good black IPA manages to be two things at once, melded perfectly, and perfectly complimentary.
I suppose it stands to reason that piney American hops would go so well with dark malts, but it's nice finding a beer that reminds you of this with exceptional tastiness. The hops chosen here are the perfect hops for a dark grainbill; the dark grainbill chosen here is the perfect balance of roasty, sweet and clean. Considering I picked this up entirely based on Deschutes' reputation and the coolness of the label art, I sure did get lucky. This is some of the best six bucks I'll ever spend on a vacation.
Availability: 22 oz bomber. Seasonal release, May to September.