Style: Black IPA
The other month I decided that, from now on, I'm starting every IPA review with a disclaimer. The more I drink IPAs, brew IPAs, and learn about hops, the more I realize how much the style is bound by the ravages of time. It is very difficult to accurately judge an IPA — a good, hoppy IPA, anyway — until you've had it within three weeks of bottling, but how often can you even find an IPA that fresh unless it's super local?
In this case, The Black C is super local, from Poughkeepsie's Sloop Brewing. Three of the four beers Sloop currently offer are hop-focused, and the fourth is a Berliner Weisse, so as you might imagine, they won me over quickly. While there's no "bottled on" date printed on the bottle that I can find, I'm guessing this particular Black C is about a month, maybe two months, old.
It's not my first time trying this beer, and the aroma is a little more subdued than I remember, though still pleasantly hoppy, with soft, citrusy American hops and floral notes. The Black C may be the first Belgian black IPA that I've ever seen, but it make this triple-style hybrid seem effortless. The best hybrids add one or two layers of complexity onto an already complex beer; those that fail try to ram three separate ideas into each other until they stick. Sloop achieves perfect balance with this one. There's no clashing clove character from the yeast, no phenolics over-riding the hops; I've tasted very few Belgian yeast fermented beers this subtle. Not that the beer itself is subtle — the hop character delivers all the classic C-hop flavors that the name implies. There's a burst of citrus, melon, and grapefruit, some pine, and a delicate floral character, plus hints of fruity esters from the yeast. The bitterness is extremely clean and brisk, with a crisp, dry finish. The "Black" side of Black C plays the smallest role, present mostly in the slightly creamy mouthfeel; there's almost no roast. (I would hazard a guess that the color comes only from Carafa III, and probably very little to no other roasted or chocolate malt). This is as easy drinking and refreshing as any good, classic IPA.
If you've ever had a conversation with me about New York state beer, you know I'm not one to embrace local just for local's sake. Local is great, if it's actually great, but there's a real danger to introducing "distance from where you live" as a measure of quality. A local IPA has a potential advantage over national options, but only if it's good to begin with. Fortunately, Sloop's Black C IPA is a great IPA, period; one I'd be happy to send to my out-of-state friends to show them what's happening in NY.
Availability: 22 ounce bomber. Year round. Available from various beer shops in the Hudson Valley area.