Sunday, 5 February 2012

Testing testing 123 - Wee Beefy's dark pale jet black light beer conundrum

Good evening again readers

         am afraid the main reason for this post is that I want to know if I can now post again successfully! Formatting really kicked my ass earlier, as our cross Atlantic chums might remark...

However, in order to create a vague semblance of beer relevance, I can report that last week I had several tasty pints, starting with about 4 of  yummy Jaipur in the White Lion at Heeley, whilst on a homework collecting errand for Waaaarf.

I also got to the Sheffield Tap, where I had two delicious pints of Kirkstall Black Band Porter, which is the first beer of theirs I tried back in June, and I absolutely loved it. It didn't disappoint this time, but I followed it with a rather cold and hard to drink Dark Arts from Magic Rock. I really like their beers, but trying this one, that seemed not to work terribly well, made me wonder about the reasons behind fusion and hybrid beers.

Pale Red Porter

For a start, iinitially I thought I'd gone and purchased one of them new fangled Black IPA thingies, but actually that isn't the case. This is clearly a stout, and whilst its admirable that Magic Rock, as they have done so successfully in so many of their beers, are challenging the tired preconceptions of a particular style, they have so very nearly not managed to make a stout at all.

As you will know from the past, when everything was so January, I tried a rather delightful Dark Funeral from Steel City Brewing. It was vociferously hoppy and very dry and astringent, so ticked those boxes, and given that it was also jet black, it likewise ticked all the boxes regarding it being a Black IPA. It was dark and very very hoppy. So what makes this different from Magic Rock Dark Arts?

Well there are a few subtleties, notably in strength, and the tasting notes for Dark Arts allude to some quite complex fruitcake and malty flavours (which when served cold seemed to be washed away by the tide of bitterness), so its clear there are intended to be two different beers here. But there are two definite characteristics that appear inseparable - high bitterness, and very little balancing malt or roast malt flavours.

Citrus Stout?

No doubt Black IPA exists to remove the need for the evils of balancing maltiness or god forbid, sweetness, but there is a strange dichotomy then when we have a beer described as a stout (Magic Rock describe theirs as a "surreal" stout which I agree suggests one should expect some challenging or surprising taste experiences),  that pays so much attention to and promotes the flavours of bitter high alpha hops. What is the point in adding strong citrus hops to a stout, or likewise dark roasted malt to an IPA? Arguably you could instead concentrate as much effort into producing one IPA, one stout and another high hopped pale ale and make them all excellent examples of their art.

The proof of the pudding's in the taste of course - and to demonstrate how that works, in the end I poured half the Dark Arts into the warm Kirkstall porter glass on a vaguely equal ratio and got the best beer of the week!  .

Wee Beefy

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