The Fort Collins and Wynkoop brewing companies are the the latest Colorado beer-makers to introduce new black ales, and while the Fort Collins bottle label made me raise a P.C. eyebrow, black ales are definitely becoming more popular.
The Incredible Hop Imperial Black IPA is part of Fort Collins Brewery's Incredible Hop series of one-off beers. "Strapping, black and highly hopped. Just like Carl Weathers as Dillon in Predator," reads a message on the label from brewer John Swanson.
Wynkoop, meanwhile, will release Skull and Crossbones Skull Black Ale today at the brewery and several of its other establishments in honor of Real Pirates, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science exhibit opening today. The dark-but-hoppy beer uses a new kind of whole-leaf hop, appropriately named El Dorado.
Black ales and IPAs have been around for a while. But the "style," which is also known as Cascadian Black Ale, India Black Ale or American-Style Black Ale, has been growing in popularity over the past two years, and several Colorado brewers make good ones.
Which is difficult, because Black IPAs typically combine two elements that can include a lot of bitterness: roasted malts and hops. In fact, some of the most well-regarded Black IPAs out there are some of most bitter - and the most difficult to drink.
Sublimely Self-Righteous, from San Diego County's Stone Brewing Company, Hop in the Dark, from Oregon's Deschutes Brewing, and Victory Brewing's Yakima Glory, will give you bitter-beer-face faster than any fizzy yellow beer.
The three best Black IPAs I've tried manage to moderate the bitterness from the malts and bring the hops forward. All three also happen to come from Colorado. They are Ska's One-Eyed Monster, which is only available in Durango; Tommyknocker's dry-hopped Hop Strike! Black Rye IPA, which is fantastic; and Odell's Mountain Standard, a "double black IPA" that had 100-plus beer bloggers buzzing in Boulder last fall. Some other Colorado Black IPAs include Boulder Beer's Flashback, Twisted Pine's Hoppy Knight and New Belgium's 1554.
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The Fort Collins beer, originally just called Carl Weathers, was made especially for a single tap-club event, but a lot of people talked about it and asked the brewery to bring it back, says owner Tom Peters. "Our brew team is always looking at what is new."
As for the wording on the label, he says the quirky Carl Weathers moniker tagged along when the brewery decided to bottle the beer. "It's meant to grab your attention, but it's also a limited release so it won't go too far. If we were Budweiser, I'm sure there would be attorneys and psychologists and people like that involved."
Look for bomber bottles of the beer on liquor stores soon in Colorado.