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The novelty of black IPAs to the beer scene is highlighted by a total lack of agreement about what to call them—you may see them described as Cascadian Dark Ales or American Black Ales, and the American Brewer's Association pithily calls them, American-Style India Black Ales. (ASIBAs? Yeah, that'll stick...) Personally, I hope that Black IPAs are here to stay. We tasted a dozen of them, all solid beers, and very diverse. We've divided them up into two categories—heavier and intense, or lighter and more quaffable.
Brewers make wort and yeast make beer, right? And lots of healthy yeast can make low- or high-alcohol beers with fast, strong, and reliable fermentations. So what can the brewer do to get lots of healthy yeast? Make a starter. And to make a better starter, use a stir plate.
Braggots are hybrid beers—part barley-based ale, part honey-based mead. In ye olde Viking times, they were made by mixing the two beverages together; presumably you stirred them into a plundered goblet or a spare Grendel skull you had lying around. However, modern brewers who produce the style tend to mix the honey and malts together before fermentation begins rather than blending two separate batches afterward.
The name Kölsch is an appellation controlée, meaning that by law only beers brewed in and around Köln can carry the name. While the US-brewed beers we tasted in this roundup are merely 'Kölsch-style', a number of them compare favorably to their German brethren. These delicate and refreshing ales are similar to pilsners in flavor, though usually less bitter and a little sweeter and fruitier.
The IPAs brewed in New England don't fit into a single mold. Some hew to the British origins of the style and showcase malts as much as hops. Others subscribe to the modern American view of hops—if some are good, more must be better. Many examples walked the line between these two categories, balancing gentle hops with malt. Perhaps that's New England's stamp on the IPA style—a respect for heritage with a willingness to occasionally toss tradition into the harbor and start a revolution.
When I think of Dan Carey at New Glarus Brewing Company, I picture him working on his lovely, juicy Raspberry Tart and his pretty-darn-perfect Staghorn Oktoberfest. Double IPA just doesn't come to mind. But Dan Carey's latest small-batch Thumbprint series beer isn't kidding around; it's a seriously hoppy double IPA with an ABV of 9%.
Bières de garde were traditionally brewed in the winter and spring, and made strong enough to cellar for drinking during the summer. Bières de garde often have an earthy mustiness that comes from indigenous yeasts in storage barrels. We tasted 15 different bières de garde from the US and France and judged them based on aroma, flavor, and overall drinkability.