Clown Shoes, Hoppy Feet Black IPA

Well, let's keep this ball rollin' shall we? Another excellent beer from the booming beer-state of Massachusetts. There have been a large number of new and exciting beer-ventures starting up in Mass (or, as I refer to it: Connecticut's Hat), and the Clown Shoes line has come out as a clear frontrunner. Their Black IPA, the new, hot beer style on the scene has become (in this beer geek's mind) a benchmark for the style. If you have one Black IPA this year, make it this one.

Clown Shoes
Grade: A

This beer pours as black as the stout I just reviewed, but the head is much lighter in color. It's super creamy, thick, and laces the glass like crazy. The aroma jumping up from this beer is heady, to say the least. Huge hop notes, grapefruit, peach, pine, and citrus mingle with the darker, more mocha-like aromas of the malts. It isn't a combination that you would think would work (and in many cases doesn't), but here I'm in love with it. There's toast and bread in the nose as well, combining with some sweeter caramel to round out the aroma.

Mouthfeel is medium, edging slightly into the thicker zone until the carbonation steps in to lighten things up. The citrus from the hops carry into the flavor, enlivened by the chocolate and the roast. The bitterness is absolutely there, there's no mistaking this is an IPA. However that roast element puts a whole new layer on the flavor, combining with the slightly sweeter bready/caramel in the background. This beer is an amazing example of balance between such strong flavors. Roast and aggressive hops are two elements in beer that rarely work well together.

The Black IPA (Dark IPA, Cascadian Dark Ale, etc) is a fairly new style to the world of beer, and it's been attempted by almost every major brewer in the US. Unlike so many of the examples from those brewers, I feel like this beer is exactly what a Black IPA should be. It's not just another hoppy stout, nor is it an IPA that they tossed a bunch of roasted malts into, like so many others have made before. This is something much more than that, it's a re-imagining the use of roasted malts and American hops in beer.