Brian Destree, brewmaster and production manager at Capital Brewery, has been in charge there for just over a year now, and is responsible for redefining its image with his embrace of bitter beers. "We want to keep heading in that direction," says Destree. Toward that effort, he has created the hop-centric Dark Voyage Black IPA. It's Capital's newest year-round brew, and is just appearing on taps and shelves around Madison.
What is it? Dark Voyage Black IPA from Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin.
Style: Dark Voyage is labeled as a Black IPA (India Pale Ale). Brewers debate, sometimes fiercely, over what this emerging style should be called. There seems to be some confusion over how something "black" can also be called "pale." Therefore, it's also referred to as an American-style India Black Ale (IBA) or, when the dominant hop is American-grown Cascade, a Cascadian Dark Ale. Regardless of the name, the style is found among some of the fastest-growing brands and is craved by hop heads who like distinctively bitter beers.
This bitter black ale is medium- to full-bodied, with assertive hoppy bitterness in flavor and aroma. Because black IPAs are made with generous amounts of dark chocolate malts, they can have a roasted background. However, they should not have a bitterly burnt flavor. They range in strength from 6% to 7.5% ABV.
Background: Destree sees the IPA as a necessary component of a well-rounded brewery line up. "It's where new sales are, it's the biggest craft beer by style by far, and the fastest area of growth," he says.
Since Destree took over about a year ago, he's added Mutiny IPA and an Imperial IPA named Capsized. With Dark Voyage Black IPA now being released, Destree says he's also planning on releasing a white IPA, most likely next spring. And in March, he is planning to crank up the hops on Capsized, which will be re-released as "Capsized Again." Capital is also phasing-out Hop Cream, an ale created before Destree arrived, and one that avid bitter beer enthusiasts rather harshly refer to as "hop-less" cream.
Having another dark beer among Capital's standard offerings also appealed to Destree. "We have been looking to add another dark beer to our portfolio, and after going over our options like making a porter and a stout, we decided to keep going with the IPA theme," he explains.
Dark Voyage Black IPA features four different American grown varieties of hops (Apollo, Cascade, Nugget and Warrior) that combine for a bitterness of about 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). That level of hoppiness puts Dark Voyage in between Mutiny's 70 IBUs and Capsized with its estimated 90 IBUs.
"All of the IPAs that we are going to do are not going to be over the top in bitterness," says Destree, "they are going to be where you can sit and drink more than one and not have your taste buds stressed." With Dark Voyage, he is looking for balance between the dark roasted malt flavor and the bright aromatic qualities that hops can offer. "It's a style I personally appreciate; when you go to festivals people always ask what do you have that is dark," he adds.
For those looking to compare Dark Voyage Black IPA to other locally brewed IBAs and Cascadian Dark Ales, Karben4 Silk Scorpion is sharper with more hop character and bitterness, while Lake Louie Radio Free I.B.A. offers similar hoppiness, but with a richer mouthfeel.
Dark Voyage finishes at 6.5% ABV. It is available in six- and twelve-packs of bottles and on draught in local bars. Six-packs sell for $8-$9.
Capital Brewery is also set to release its third version of Eternal Flame. The original batch started as a doppelbock made as part of Capital's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2011. Each year since, a small amount has been held over and blended with a new batch of beer. This year's Eternal Flame will present a stark difference from the previous versions, says Destree. That's because he took some of the 2012 edition and lagered it in whiskey barrels for nearly 10 months. Destree then blended with an Imperial Stout that he made with cocoa nibs and habanero chili peppers. Eternal Flame 2013 will be released in 22-ounce bomber bottles beginning on Black Friday, Nov. 29, for around $7 each.
Capital also continues to make progress on its new brewing facility in Sauk City. Destree says the expansion plans are on schedule, with much of the brewing equipment now on order from W.M. Sprinkman Corporation of Franksville, Wisconsin. The new 100-barrel brew house is expected to turn out around 60,000 barrels annually within a year of start-up, which would more than double the Capital's current output. Plans call for the new brewery to be operational by next summer.
- Aroma: A mild, yet firm hoppy nose.
- Appearance: Black with bronze highlights. A medium, bubbly, tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and moderate carbonation.
- Taste: A firm, resiny bitterness in the beginning, with a mild citrus bitterness that comes in later. There's roasted maltiness in the background, which becomes much more evident as the beer warms.
- Finish/Aftertaste: The finish has hints of both light roasted maltiness and resiny-piney bitterness. There is also a mild dryness that lingers.
Glassware: The inward flare of the lip from the tulip pint (Guinness-style), or a Willi Becher, helps push the aromas of black IPAs to the nose. The beer's deep black color and reddish-bronze highlights also deserve a clean and shapely glass that allows the vivid dark body to make a statement.
Pairs well with: The assertive hoppiness of Dark Voyage Black IPA can be nice with spicy dishes, especially Thai and other Asian cuisines. For cheese companions, look for a well-aged Gouda. This beer is especially nice with aged Marieke Gouda from Holland's Family Cheese; the cheese's firm texture and sharp flavor stand up to the roasted malts and bitterness of the hops.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Dark Voyage Black IPA is a firmly hopped brew. The combination of four hops provides its aroma and bitterness, while background layers of dark, chocolate and specialty roasted malts lend color and deep malty flavor without the burnt astringency found in some IBAs and Cascadian Dark Ales. Its comparative mildness makes it more approachable to drinkers who like dark roasted beers with bitterness that isn't over the top. However, dedicated hop heads will find its level of bitterness to be tame, and its claim of 80 IBUs to be on the high side. It also seems a little light in body when compared to IPAs.
Dark Voyage Black IPA is on its maiden trip, and the hop intensity is likely to be adjusted with future batches. Destree notes that this initial batch has nice aroma and bitterness, but he's already planning some tweaks for future brews to get the hops right where he wants them to be.