Brew team confidential: Hoppy Black Beers

The lowdown on the dark side...

Brew team confidential: Hoppy Black Beers

We are your father; come join us on the dark side.

This month the brew team are giving us the inside line on the styles of beer that have been lured from light to dark and are all the better for it. Unlike Luke.

John Allen


“If you’re making a black IPA you use a lot of fruity, resinous hops similar to those you would use in traditional IPAs.

“Simcoe, Citra, and Australian hops like Karma Citra, are perfect for this and usually they’re quite bitter so you get a nice interplay between the dark roast malts and the big, fruity hops.

“Our very own black lager - Zeitgeist - is hopped with Cascade and I really like it. Cascade goes well in a lager; it’s not too fruity and the resulting beer has a nice crisp taste. Cascade lets dark malts shine through too, it’s a good bittering hop and it’s not too overpowering.”

Bowman & Russell


Bowman: “I was hosting a beer dinner last week and we paired our Libertine Black Ale with a roast pork belly and a parsnip and cashew butter.

“The roasted malt balances the rich fatty texture of the pork as well as harmonising with the heavier flavours of the roasted meat; the gentle carbonisation really cuts through the fat of the pork and the richness of the parsnip and cashew butter. 

“To be honest, I love the fact that Black IPAs have so many different aspects to them; roasted malts, heavy malt aromas, fresh citrus hops, heavy resins…There are so many possibilities that work really well.”

Russell: “Libertine is very quaffable and I think a schooner is the perfect serving size considering the ABV. I also suggest that on those more contemplative occasions, chill your beer; start your consumption cool and progress to room temperature. This way, all the different flavours and aromas of your black beverage should intensify progressively.”



“Pale beers have been around for a long time now and with just a few new procedures and raw materials such as special malts we’ve been able to produce the black stuff without including the typical flavours you’d expect from traditional black ingredients.

“So the likes of black saisons and black imperial IPAs - like To Øl's Black Malts & Body Salts - are new and exciting and are rounded off with nice malt notes without roasty bitterness like stouts or porters.

“All good things are black: black metal, the night, my car, coffee…”



“When home brewing black beers, I always tend to steep the dark malts, this will help to get more colour, feel and flavour from them. If you don’t steep them it can be tricky to attain these qualities.

“Put the crushed malt in a jute bag and steep for around 20 mins at 70 degrees; if the temperature is too high or if you steep the malt for too long you are running the risk of extracting excessive tannins ."



“One of my favourite black beers is a black saison by Bridge Road Brewery. These guys really succeeded in making a beer that uses just the right amount of dark malts so that special saison yeast isn’t overpowered. That saison yeast is what everyone looks for in this style of beer so you don’t want to use a roast malt as the astringent, bitter flavours would overpower it.

“If you can’t get your hands on Bridge Road’s black saison, why not try Dieu Du Ciel’s! Isseki Nicho – a hybrid between a black saison and an imperial stout; a complex little beer.”



“Malt is the main ingredient in a dark beer. A pale beer like an IPA would generally be made using a pale malt base with the addition of a few lightly coloured malts to get that recognisable amber hue.

“If you go any further roasted however, the malts start to change the colour of the beer. The brew will quickly become very, very dark red or black completely. Carafa is a good malt for imparting a dark appearance. Combined with the right hops you end up with a jet black beer that smells like a crazy IPA!"

You can start your hoppy black beer journey in our bars, or by keeping an eye out on the online shop on our guest beers page. What are your favourite hoppy (or even just unusual) black beers? Any questions about the process of brewing black beers? Let us know!

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Comments (13)

BeefCake 24th January, 2014 10:23pm
Well done SteveYeah, Carafe is great for imparting colour. Or is it in fact great for serving wine at fancy parties! Where do they hire these guys!?
JohnAllenFC 23rd January, 2014 9:21pm
Johns beard!! Phwarrrrrrrr I would love to swing off that.
Les R 23rd January, 2014 5:37pm
Thursday session starting with Loch Fynes Black IPA as served in Aberdeens Prince of Wales. Magnificent.Followed by a few Libertine Blacks in BeardDug. More magnificence. Then back to the POW for more Black IPA.
John Allen Groupie 22nd January, 2014 10:19am
Its been a while since we had a classic John Allen pose on here, good work you fine, fine man.
Sion 21st January, 2014 11:59pm
Otley oxymoron and Hardknott Code Black get my winning vote for BIPAs.For one thing they combine the best of all worlds for me in terms of beer; fresh citric hoppy bite, slight hint of caramel sweetness and plenty of toasty toasty sexiness, all ib a black velevet body.Secondly, they dont have take-the-piss ABVs, so I can have a couple of these beauties to cut-in during a schwarzbier lovefest without chewing curb after.
Pete H., Nottm 21st January, 2014 1:16pm
My favourite black beers are Thornbridge Saint Petersburg Imperial Stout and Magic Rock Dark Arts.The beard theme seems to be going well (apart from Russell)And, another pic of John Allen ......
Raffaele SpillAle 20th January, 2014 4:16pm
Zeitgeist is my favourite black lager. In my Italian pub (SpillAle) its well voted, fighting for the premiership with the Nigredo (Birrificio Italiano) a dark IPA! Cheers
Lupuloopy 20th January, 2014 3:43pm
Libertine is pretty damn awesome. So is Beavertown Black Betty. And Windsor & Etons Conqueror 1075. But the one that blew my socks off more than any other last year was Black Ops from Salopian.I also home brewed a really nice black IPA that used Bramling X and Citra. It was lovely.
Beerded Brew Fiend 20th January, 2014 3:07pm
Lots of powerful beards at BrewDog! Well done guys
Nightmare 20th January, 2014 3:05pm
John Allen where did You get that nice t shirt? With hmmm globes with beer :)
JAFC 20th January, 2014 2:21pm
Zeitgeist is my favourite IPA, black or not!
pura x 20th January, 2014 2:20pm
do black lagers/ipas actually taste like normal lagers/ipas?
mitch 20th January, 2014 2:19pm
Bridge road black saison is amazing, get it on the shop now!