Black IPA can be a contraversial subject these days. I mean isn’t India Pale Ale meant to be mean pale? That’s like painting a black Labrador white and calling it a white black Labrador (WTF!). OK not the best example. But I think part of the concept of the style's inception was to be totally rebel, new world and bad ass. That’s why many people snub it and that’s why it’s sometimes given the alternative name Cascadian Dark Ale.
Up till now my best impression of a black IPA have been from the all powerful Stone Sublimely Self Righteous ale, that goes brilliantly with steak (topped with the strongest Stilton cheese you can find) and chips, but this Italian beast, picked up at Gradi Plato in Rome tells a rather different story.
Birrificio RuRAle Castigamatt, at 7.5% is jet black in colour and has a bottle label that looks like it’s been styled from a super bike or formula one racing logo. The aroma is slightly baffling and seems to switch between liquorice, coffee and dark chocolate one minute then perfumed tangerine and spicy hops the next. Then on the first taste it starts with this slick oily mouth feel, sherbet, orange roast grain then all of a sudden… WHAM! The full force of high alpha American hops comes at ya like a tiger in an intense finish of bitter espresso coffee combined with a super crisp dry hop bitterness.
The thing with this beer is it kind of grows on you the more you drink of it. Once you're past the shock and awe the intensity is embraced, but don’t get me wrong this beer isn’t just about boldness. Compared to Stone’s version this beer has a lot more mystery and subtle nuances with a sort of smooth espresso like intensity. Honestly I wasn’t expecting to like it this much so that’s a thumbs up from me.