I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in Austin on business, and took advantage of said opportunity to see an old buddy, Ryan Bishop. Ryan is the former brewer at Guadalupe Brewing Company, and as December of 2014 has been brewing at (512). I contacted him and he was gracious to give me a tour and a talk about (512) after finishing working for the day, so my tour was literally the two of us and 1 – 2 other people in the entire building. I love personal tours.
About the Brewery (from 512brewing.com/aboutus/):
The original practice of consuming fresh draft beer at local bars and restaurants, enjoying the sensation of the glass and the pour, the exchange with the publican and the surrounding atmosphere has been nearly lost. Throw in very fresh beer made in small handcrafted batches from nearby and you have a truly unique experience. (512) beers are built on old world English and Belgian styles, enhanced to celebrate bold domestic ingredients. Made with Austin’s mineral rich water, (512) beers taste like none other.
About the Beer (from 512brewing.com/2011/12/512-black-ipa/):
Brewed with organic 2-row, organic Crystal 60 and Blackprinz, a huskless black malt that gives this beer it’s black color with notes of coffee and chicory without any tannic bitterness. The hop additions are many and generous, featuring Apollo, Horizon, and Simcoe, clocking the beer in at 70 IBU. Over 10 pounds per batch of Chinook hops are added directly to the fermenter yielding a resiny herbal and spicy aroma. A hybrid style for dark beer fans who love hops.
Style: Black IPA
I have been a fan of (512), which by the way is said “five one two” and is the area code of Austin, for a while now. Their Pecan Porter is often on tap around San Antonio and always a welcome inhabitant of any pint glass that sits in front of me. When I got to the mecca from which this indulgence is birthed, I went from being a fan to a fanatic. Well, fanatic might be a bit strong of a word, but it just sounds so good in that sentence. I am a much bigger fan (doesn’t sound as good), and the reason for that is the humor and conscientiousness that Ryan explained Kevin Brand employs.
First off, every piece of equipment is named for FUTURAMA CHARACTERS. I love Futurama; best animated show ever, and if you don’t think so YOU’RE WRONG (that’s how much I adore that show). As I walked around Bender, Tinny Tim, Planet Express Ship, and the Reverend Lionel Preacherbot, my geek flag was at full staff. Yes, I know you can read that two ways, and yes, I’m ok with that. The second thing that I was really impressed with, once I got over the fact that there was one unnamed piece of equipment and no Lord Nibbler or Francis X. Clampazzo to be found (hint, hint!), was the fact that (512) makes incredible efforts to be as garbage-neutral as possible. They do not can, because there’s no guarantee that the consumer will recycle that can. They barely bottle, just one or two special releases a year. They keg, because kegs can be used over and over again. Not only to be filled with beer, but Ryan showed me their portable bar that they take to festivals that is made from reclaimed barrel staves, old kegs, and the sheets of metal that are left behind when (512) tap handles are made (this same metal is around the building in a few places as really sweet wall-covering as well). Having spent many of my formative years in Germany, where it is required by law to recycle, this environmental consciousness really spoke to me.
Well, enough jibber-jabber, onto the beer. I poured a pint of BLACK IPA from the growler Ryan filled, and it lived up to its name. It is black to the eye, but when held to the light it betrays a deep mahogany brown where the beams peek through. A surprisingly light head topped the darkness of the beer, which was ecru at its darkest. One would expect with how near-black the body was that it would be topped by a khaki or darker foam, but that was not the case. I was also very impressed by the lacing that the beer left behind. Like the aroma, this light head was the first portent that I did not have a Stout sitting in front of me. Taking a whiff of the aroma exiting the glass, what hit me first was the roast but it was obvious that this was not a deeply blackened Stout or porter. Just behind that mild, nutty roastiness was a herbal, piney hoppiness that was present, but not overbearing.
In general, I am not a huge fan of Black IPAs, and over the years I have come to figure out that my issue with this style is the lack of balance. Many times I find beers in this category to either be a somewhat hoppier Stout, where the brewer has put all the emphasis on the deep and roasty flavors, or an extra bitter IPA where they have thrown all the hops in the kettle and then topped it with all the tannins and what I end up drinking is the equivalent of super bitter coffee. Thankfully, (512)’s BIPA does not suffer from either of these maladies. It is good and roasty without trying to be a Porter or a Stout, and it is hoppy without being so astringent. BIPA does a great job of avoiding those cauterized tannins that show up in so many beers of this style (because of the Blackprinz malt), which then eclipses the hop bitterness and becomes just too damn bitter. The bitterness in BIPA come predominately from the hops, and that’s how I personally want it to be.
The palpitation on the palate is smooth and a bit velvety. This again proves it is no heavy stout, even if the body of the beer is telling your eyes something else. It is not as thin as many regular IPAs, but one would expect a Black IPA to have a bit more body from the additional roast of the malts, and BIPA is no exception. This beer is most definitely one of the more drinkable of its style that I have had. I had no problem whatsoever putting down that pint, and later at a birthday party, friends and I had no problem downing the rest of the growler (and many cheers were expressed by all). I think that had I tried to drink the whole growler independently, the bitterness would have built to an unpleasant level, as BIPA does tend to linger. A pint or two would be my limit before going to a different style to purge and restore my ability to register the piquancy, but then, I would be back. Again and again.
Overall 8 / 10
Brewery site: http://www.512brewing.com