Tasting Notes: Return of the Black Mamba

The label for my tap handles

So I’ve posted a few recipes this year, but have done a bad job with the follow-up (i.e. tasting notes). So here’s the notes from this months earlier brew Return of the Black Mamba.

This is a Black Imperial Rye IPA, hopped predominantly with home-grown cascade hops – 250g (about 1/2 lbs) worth. This is the second iteration of this recipe, the first being brewed with my virgin crop of hops. The first time around this beer was good; the second time (this time) around the beer is pretty good – and with a few tweaks I think the third attempt will be stellar. But enough of that – what’s the beer like?

The beer pours black, with a modest beige head that lasts, and lasts, and lasts. Held up to a light, the beer is crystal clear and reveals a dark-red hue.

Aroma: The aroma is hop-forward, resinous, with a bit of rye’s unique character in the background. Despite the darkness of the beer, the aroma of roast is minimal, although the roast note gets stronger as the beer warms.

Nice lookin’ pint!

Here the beer could use some work. Upfront you get a good dose of Cascade goodness; mostly in the form of resin, but a bit of citrus comes through (I’ve found my home-grown Cascades lean to resin & spice more than citrus). Underneath that is a surprising amount of malt sweetness – unexpected given the low mash temp and use of dry-enhancing rye. There is a strong chocolate note, but thanks to the use of Carafa Special II, without any astringent notes. Unfortunately, the beloved character of rye is hard to find, despite it accounting for 25% of the grain bill. With homegrown hops its hard to predict bitterness, but I was overly conservative this time around and the bitterness is a little on the mild side. As with the last time I brewed this beer, the character of the Conan yeast is not obvious – there is a nice “generic” ester profile, but the peach/apricot nature of the Conan yeast isn’t clear.

All of the above works out to a pretty nice imperial porter. But dammit, this was supposed to be an IPA! The beer needs less body, less chocolate, and a whole whack more IBUs!

The beer has a medium body – not as light as I was hoping for, but not unusually heavy for an Imperial IPA. The level of hopping is sufficient to give a nice lingering bitterness – with a subtle hint of chocolate – but again, not at the level (of residual hop bitterness) that I was hoping for.

Despite my above whining, this is actually a pretty nice beer. Nice balance of malt and hops, easily (too easily!) drinkable, and deceptively hides its nearly 8% alcohol content. But its not what I had envisioned in my mind for this beer – I was hoping for a drier, more bitter beer with a robust rye character. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy drinking this keg of beer, but changes will be made the next time I brew this beast.

Next Time:
So this recipe is nearly there, but next time (Return of the Return of the Black Mamba?) I’d make three – hopefully final – changes:

  1. Reduce the amount of Carafa Special II by one third to one half, to reduce the chocolate notes.
  2. Replace about 10% of the gravity from the pale malt with sugar to provide a drier finish.
  3. Increase the bittering charge to 50-60 IBU (from its current ~35 IBU) to make or a bolder bittering – giving a final IBU of 70-90.

2 thoughts on “Tasting Notes: Return of the Black Mamba

  • June 4, 2015 at 12:31 AM

    I don't have much roastiness; I use debittered dark malt (Carafa Special II), so I get only the chocolate note with minimal roastiness. I don't know what I would get if I cold-seeped that.

    In the case of this recipe the problem to too much chocoloate; something that's easily taken care of by reducing the total carafa special II in the recipe

  • May 30, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    ever tried a cold extraction of carafa II or III to get rid of that roastiness in your BIPAs?

    i have benn struggling with good results for my BIPAs – or at least i am fine with my recipe now 😉 . my gf loves BIPAs, so i was kind of forced to improve it. actually, i came up with the idea to make a cold extraction of the carafa III with 150% of the gramms "the recipe calls for" in 2L cold filtered water in an erlenmeyerflask on a stirring plate over night, filter it and just add the thick black extract when boiling the wort.

    best heintz


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