SIERRA NEVADA’S BEER CAMP is one of craft’s most consistent creative engines. Though not every release is a triumph, its brews are always worth sampling and rarely retread the same ground; no small feat for a series with more than 70 entrants. Number 73 on that list is Blindfold Black IPA–a broadly-hopped and utterly black ale, strong at about 7.5% ABV and well-timed for fall.
The inclusion of southern hemisphere hops for both bittering and aroma enhances an earthy impression appropriate for the beer’s black-as-dirt appearance, but overall hops are not as prominent as Sierra Nevada’s description implies. In fact, Blindfold is almost closer to a black lager, with its crisper finish and restrained fruity esters. Much more pronounced are the malts, from unadorned pale and thoroughly roasted (Carafa III), the latter of which imparts a few young barrel characteristics. Later impressions are of fresh coffee beans, some citric zest, and a part pepper, part herbal spiciness towards the back that the medium carbonation supports appropriately. The strength of alcohol is noticeable and perhaps appropriate for the intensity of flavors, but chances are a 6% recipe could have performed equally well.
The body is firmly medium at 3.6 Plato, which is just about enough to stand up to all the flavors in play (or at war, depending on one’s perspective). The head is khaki, stoutlike in texture but not tenacity as it soon becomes a heavy cloak of lacing. Calling this a Black IPA seems a bit out of sorts, given the diminished role of hops and a chewiness more associated with Baltic porters (there’s also the lager tie-in). But who are we to second guess Sierra Nevada? Perhaps they wished to draw attention to the quality and breadth of hops used, or to show how dry-hopping need not always result in a lupulin bath. If so, point taken. Whatever its distinction, Blindfold deserves to see the sunlight of broader distribution.
Served: On tap (Clementi’s, Arlington Heights)