Beer Review 0166: 21st Amendment Back In Black IPA

Up for review today, another beer from the 21st Amendment Brewery out of San Francisco, California. Naturally, this brewery was named in honor of the 21st Amendment of the United States, which repealed the dark era of Prohibition.

21st Amendment packages all of their beer in cans, and I was amazed to try my first brew by them a couple of months ago — I reviewed Monk’s Blood, a Belgian-style ale brewed with eight different malts, cinnamon, vanilla bean, dried figs, and aged on oak chips — YES ALL IN A CAN — and was highly, highly impressed. I gave that beer 91 points, and have been taking every opportunity I can to work more 21st Amendment reviews into my rotation.

Back In Black is a Black IPA, inspired by Paul Revere’s midnight ride. The brewery has “rebelled against the British-style IPA, embraced the more aggressive American version and then recast it in bold, brave, defiant black.” It’s a Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the expected.

Pouring delivered an average size head, creamy and dense in texture, and lasting. As I poured, I noticed this beer was not black by any means; upon further inspection with a bright flashlight, I saw this beer was chocolate brown, and produced beautifully interesting ruby/purple highlights. There were some large and chunky pieces of sediment floating throughout the drink, making for a very muddy looking body. The lacing was good, leaving a thin tan layer on the glass.

Scoring the appearance on this one was tough; if this is intended to be black in color, 21st Amendment missed the mark. I took two points off for the color not being as described on the can, but I wanted to be more harsh…however, I really couldn’t justify it.

Things pick up in the aromatic category, where the nose is rewarded with a nice balance between hop and malt. First sniff brings grapefruit and orange coupled with roasted coffee, making for a nice combination that makes you immediately want a sip. As the drink warmed, layers of floral notes, caramel, and some soft milk chocolate revealed themselves. The overall aroma wasn’t vivid or pungent, but was nice, in an understated sort of classy way.

The taste hits your palate with a nice balance, releasing a layer of roasted malts and grapefruit. The middle of the taste is where things start to get dominated by the malt; caramel is unleashed and you get some of the hop bitterness (65 IBUs, or International Bitterness Units on this one), but not much of the hop flavor. This leads to a finish of roasted coffee, slightly acidic and mouth-drying. Mouthfeel on this beer was thin with a soft carbonation, not really what I expected.

Back In Black is a decent beer, but not an outstanding brew. I felt there was some depth of flavor missing here, particularly with the hops; however, the malt presence is quite nice, and should be a solid foundation for improvement, should they ever want to tinker with this recipe…

21st Amendment Back In Black IPA, 85 points. Price: $2.29 for one 12 ounce can.

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