Beer Review 0443: Smuttynose Noonan Black IPA
Smuttynose Brewing Company (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) have produced a Black IPA in honor of Greg Noonan, one of the brewers responsible for inventing the Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale style, which isn’t yet officially recognized fully in the beer world.
In 1994, Noonan and fellow brewer Glenn Walters developed a beer that was dark like a Porter, but hopped like an IPA. Since then, the style has been catching on; slowly at first, but today, there seem to be more and more Black IPAs hitting the shelf each week.
Mr. Noonan’s reputation in the beer world is legendary — he was the owner and brewmaster of Vermont Pub and Brewery, and authored several books about brewing. He was a national judge in the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program), ironically an organization that doesn’t have a style classification for the Black IPA.
Noonan passed away suddenly in 2009 after a battle with cancer. But his legend lives on with this Smuttynose brew, appropriately named Noonan Black IPA, and his picture adorns the bottle label. Coming in at 5.7% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is a little low by most Black IPA standards, the brew uses plenty of hops (Magnum, Bravo, Glacier, Nugget, and Centennial) and undergoes a round of dry-hopping.
Noonan Black IPA comes out of the bottle with an average size, creamy and somewhat frothy head that is of lasting quality. Color of the beer is dark brown with lighter ruby edges; the body is clear, and free of particles and sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving the glass nearly frosted-looking, with solid, light tan sheets of suds.
The nose is evenly balanced between hops and malts: we’ve got grapefruit and pine, which mingles with coffee, and general roasted and toasted notes. As the brew warms, some mild hits of dark chocolate come out, and more orange-citrus notes unveil themselves.
On the taste, astringent grapefruit and pine hops open but soon a wall of coffee and dark fruits take over. But the hops aren’t done, and another wave of moderate to heavy bitter pine washes in. On the swallow, some powdery dark chocolate ushers in the finish of resinous pine and sharp roasted malt. The finish is quite dry, which takes away from any refreshing qualities. I’d call this one full-bodied even though the alcohol content is average and the mouthfeel is quite thin and foamy.
Overall, I think the lower than normal ABV helps out this brew, and it’s quite balanced if a bit fatiguing on the palate. That said, Black IPAs tend to wear on my taste buds quickly, but this is a fitting tribute to the creator of this style. The roasted malts really amp up the hop bitterness.
Smuttynose Noonan Black IPA, 89 points. Price: $1.99 US for one 12 oz. bottle.