Beer Review 0467: Three Floyds Blackheart English IPA
Three Floyds Brewing Company hails from Munster, Indiana, and their reputation is pretty stellar amongst beer drinkers. In a recent beer trade with Dave (Untappd user OnWisconsin), I jumped at the chance to get a couple of their brews, which are not available here in North Carolina…and just about everywhere else in the United States. Three Floyds have a very small distribution footprint at this point.
Founded in 1996 by Mike Floyd and his sons Nick and Simon, their goal was to breathe life into the then mundane craft beer scene by producing beers that were simply not normal. As popularity increased, the Munster location was created, and upgrade after upgrade took place. Bottling cranked up in 2002, a brewpub was created in 2005…with that being said, Three Floyds are still very small, even when compared to breweries like Dogfish Head, Bell’s, and Great Lakes.
Three Floyds have a bevy of seasonal releases, one for each month to be exact. In the month of May, they brew up and release Blackheart English IPA in bomber bottles — this beer is an IPA brewed with all English ingredients, then aged on toasted oak. It is a collaboration between the brewery and Blackheart Tattoo, located in San Francisco, California. The beer hits 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 70 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
Blackheart issues a large, creamy head that is composed equally of both small, tight bubbles, and large suds. The head lasts atop a nicely golden beer that has some darker hues of amber when studied carefully. The body is clear, free of particles and sediment, and lacing is excellent; puffy at first, then turning soap-sudsy as you get further into the drink.
On the nose, the toasted oak is the first thing I detected. Normally, oak and IPAs don’t go together, at least to my nose — but this one is decidedly different, as the oak, while still dominant, enhances all the other scents. There’s a spicy/grassy hop presence with just a subtle edge of light fruit, especially oranges. A significant malt backing sings in the background, with notes of sweet caramel and bread. When all cobbled together, some honey begins to come out. Nice and unexpected.
Taste-wise, the hops are completely dominated by a stiff oak plank, at first — some of the grassy and spicy notes show themselves, generating a nice complexity that allows the malts to hit in a massive wave right in the middle of the taste. Sweet caramel and bread crust darken the beer a bit, leaving a mildly bitter finish that wrings out some hop subtleties like lemon peel, mandarin orange, and a hint of grapefruit. The 8% alcohol is out in full force, too, but it isn’t too much. Blackheart is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
When you mix oak and IPAs, the oak tends to dominate — while it technically does here, it does so in a way that compliments the flavors rather than distracts. I wouldn’t call this an outstanding beer but it is certainly interesting even if I would like to have the hops play higher into the mix. Perhaps trying this not rested on toasted oak would be eye-opening and consistent with the English IPA style; for now, this is a beer that you should seek to try but not break your back for.
Three Floyds Blackheart English IPA, 88 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.