Beer Review 0564: Hi-Wire The Contortionist Black IPA

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Hi-Wire Brewing have taken over the old Craggie Brewery location in Asheville, North Carolina, and have just started producing beer. The theme of the brewery is the circus, which they feel embodies the fun, authenticity, and creativity of craft beer.

Only a few months in, Hi-Wire have a dedicated year-round lineup it calls “Main Attraction” beers — a Pale Ale, IPA, Lager, and Brown Ale, which we have reviewed. (See Bed Of Nails Brown Ale, 92 points.) For a new brewery, Hi-Wire are on point when it comes to bottling — they pretty much bottle everything they make in six-packs, and that now includes seasonal releases. In fact, they invented special packaging for their seasonal beers that uses cut out windows to display the actual bottles in the boxes, eliminating the need for four different facings for four different seasons.

We have also reviewed Hi-Wire’s winter seasonal, Strongman Coffee Milk Stout, and gave it 84 points. But, shortly after the new year started, Hi-Wire put out a “late winter” seasonal — they’re calling it The Contortionist, and it is a Black IPA that registers 6% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 84 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Very cool that a small brewery like this can decide to add a beer to its lineup and have it in stores this quickly.

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The pour made for a small, quickly diminishing creamy head. While the beer looked black out of light, in bright light, it was actually ruby red. Initially, the brew is exceptionally clear with no particles or sediment, but when you reach the end of the bottle, it clouds up significantly. Lacing is fair, only leaving traces of suds here and there.

The aroma is fairly well balanced but serious at the same time — the hops are extremely strong, offering up notes of flowers and pine. The hops quickly hit a giant wall of roasted and toasted malts, bready in nature, laced with hints of coffee and a subtle powdery dark chocolate. Dig a bit deeper and allow the drink to warm some and you’ll begin to pull out notes of orange and lemon peel. The Contortionist has an aroma quite typical of a Black IPA, perhaps just a bit more pungent than one would expect.

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On the taste, this beer is both floral and roasted up front, with underlying notes of sweetened coffee. Middle of the mouth sees a dryness take over, along with a pinch of general dark fruits. This leads to a finish of solidly bitter dark chocolate, black coffee, and pine. The finish is long and pleasant, and if you click your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you’ll get a delicious note of slightly sweetened and  highly acidic coffee. The Contortionist is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

Typically, I find the majority of Black IPAs on the market to be somewhat chalky in taste. Not the case here — this has a nice depth of flavor that showcases all the typical fare but is still broad in terms of the story it tells. I would advise that the bitterness level is high, but I found it to be easily drinkable for the style, and that’s not often the case with my palate when it comes to Black IPA.

Hi-Wire The Contortionist Black IPA, 87 points. Price: $2.49 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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