Tasting the Southern Tier Iniquity Imperial Black Ale

From the genius brewing minds of the folks who brought us both the Creme Brulee Stout and the Choklat Stout now comes the Southern Tier Iniquity Imperial Black Ale. The Iniquity is another example of a crisp and refreshing IPA with a deep black creamy finish to it. This backwards combination is slowly becoming more popular; among the best exaples of the style, and also one of the first to the best of my knowledge, is the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA.

The Iniquity seems to be perfectly aligned as a Black Imperial IPA; 8.9% abv, with five different hops used in brewing and dry hopping. From my past experienced with Southern Tier, and from what I experienced with Stone’s example of the style, I had very high hopes for this beer.

These Black IPAs are quickly becoming among my favorite styles. They offer the smooth creamy and luscious mouthfeel of a stout, with the fresh, bitter and crisp quenching characteristics of an IPA. This is seriously a wicked combination, and is worth seeking out.

As per Southern Tier’s Description: “The hexagram talisman has been used around the world for centuries to invoke magic and good luck. The six–point star is also the customary symbol of the brewer, representing the essential aspects of purity: water, hops, grain, malt, yeast, and of course, the brewer. Wishes of good fortune often collaborate with the brewer’s creativity to yield dramatic results. We carefully chose the name for this Imperial India Black Ale, Iniquity – a word opposing goodness. Why? This beer is contrary to what one may expect from an IPA; this is an ale as black as night. It is the antithesis of Unearthly. Some may consider it an immoral act to blacken an ale. We suggest they don’t rely on conventional standards. Allow the darkness to consume you.”

I poured the 22oz bottle into a Southern Tier tulip glass at a cool temperature of 8C (45F); my intent was to enjoy both the cool quenching characteristics of the IPA and the smooth silky sensation of a stout (not that there is stout in this beer.. it just feels like one.. you know what I mean).  The pour was as I had imagined, soft and elegant gliding gently into the bottom of the glass forming a smooth rumbling of foam eventually building to a perfectly dense and airy mocha brown head. This was really a mountainous head that had excellent retention. The beer underneath was pitch black with a hint of chrome shine piercing the wall of the glass, but really it is just jet black. Awesome.

The nose was rich with roast, caramel, coffee and earth. After a moment and some contemplation you can get in behind all the warm black characteristics and pull out floral hops with touches of citrus, spice and pine. Overall those the nose is generally dominated by the malt backbone of this beer. It does smell like there will be a bitter and crisp finish to it, but it does show much nutty sweetness and roast.

Get right into this beer and the malts show themselves first as it they are pushing to get to the front of a long line. A lot is happening here. Lightly smoky, roast malts come right down the center bringing with them caramel and biscuits, soft toffee and more mellow sweet malt flavors. Bitter coffee is easily noticeable on the cheeks and sides of your tongue, and dark bitter cocoa also shows up adding dryness to the beer.

It is very chewy and round on the palate because soon, as your palate learns to absorb these flavors, hops begin to show up to the party. They are very herbal with lots of earth, soft dryness, some citrus and pine and a touch of sweet fruit. Hops do bring bitter to the back of your mouth and cheeks, but overall they cannot contain the malt. This, along with superbly slick and creamy mouthfeelmakes me want to consider this a hopped sweet porter or stout, rather than a Black IPA. Really the beer is fantastically delicious, I was raving about it all night to anyone who got in the way of my vocal cords, but I am not sure how well it fits the style description.

Honestly though, I don’t care. The Iniquity is delicious, and really cool. It has a nice dry and slightly quenching finish with some roast and smoke coming though. It was exceptionally appetizing. I actually enjoyed it with a roast beef dinner with bacon potato pie; absolute heaven.

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