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Belt's Beer Garden: going to the dark side

This week, we've gone to the dark side. No, we're not more evil than we used to be...we just tried some black IPAs.

Beer is like pouring smiles on your brain
Beer is like pouring smiles on your brain

Well it's Friday the 13th and, instead of being superstitious, Norm and I have decided to follow Vader's command and come to the dark side. And while it hasn't given us any more power (yet...), it has given us some great beers to try. This week we've got two black IPAs from Chicago-based breweries that you need to get your hands on.

First up, Norm's review of Black Tuna from Pipeworks:

black tuna

Norm: I've been waiting to do a review of my favorite in-state brewery since Dave started this little venture here on Hustlebelt.  Being that I live in Illinois, I do have a few admirable options; Revolution, Half Acre, Off Color to name a few. But my favorite Illinois brewer is the local king of IPA's, Pipeworks. They are located in the Bucktown area of Chicago.

While Pipeworks is known for their wild experimentation with new and limited release batches, what they excel at are some of the best IPA's anywhere. Citra Ninja, Ninja Vs Unicorn, Amarillo Ninja and Square Grouper are some of their very best. You can get an idea of their mad science recipes by checking out their batches section here:

What I happen to have for this review is also an IPA. More specifically it's a black IIPA that goes by the name of Black Tuna and is a collaboration with 4 Hands brewing out of St. Louis, MO. I believe this is something of a spin-off to the aforementioned Square Grouper, but a dark version and sells for $9.99 for a 22 ounce bottle.

This one pours pitch black as you'd expect. A tan creamy head lingers for a bit. Small amounts of tiny carbonation. The smell is a mildly bitter, roasted, and chocolate aromas with hints of citrus notes. It's all wrapped up in a hop bouquet and delivered right to your nose.

This beer, like Square Grouper, has a touch of honey added. This makes it a little sweeter than you may expect, but it plays well off the rich, dark roast flavor very nicely. Behind that is your typical, delicious IPA from Pipeworks - that citrus twang with hops. Put it all together and you have a delicious dark, roast, sweet citrus IIPA that is magnificent.

As with many really good IPA's, it's about balance.  This IIPA has just that. A great balanced taste of hop, roast, citrus and honey. It's all in there without anyone of them being overly dominant.

I'm going to be scoring this beer very high for a couple of reasons. One, I love Pipeworks. Two, I'm on a black IPA bender and just can't get enough of them. This one being the best I've sampled to date.  It's getting a 9/10 and I hope to get it again.

9 beers

Dave: Norm might not have chosen Revolution for his beer, but I did.

jukebox hero

It's only been two weeks since I reviewed my last beer by Revolution, their Local-Hero, which I loved. So naturally I wanted to try another.

If you don't remember much about Revolution, here's a quick recap: they are located in Logan Square, one of Chicago's many neighborhoods. They've been around since February of 2010 and have made a huge impact in the area. Their stuff is coveted by Chicagoans and always delicious. You can find them throughout Illinois and Ohio and in some spots in Indiana.

Jukebox-Hero is a black IPA, so it shouldn't surprise me that it poured a dark black color with about a half inch of tan foam topping the beer. But what did surprise me was the smell. While it looks like a stout, it smells exactly like most of Revolution's IPAs - hoppy with strong citrus undertones.

When I first tried Jukebox-Hero, the citrus and hoppy smell does not come across in the taste. It's got a much thicker body, like a stout (even the foam is quite thick), and is not as crisp as an IPA would be. There is a malty flavor, with some coffee, but not nearly as much citrus as the smell would indicate - in fact, very little citrus at all. The further down you drink, the more the hops come back, but the coffee taste is still the dominant flavor.

Revolution says it clocks in at 75 IBU, but the bitterness is really well. The 7.5% ABV is also unnoticeable so be careful with this one. Jukebox-Hero is smooth, slightly hoppy, and is rides the line between IPA and stout. At $7.99 for a 22 ounce bomber it's slightly expensive, but it is one of the better, if not the best, black IPA that I've had. Any fan of stouts or IPAs will enjoy this. I'm giving it a 7.5.