best Black IPAs are a marriage of both IPA and stout or porter brews.
It’s amazing how well hops can complement flavors of chocolate, coffee,
and roasted malt. In the case of Horseheads Black Horse Ale it’s more a
hop-forward brew with incidental porter/stout characteristics (if any at
all, really). That’s okay, because the palette is actually really
enjoyable because of its delectable hop selection.
I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. I
bought this at the brewery tasting room for $5.75 ($0.26 per ounce).
Appearance: Completely opaque black body with faint brown highlights.
Pours to a large, tan, frothy head which laces and retains with
Smell: Pungent bouquet of orange and grapefruit, as well as a clean, floral scent.
Taste: It seems like most Black IPAs tend to incorporate hops of the
“East Coast” variety; i.e. those with pine and resin flavors. In the
case of Horseheads Black Horse Ale, it’s all “West Coast” hop character:
huge orange and ruby red grapefruit flavors. They’re present
immediately, creating for a candy-like flavor. Maybe even a bit sweet.
The bitterness doesn’t kick in until the apex of the swig, which is
rather dry and a little biting, but it finishes exactly as it starts
with an almost juicy flavor and refreshing quality. I didn’t get much of
the dark malt character, unfortunately. There is a faint coffee
sensation underlying here, but no chocolate nor roasted malt flavors.
I’d actually say this kind of fails as a Black IPA, but since that’s
still a style that’s yet to be cataloged, it still works as an original,
delectable, and enjoyable brew.
Drinkability: As far as taste goes, Horseheads Black Horse Ale could be
mistaken for a regular IPA if drank blind. However, when it comes to
palate, it definitely has the body of something else. There’s a
noticeably smoothness to the texture here; softer, smoother, and lest
overtly crisp than a normal IPA and something more akin to a porter. It
does seem a little inefficient at 7.4% ABV, though. Yes, there’s plenty
of body and flavor, but not much complexity or raw energy. It is highly
drinkable; I was able to gulp down the entire bottle quickly and easily
and without any complaints.