Beer Review: Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black Rye IPA

The Brewers’ Association calls it an American-Style India Black Ale. Guinness calls theirs Foreign Extra Stout. West-coast breweries prefer the term Cascadia Dark Ale. And, to confuse matters further, the Tommyknocker brewery refers to their dark and bitter brew as a Black India Pale Ale. Seemingly a contradiction of terms, this new emerging style combines the dark roasted sweetness of a porter and the tart bitterness of an IPA. While no one can agree on what to name it, most agree that the ASIBA/FES/CDA/BIPA is the next big thing in craft brewing.

Looking deceptively like a dark brown porter, Tommyknocker’s Hop Strike reveals some of its hidden nature with a citrusy and earthy hop aroma. First to assert itself is the rich and toasty, almost savory flavor, of the special chocolate-roast rye and barley. This is almost immediately overpowered by a sharp hop bitterness with an aftertaste of grapefruit, pine resin, and fresh-cut grass. No surprise that this overpowering bitterness is rated at 78 IBUs. Unfortunately, there are almost none of the strong floral or fruity hop flavors that would otherwise balance out the high bitterness.

Almost no sweetness makes it through that bitterness alive, and there is not much to be had until the glass is nearly gone. At this point, taste buds have tuned out most of the hop flavor and a slight sweetness can be detected. What little sweetness there is has a nutty quality and is reminiscent of espresso and molasses. Alcohol content is on the mild side for an IPA, with 7% by volume.

Hop Strike’s real strong suit lies in the contrasting interaction between the thick, roasted flavors of the dark malt and the sharp bitterness of the hops. By themselves, these qualities are nothing unique, but together they make a special brew. The strong hop flavor is not for everyone, however, and could definitely be more balanced. For this reason, Tommyknocker Hop Strike earns a B- rather than a potential A grade. Keep on the lookout for other up-and-coming Black IPAs, such as Deschutes Hop In The Dark and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.

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