Beer From Here – February 5

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Carolina Brewing Company’s Dark Crystal India Pale Ale

This week I welcome Carolina Brewing Company to the column. While I’m a big fan of their year round lineup, I’ve become an even bigger fan of their seasonal and specialty brews. Carolina Winter Porter, Wiggo, Old 392 Barleywine, and Ground Hog Imperial Stout are some of the best beers in the Triangle. Today, I’m all about Dark Crystal India Pale Ale.

But before I jump in with my thoughts, a brief history lesson is in order…

Brewing quality beer since 1995, CBC is one of the early craft beer adopters in the Tar Heel State. The brewery was the brainchild of two brothers, John and Greg Shuck, and a friend, Joe Zonin. While living in Seattle in the early 90s, the trio was on the hunt for an area that had little competition, was a good place to live and had people and a strong economy that would be supportive of  a local brewery. The group set their sights on Raleigh. The guys moved east in 1993 and by 1995, Carolina Pale Ale and Carolina Nut Brown Ale were infiltrating the NC market. Seasonal beers were added in 1996, a bottling line in 1997, and their IPA in 2005.

Dark Crystal India Pale Ale is a winter seasonal released in January. As stated on the label, “The crystal in the name of our black IPA refers to the hop variety that is the focus of this beer. We used Caramel, Carapils, and Blackprinz malts combined with Nugget, Cascade, and Crystal hops. Crystal is the aroma addition and then used again to dry hop. The result lets the spice, herbal, fruit, and floral aroma and flavors shine through.” The black IPA clocks in at 7.1% ABV and 64 IBU.

I poured the 12 oz. bottle into a Spiegelau glass. (if you’re not sure what that is – it’s designed for IPAs and totally worth the investment. It looks cool too). A large, frothy head made its way to the top. I was surprised by the beer’s color. A majority of black IPAs/ Cascadian Dark Ales I’ve enjoyed had been very dark, practically black (hence the name). The Dark Crystal resembled more of a dark brown ale. That added to its character and I liked that.

My first whiff was of floral hops and even a hint of spice. After my initial sip, I detected roasted malt, caramel, and spice again. You would have thought there was rye in the grain bill, but I knew it was the hops talking. A light body made the beer very drinkable and I was surprised with its minimal bitterness. As I let the IPA sit, the malt began to show itself more and more. The brew was quite refreshing and I could only savor it for so long.

Overall, this black IPA has a lot to offer. It’s different on so many levels and I wish it was available year round. Give it a try if you can find it. This seasonal is limited, so keep an eye out at your local bottle shop. And if you haven’t visited Carolina Brewing Company, make it a point to do so. Their Saturday tours are unlike anything around.

Prost!

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