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Craft Brewers Paint it Black

Ales and IPAs embrace the dark side


American craft brewers love to innovate, and they always seem to find ways to shake things up. One of the latest trends is embracing the dark side of the force, taking brews that are typically the color of straw and making them a deeper brown. IPAs were among the first to go black, but this week's lineup also includes a dark saison and a black pale ale.

Alaskan Black IPA

The winter days are short in Juneau, Alaska; the nights are long and dark. Maybe that was the inspiration for this ebony-hued India ale that's anything but pale. The aromas are a complex mix of resiny hops, anise, espresso, bittersweet chocolate and a subtle earthiness. The flavor profile is intriguing but fairly narrow, dominated by herb-laced licorice (remember Sin-Sins?), toasted malt and pure, unsweetened chocolate. Pine-laced, nicely bitter hops come through on the finish.

Bridgeport Dark Rain, Black Pale Ale

Describing an ale as both "black" and "pale" may seem like an oxymoron, but those words sit side by side on the label. This Portland, Ore.-based brewery has created an ale that is definitely dark, both in color (a dense chestnut), and in taste (lots of herbal hops and roasted malt). This brew has a bit of smoke both on the nose and on the palate, where flavors of chocolate and coffee come through. It finishes dry with a touch of biscuit.

Widmer W'12 Dark Saison

A saison with a bit of color isn't all that unusual. This one pours a very dark amber with a creamy head. The nose has an element of sweetness, with spicy vanilla, ripe fruit and sarsaparilla. That typical saison tartness plays against lightly sweet dried-fruit flavors, with just a hint of clove coming through on the finish. This beer is a nice effort from this Portland icon.