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Second Draught: Great Lakes Brewery’s Imperial Black IPA

Simply put this is a really excellent beer. For some reason IPAs are often released as a spring seasonal but I’m happy to see GLB give me an excuse to drink one of my favourite styles well into the autumn.

When I write about these special releases that I know will be covered widely I do my utmost to avoid reading other reviews before mine is submitted. There isn’t a huge list of words that apply to a black IPA (chocolate, coffee, grapefruit, and pith are sure to recur) but I like to go in with a blank slate and let the beer speak for itself.

Since my piece went up last Thursday I’ve had a chance to read some of the other takes on this beer. For instance, here’s Chris Shryer of the Toronto Beer Blog.

The Black IPA now has an LCBO number and is showing inventory at some locations but either hasn’t filtered entirely through the system or is already starting to sell out. Either way, don’t wait on this one. Here’s the full post from last week:

First Draught: Great Lakes Brewery’s Imperial Black IPA

As dark as Spanish coffee and as powerful as a steam locomotive, the Imperial Black IPA is Great Lakes Brewery’s third in a series of 25th anniversary beers. And it could hardly be more different than the last one. Unlike that light, complex, yeast-driven saison, this ale is all malt and hops.

Take a hint from the bottle’s size and shape and treat this one (a little bit) like you would a bottle of wine. If you’ve got a tulip glass in your collection, now is the time to pull it down from the shelf, wipe off the dust and call it into service. If not, a small wine glass will do a better job of corralling the aromas and maintaining that desirably foamy cap than your standard straight-sided pint.

Gently pour a couple sips’ worth into your chosen vessel and smell the abundant zesty aromas. Now fill the glass with more gusto so that you get two ample fingers of head, which will keep those volatile compounds where they belong: in the beer. On the first sip, it’s obvious that this is an intense fencing match between the grapefruit pith from the hops and the dark chocolate and roasted coffee of the malt. The sweet, creamy back note from the high alcohol content is there to keep everyone in line.

Food pairings — from rich beef stew straight through to salty blue cheese and on to chocolate desserts — come naturally to this complex ale, but I’d keep it away from anything spicier than “one chili” hot. The high alcohol content will pick up the capsaicin heat and carry it to every corner of your mouth, and that will erase the subtler roasted notes and leave only a slight metallic tang.

The black, stormy cloud to this silver lining is that no one makes beers like this to celebrate a 26th anniversary, so enjoy this while you can. Unlike the saison, which came with permission to cellar it for a year or so, this one should be consumed fresh.

Imperial Black IPA, $9.95 for a 750 mL bottle. Available at Great Lakes’ retail store and at the LCBO this week

Originally published here on

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