November 2013 brew of the month: Thomas Beck Black I.P.A.

Thomas Beck I.P.A.
Photo by Jay Geisen

Though October is my favorite month, I love November as well. The temperatures fall, the shadows lengthen and the sun sets earlier. It’s a time when coats, gloves and stocking hats become preferred attire in the stands at Kinnick Stadium, and also when I start craving darker, thicker, more malt-forward beers. Black I.P.A.s are darker beers that offer much more toasted and roasted malt character than traditional I.P.A.s. They feature citrus notes, without the bitter bombast. Confluence Brewing Company’s Thomas Beck Black I.P.A. not only quenches my cold-weather beer cravings, it also offers a nice bite and inviting notes of citrus.

Named after Thomas Beck, a prominent figure during Des Moines’ coal mining days, Thomas Beck Black I.P.A. is available in 32-ounce bottles that are perfect for sharing with friends. Serve in a trusty pint glass and consume within 24 hours after opening the bottle, as recommended by the brewery. The color is dark brown and a finger or two of thickish tan head will dissipate slowly, leaving a buttery ring around the edge and a mostly even skim.

Invigorating grapefruit and especially potent mango aromas greet the nose—woo! Pineapple and orange are present as well. Underneath the citrus are scents of roasted malts, dark chocolate and dark fruit and berries.

The flavor mostly mirrors the smell: mango, grapefruit, orange and pineapple followed by a base of lightly roasted malts, dark chocolate, caramel, dark fruit and berries. A pine-like aftertaste emerges when the beer warms.

The mouthfeel is smooth, creamy and reminiscent of what would be expected from a draft pour—which is exactly what Confluence head brewer John Martin’s intended. He says that bottling is done by using the same method as filling a growler: A tube attached to a tap is inserted into the bottle, filling it from the bottom in order to avoid excessive oxidation and preserve carbonation.

  • Serving temperature: 45-50ºF. Do not be afraid to cap the beer and keep it in the fridge between pints.
  • Alcohol content: 6.8 percent ABV.
  • Food pairings: Sweeter, dark berry flavors in the beer pair well with creamy desserts.
  • Where to buy: Waterfront Hy-Vee, John’s Grocery and New Pioneer Food Co-op. Confluence brews are also on tap at a number of fine local establishments.
  • Price: $9-10 for a 32-ounce bottle.

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